Meet some of our mathematics majors.

Anqi Wu ’23

Miles Smith ’23

Meghan Lee ’23

Past Alumni

#### Anqi Wu ’23

Hometown: San Marino, CA and Guangdong, China

Majors: Mathematics, Computer Science

**What was your motivation to major in Math?**

When I took the discrete math class in my first year, I was amazed by how even a basic math problem could have multiple solutions. It was fascinating to delve into the logic behind the concepts I've known since kindergarten, such as 1+1=2, and then prove them using mathematical tools. Professor Rainone has a unique approach to teaching math, introducing me to a bunch of math symbols I had never encountered in high school. After attending several of his office hours, I could see he's passionate about his field. This inspired me to choose math as my major because he truly prepared me for advanced math courses. I'm thrilled to continue attending his classes and further my understanding of this subject.

**Can you describe your working relationships with the Math department professors?**

I feel fortunate to be part of such a close-knit department where all the professors know their students and offer plenty of office hours throughout the academic year. I still remember popping into Professor Lengyel's office hours and spending just a few minutes asking a minor question about the assignment, then spending the rest of the time discussing recent world events. Professor Lengyel always has unique insights on everything, seeing the world through the eyes of a mathematician. It's been fascinating to learn how to view things in a different and intriguing way. All the professors in the Math department are intelligent, and having conversations with people who are more advanced and experienced in life truly helps me avoid detours on my future path. One course that really stands out is “Numerical Analysis,” taught by Professor Basu. She has incredibly elegant handwriting and presents all the material in a logical and organized manner. I especially enjoyed how she integrated coding and math in this course, giving me my first hands-on experience in solving mathematical problems using computer algorithms. This course is truly worth taking, and by the end of it, you'll have learned a new programming language like MATLAB.

I still remember popping into Professor Lengyel's office hours and spending just a few minutes asking a minor question about the assignment, then spending the rest of the time discussing recent world events.

**What are your ambitions post-Oxy and how has the liberal arts approach helped to shape these ambitions?**

During my first couple of years at Oxy, I was uncertain about what I wanted to do after graduation. So, I talked to multiple professors to get a sense of the popular career trends for the future. I truly appreciated the time I spent in Professor Rainone's office hours, where he sincerely offered suggestions on potential career paths and discussed the pros and cons of each option. In particular, he encouraged me to take challenging courses like probability and mathematical statistics, which I found really beneficial during my master's application process as graduate schools highly value the courses taken during undergrad. After taking “Numerical Analysis” and “Linear Algebra” with Professor Miller, and “Matrix Method in Data Analysis” as an independent study with Professor Rainone, I discovered my interest in the field of data science. These courses greatly shaped my way of thinking and provided me with essential knowledge for the field. As a result, I'll be pursuing a master's degree in a Data Science-related field after graduating from Oxy to further prepare myself for entering my dream industry.

During my first couple of years at Oxy, I was uncertain about what I wanted to do after graduation. So, I talked to multiple professors to get a sense of the popular career trends for the future.

**What is the “vibe” of the Math department?**

I would say the vibe in our Math department is collaborative and engaging. The students genuinely help each other and selflessly assist their peers in solving problems they're struggling with, especially in upper-level courses where problem sets become more challenging and lectures aren't as easily digestible. I particularly enjoy attending office hours with classmates and listening to their questions. It's highly likely that they'll approach problems differently than I do and raise questions I've never considered. Due to Oxy's small class sizes, we have around 25 students in a class, with even fewer in higher-level courses. This allows professors to ensure everyone is on the same page and engage with students during class to confirm their understanding of the concepts. One thing I truly value and appreciate is that every professor in the Math department is accessible, which they all respond to emails promptly, which greatly aids my learning process as they address my questions while I'm working on homework or reviewing concepts.

Every professor in the Math department is accessible, which they all respond to emails promptly, which greatly aids my learning process.

**Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in Math?**

I would recommend all the potential math majors to chat with professors in the math department as soon as they can to sort out their future career goals and plan their courses accordingly. The sooner, the better! Also, keep an eye on how often the department offers certain courses, so you don't miss out on registering for the ones you're really into. Last but not least, don't hesitate to take those upper-level courses that might seem a bit daunting because you'll learn a ton and gain valuable knowledge from them.

#### Miles Smith ’23

Hometown: Corvallis, Oregon

Majors: Mathematics and Economics; Minor in Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture

**What is the “vibe” of the Math department?**

The Math department is full of diverse passions, a notably quirky student body, and exceptional professors. Classes are rigorous, but there’s a strong community that emphasizes learning together. Personally and academically, I have never felt unsupported, thanks to my professors and peers. The vibe is truly unbeatable.

**Can you describe your working relationships with the Math department professors? Are there any standout classes you’ve taken?**

The professors in this department believe in a supportive and rigorous education. As a math tutor and student, I have had the chance to get to know all of them. It might sound cliche, but some of these professors have truly changed my life for the better. And some of my classes have even defined my career path. It’s tough to choose, but some standout classes I have taken are Numerical Analysis with Prof. Basu, Partial Differential Equations with Prof. Miller, and Math Modeling with Prof. Buckmire. But if you have a specific passion, talk with a professor about doing an independent study!

