Ashley K. Wheeler
Where are you from?
I’m from Colorado Springs but I grew up in a military family and moved around a lot. I’ve lived in Colorado, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Kansas, and Germany.
Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.
When I was a little kid my grandparents bought me math workbooks that helped accelerate me in math. But I didn’t realize I wanted to be a mathematician until I was in college. I was originally a physics major with a double major in math, and noticed that I enjoyed my math courses more (and got better grades in them). I also did well in math competitions, like the Putnam. After doing the MASS program and REU at Penn State I decided to apply for grad school in math. Grad school was hard, but I found that I am happiest when I am working on solving a problem or learning something new.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?
My favorite paper that I’ve written is called Geometric equations for matroid varieties. I feel like the expository on Grassmannians and matroid varieties is well-written, and I’m really proud of our result. I’m also proud of the results I’ve proven about principal minor ideals. Before me, very few people had studied them, and they have applications in algebraic statistics.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?
I have bipolar disorder and it’s been a challenge navigating my career with a mental illness. What’s helped me overcome it is that I exercise five times a week and get up at 7a every morning. It helps to have a routine and structure to my day to keep me out of bed.
Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.
My grandfather used to tell me I was invited to the party, and no one’s asked me to leave yet. I think about this every time I’m feeling impostor syndrome. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and sell yourself short on your own accomplishments. Use the progress you’ve made as motivation to do more. Believe that you belong, and that you are capable!