My excellent education in mathematics at AC inspired me to apply to graduate school to become a professor at a small liberal arts college similar to AC. I spent five years at Rice University in Houston getting a Ph.D. in math. My research focus was in knot theory, the study of mathematical knots.
Mathematical knots can be pictured as being like sailor’s knots but with the ends glued together. In my research at Rice and afterward, I investigate the complexity of mathematical knots by studying how hard it is to untie them. Knot theory is a great example of theoretical, proof-based mathematics that has turned out to be effective in describing the real world: DNA knots itself up in the cell, and enzymes (proteins) in your cells untie DNA using moves similar to those I study. By understanding the types of DNA knots and how hard it is to untie them, we understand more about the way our DNA is regulated. As one of the legions of former AC pre-meds, I am happy to have my research interests come full circle!
I am now an assistant professor of mathematics at a small liberal arts college in Salt Lake City, Utah, called Westminster College. I love my job; it allows me to connect my enthusiasm for creative mathematics to students’ lives. I try to keep my students as active as possible in the classroom, designing activities that allow them to experience the creative beauty of math for themselves. In addition to continuing my research into knot theory, I facilitated an undergraduate research project in which a student worked with SLCPD to statistically analyze the police department’s use of force and street checks by race and gender.
Overall, my time at AC prepared me to engage my whole self (I’m also a poet, and I see similar creative energies at work in poetry and mathematics) in my work. My AC math professors (shout-out to J’Lee Bumpus, Kerry Brock, and Jack Mealy) helped me realize how math was a creative discipline and first inspired my own desire to be a math professor. I can’t say enough about the wonderful mentorship and education I received at AC.