Jephian Chin-Hung Lin received the Zaffarano prize for graduate student research at Iowa State University.

The Zaffarano prize is given annually by the Graduate College to recognize graduate students for superior performance in publishable research.

Lin researches matrix theory and graph theory, specifically the inverse eigenvalue problem. This problem is motivated by its applications in engineering, and it aims to understand what kind of spectral properties can occur or are prohibited on matrices associated with a given graph. He is co-advised by Leslie Hogben, professor and Dio Lewis Holl Chair in Applied Mathematics, and Steve Butler, associate professor, both in the Department of Mathematics.

“My short description of Jephian is that he is a ‘once-in-a-career-best student,’ meaning as a faculty member you are very lucky if you have one student this good in your entire career,” Hogben said. “He is now operating on the level of an equal collaborator in several faculty research groups in which he is involved.”

Lin completed his Master’s degree in Taiwan, where he read many papers by Hogben and decided he wanted to pursue his Ph.D. at Iowa State University as her student.

“She treats us as mature researchers,” Lin said. “She points out the standard for academia and provides supports and guidance to help us reach the goal.”

He said her push helped him to know the standard and what he needed to do to get there. In addition, she encouraged attending conferences, which were helpful for meeting others in the field.

Lin has been accepted into the 2017 American Mathematical Society (AMS) Mathematics Research Community, Beyond Planarity: Crossing Numbers of Graphs. He will graduate from Iowa State in May and begin a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Victoria in Canada.

The Zaffarano prize was established by Daniel Zaffarano, the vice president for research at Iowa State University from 1973-1988. He believed accomplishments in research contribute to our knowledge capital when they are made widely available to other workers, usually through publication, for review and use. The last student to receive the Zaffarano award in the Department of Mathematics was Petr Vojtěchovský in 2002.