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Graduate Student Profile
Kimberly Fessel

Kimberly Fessel

Hometown: Depauw, Indiana
Prior Study: University of Evansville, B.S.
Degree(s) Sought: Ph.D. Mathematics
Department: Mathematical Sciences
Faculty Advisor: Mark H. Holmes
Year of graduation: 2013

Kim’s current research at Rensselaer focuses on hearing, specifically understanding the functioning of a healthy cochlea. In addition to her research, Kim has been a TA and instructor (summer term) for several courses at Rensselaer. She will graduate in 2013 and pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at the Mathematical Biosciences Institute located at Ohio State University.

Describe your graduate research and its purpose/applications.

I am currently developing a comprehensive model for the nonlinear mechanics of the mammalian cochlea.  This work involves the use of asymptotics to resolve fluid-solid interactions and analytic-numeric methods to approximately solve for traveling waves in the inner ear.  Approximately 12% of Americans suffer from some type of significant hearing loss.  I believe that in order to make large gains in hearing research and to help many of these people, we must fully understand the functionality of a healthy cochlea, which is one of the aims of my current research.

What are your hobbies/interests/special talents?

When I am not researching mathematics, I enjoy dancing with my Lindy Hop performance group, weightlifting at Collar City CrossFit, and helping out with the Capital District Volunteers. 

Why did you choose to enroll at Rensselaer?

Rensselaer has one of the top Applied Mathematics programs in the country.  I also have family and friends who live in the area.

What are some benefits of being part of the Graduate Community at Rensselaer?

Staying connected with other members of the Rensselaer Graduate Community allows exchange of information about current research, school policy, and even future job prospects.  I have enjoyed meeting other students who share similar goals and aspirations as mine especially during my time as a member of the School of Science Graduate Council.  Of course, being part of the community allows for social enjoyment as well!

What would you tell a prospective student about choosing Rensselaer?

The graduate program and the graduate community are truly excellent.  The work being done at Rensselaer is at the forefront of modern research and technology.  The graduate program has a welcoming student population as well as a top-notch faculty.

List Information about your background and accomplishments in College and Work Experience:  

Education and Leadership

  • Mathematics Graduate Student Representative (2011-2012):
  • School of Science Graduate Student Council member (2011-2012)
  • SIAM Student Chapter Secretary (2010-2011)
  • Habitat for Humanity Student Chapter President (2004-2007)


  • Analysis of amplification in a low-frequency model of the cochlea (with M. H. Holmes), submitted to J. Acoust. Soc. Am.
  • A kinetic study of the reaction of atomic hydrogen with iodobenzene, Y. Gao, K. Fessel, C. McLeod, and P. Marshall, Chemical Physics Letters, v451 (2008), pp. 8-13.

Work Experience

  • Incoming Quality Assurance Inspector , Johnson & Johnson (2008):
  • Research and Development Intern, RISE Pro program (2007)
  • Quality Control Intern, Bristol-Myers Squibb (2006-2007)
  • National Science Foundation REU, University of North Texas (2005)

What are your plans following graduation?

Following my graduation in 2013, I plan to continue mathematical research either in a postdoctoral university position or at a government research facility.


Founders Award of Excellence (2012)
SIAM Student Poster Prize (2012)
GAANN Fellowship (2010-2011)
National Merit Scholar (2003)

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