It might sound cliche, but some of these professors have truly changed my life for the better. And some of my classes have even defined my career path.

**Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in Math?**

If you enjoy math, just keep taking classes! You might get the major/minor without even knowing it. Fundamentally, math is a major that teaches you to ask “why?” and answer it rigorously. So if you ask a lot of questions about the world, this is probably a good fit. Or, if you’re just a fan of knots and/or geometry, math is also a great place to talk about those, too. Also, math is the one subject that stands alone as a rigorous, depthful subject, but also enhances any subject with which it is paired. If you are already majoring in something else, picking up a major or minor in math will often give you a unique toolset in that field. It also allows you a more nuanced and deeper understanding of most other fields, like biology, economics, and computer science. It also really helps when on the job or grad school market.

The Math department is full of diverse passions, a notably quirky student body, and exceptional professors. Classes are rigorous, but there’s a strong community that emphasizes learning together.

I plan to use my mathematics education in public policy work. After Oxy, I am joining the Federal Reserve Board of Governors as an economic research assistant. I plan to return to graduate school in Economics to study models of poverty, development, and decision-making. A liberal arts education has been integral to this pursuit, allowing me to understand how math models can fit into larger conversations. Our Oxy education is naturally interdisciplinary, and that makes math mindful, and it often makes math more meaningful.

After Oxy, I am joining the Federal Reserve Board of Governors as an economic research assistant. I plan to return to graduate school in Economics to study models of poverty, development, and decision-making.

**Have you taken part in any student research opportunities at Oxy or elsewhere? Or, if applicable, can you describe your senior comps project?**

Within the mathematics department, I have done numerical analysis research with Prof. Basu. We studied Non-Standard Finite Difference methods to approximate solutions to the Heat Equation. I have also completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Oregon State University under Prof. Hoe Woon Kim. Over Summer 2021, we studied a novel solution to the Stokes Equations, popular in fluid dynamics. We later turned this into a research paper, currently a working paper. I have also done research in the economics department, studying mathematical models that describe the persistence of poverty. This required a strong grasp of differential equations, linear algebra, and multivariable calculus, as well as aspects from economics and numerical analysis. I later turned this research into my honors thesis, understanding how mathematical policy models affect and alleviate poverty.

#### Meghan Lee ’23

Hometown: Cerritos, CA

Major: Mathematics

**What was your motivation to major in Math?**

When I came to Oxy, I had several different academic interests that had almost nothing to do with math. It was only by chance that I took Professor Miller's “Calculus I” class in my first year to satisfy a Math/Science Core requirement, and it was mostly because of his (as well as other faculty members') genuine and infectious love for the subject that I found myself continuing to take math classes. The moment in which I was certain I wanted to major in Math was in "Discrete Math" with Professor Rainone in my sophomore year, which was my first experience with proof-based mathematics, and through this class I came to appreciate the creative and beautiful arguments we studied, such as Cantor's Diagonalization. The major is rigorous, but uniquely and immensely rewarding, and I have not once regretted my decision to major in math.

Oftentimes, what were meant to be quick questions about a topic would become entire afternoons chatting about math and much more.

The math faculty are some of the most passionate and approachable people I've met on campus, both inspiring teachers and impactful mentors throughout my time at Oxy. They nurtured my curiosity and visits to office hours and the Math Help Room were part of my daily routine as a student. Oftentimes, what were meant to be quick questions about a topic would become entire afternoons chatting about math and much more. Every math class I took at Oxy shaped my understanding of the field, but some of the ones that impacted me most were "Real Analysis" with Professor Rainone and "Abstract Algebra" and "Topology" with Professor Naimi.

**Have you taken part in any student research opportunities at Oxy or elsewhere?**

In the summer of 2022, I participated in the NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Kansas State University, where I researched an algebraic structure called quandles alongside my mentor and fellow students. This was a rigorous experience that challenged me, and from the results of this project, I got to go to conferences to present my work and also connect with like-minded math students. I also did my honors senior comprehensive project with Professor Lawrence on algebraic topology in the spring of my senior year, which required a combination of several of the topics I studied at Oxy. For the project, I wrote a 30-page paper proving and applying the Van Kampen Theorem, and shared what I learned in a department talk. By participating in independent studies and engaging with challenging open questions, I was able to explore and discover ideas for myself, which are invaluable components of a math education that every interested student should participate in!

My favorite part of studying math is the interplay of creativity and logic that I have found in every proof I study or write.

**What do you find most compelling about studying Math?**

My favorite part of studying math is the interplay of creativity and logic that I have found in every proof I study or write. I find that math exercises my mind and ability to think both carefully and inventively about problems, in ways that I had never experienced in other areas of study. Even the problems that initially seem simple will often require me to run through all of the facts and theorems I know, their resulting consequences, and try out several different arguments; and I find that the feeling of successfully proving a fact or theorem makes the journey immensely worthwhile.

**Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in Math?**

My advice to potential math majors, and anyone taking courses in the department more generally, is to take advantage of the close-knit math community at Oxy. Math can get really hard, but you have an entire community rallying behind you, from classmates to professors. Chatting with other students and professors often gave me fresh perspectives on the problems I was working on and sparked my interest in different topics. Best of all, I found support and encouragement from this community, many of whom believed in me even when I didn't quite believe in myself.

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