Lumen Scholar Amy Moore ’22 studies the effects of gerrymandering in NC
Moore and his mentor, math professor Todd Lee, use statistics to explore the effects of gerrymandering in North Carolina.
As an Honors Fellow and Lumen Scholar, Amy Moore ’22 was able to combine her passion for statistics with an exploration of the effects of gerrymandering on politics and voting in her home state of North Carolina. His research comes at a time when the selection process for congressional districts in the state is taking center stage in policy discussions amid increased scrutiny and legal challenges that have been brought to the United States Supreme Court. United.
“I’m originally from Hillsborough, which led me to growing up hearing about the gerrymandering problem in North Carolina since I was in middle school,” Moore said. “Having learned about gerrymandering in social studies classes, I knew just how hot a topic gerrymandering was in politics, especially in North Carolina, and how my research could have a broader impact.”
Moore, who is pursuing a double major in applied math and biostatistics, took a class with math professor Todd Lee during her freshman year at Elon. After hearing him mention his potential interest in gerrymandering research, she immediately contacted him. Lee mentored over 40 students in their research throughout his time at Elon and looked forward to working with Moore. He had never tackled a research project on gerrymandering before and he knew Moore would be up to the challenge.
“I knew she was fully capable of meeting the demands of a Lumen Scholar,” Lee said. “This is my first time personally working on the problem of gerrymandering, so Amy’s work will be fundamental to my future students.”
The Lumen Prize, the university’s most prestigious award for undergraduate research, awards researchers a $20,000 scholarship to support a chosen research project and gives them the opportunity to work closely with a mentor from the faculty on this project for two years. Each year, 15 emerging juniors are named Lumen Scholars and conduct research that often results in presentations and publications at conferences.
With the help of Professor Crista Arangala, Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Moore and Lee were able to make remarkable progress using statistical and mathematical coding techniques.
“The Lumen app requires a lot of planning and preparation, but it’s definitely worth it because it forces you to become an expert on the topic you want to research,” Moore explained.
Since Lee and Moore are working with such a large dataset, they took it upon themselves to write code to sift through the data more easily. Through trial and error with coding, the pair looked at census data used calculations to create different possibilities for connected districts.
Eventually, they will run hypothetical elections to determine what the election results might look like in certain districts based on how they are drawn. The pair hope to compare the results with recent sets of districts used in North Carolina to determine the fairness of recent districts that have been used.
Although he spent long periods exploring data and writing code, Moore was always incredibly involved with Elon. She is completing a minor in dance and is the current president of Elon’s Dance Works, a student-run open dance club. She is vice president of Mu Sigma Rho, the statistics honor society, and is part of the retirement planning team for campus Catholic ministry.
“Amy has all the talent and independent work ethic anyone could ask for,” Lee said. “She has a broader view of the liberal arts world, which is essential when working on an applied research project where decisions often depend as much on the nuances of the real world as on the theory of mathematics.”
Since receiving the Lumen Prize, Moore has been inspired to pursue research in other interdisciplinary fields. For the past two summers, she has participated in summer research internships for undergraduate programs in biomathematics. Moore gained valuable insights into disease modeling and machine learning algorithms.
After graduating from Moore in the spring, she hopes to pursue a doctorate in biostatistics, specifically focusing on the study of spatial statistics. This would help her combine the geographic data she collected through her work on Lumen with the results of her summer research on disease modeling.
“The biggest benefit of being awarded the Lumen Prize was the validation that people outside the math and statistics department saw my project as a relevant and important topic worth investing in,” he said. she declared.
Learn more about the Lumen Prize and other Lumen Fellows here.