Student Cameron Davis in Percival classroom

Running Toward His Goals

Student Stories
February 23, 2024
Cameron Davis '23 took a passion for mathematics to an award-winning presentation at a national conference.
Student Cameron Davis in Percival classroom
Cameron Davis poses with crossed arms in Percival classroom

Cameron Davis ‘23 wasn’t sure what to expect in college. He was a good student at Gardner High School, but as a first-generation college student he didn’t have many frames of reference at home for what life at a university would be like.

He applied to 10 schools, hoping his choices would be narrowed down by the various admissions offices. When he was accepted into all 10, he had to amend his calculations. Fitchburg State was a logical option. As a student in Gardner, he became familiar with Fitchburg State through his activity with the Upward Bound Math and Science program.

“I had tons of interactions with the Fitchburg State campus growing up,” he said. “What drew me to Fitchburg State was the community and the makeup of the students here. There’s no sense of entitlement, and they know they have to put in the work.”

Davis had always been a good math student and found enthusiastic mentors among the department faculty who encouraged his interest in applied mathematics, and he joined the university chapter of the Pi Mu Epsilon National Mathematics Honorary Society. During his junior year he applied for a National Science Foundation grant-funded research opportunity for undergraduates (REU) for which he was accepted. Davis earned a stipend while conducting research on modeling the spread of a neglected tropical disease called visceral leishmaniasis (VL).

The research was rewarding, he said, because he can imagine the work leading to better public health responses that will save lives. 

His research became the subject of his Honors Thesis, “A Data-Driven Mathematical Model of Visceral Leishmaniasis that Incorporates Sandfly Seasonality.” And in January, Davis presented a paper on the topic at the Pi Mu Epsilon National Mathematics Honorary Society Contributed Paper Session at the 2024 Joint Mathematics Meeting in San Francisco. It was his first time traveling alone, and his first visit to the West Coast.

Davis said he was pleasantly surprised to find several math faculty had traveled to support him in the talk, including Professors Mary Ann Barbato, Catherine Buell and Ben Levy.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to have done all this,” Davis said. 

“Cameron has been a standout student in each of our classes together,” said Levy. “Cameron has embraced the opportunity to grow academically and explore his options to help guide his future career choices. After participating in the summer REU program he returned to campus with great ideas to fuel his honors project and I had the pleasure of guiding him through his work over the course of a year. It was amazing to see the level of initiative he would take each week to further his work and by the end of the year he developed a truly novel model that we are now preparing for publication. Cameron truly excels in everything he takes on and we all look forward to seeing what he chooses to pursue moving forward.”

Following his talk, Davis was selected for the society’s 2024 speaker award, which recognizes outstanding student speakers from the conference’s paper sessions. In addition to the accolade itself, the award carries a cash prize.

Davis graduated with his bachelor’s degree in mathematics last May, and is currently enrolled in Fitchburg State’s master’s program in computer science. Beyond the classroom, he has been a talented member of the Falcons’ track and cross country teams. Because he lost a year of eligibility during COVID, he is proud to continue representing the Falcons during his graduate studies.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time here, from the Math Department to Athletics,” he said. “I feel prepared enough to be able to start looking at PhD programs.”