Q: What is your personal and educational background?
A: I hail from Urbana, Illinois, from a working-class family, raised by a single mother. I went to undergrad at the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois, majoring in both math and philosophy. I am a Ph.D candidate at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, advised by Karen Ellen Smith. I am formerly an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and am currently a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow. I will graduate in 2018.
Q: Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.
A: As an undergrad, the summer research component of programs such as Ronald E. McNair Scholars did a lot to kindle my passion for advanced mathematical study. I received mentorship from three Illinois math professors in conducting research projects: Matthew Ando, Bruce Reznick, and Andy Schultz. My project under Andy eventually led to a thirteen-month collaboration that culminated in a joint publication in the Journal of Number Theory. The empowerment I felt in doing research sold me on aspiring to be a mathematician.
Q: Please share any words of wisdom/inspiration or anything you would like to promote.
A: To undergraduates, my advice is to participate in research programs such as McNair Scholars or MSRI-UP. Your research mentors can write strong letters in support of applications both for graduate schools and for fellowships from, e.g., the Hertz Foundation, the Ford Foundation, or the National Science Foundation. To graduate students, I would additionally suggest trusting your mathematical taste for what techniques and problems excite you. Also, run your own race, at a pace you’re comfortable with. To anyone, as far as your academic writing (e.g., application essays, preprint drafts), save copies in more than one place!