|UW Mathematics||Autumn 2007|
Message from the Chair
Dean's Medalists: A Look Back
The Sixth Dean's Medalist in Eight Years
In 2006, Nick Reichert achieved the honor of being the first Mathematics major from UW to earn an Astronaut Scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. (Established by the Mercury 7 astronauts, the foundation awards a fellowship to one student in each of 18 universities. Seldom is the fellowship awarded to an undergraduate!) Just last June, Nick achieved another first in the history of the Department: he graduated from UW with simultaneous Bachelorís and Masterís degrees in Mathematics. Yet there was something else Nick achieved last spring that we in the Department are proud to say was not a first: he was also awarded the Deanís Medal in the Natural Sciences.
Nick is the latest in a distinguished line of six Mathematics majors who have received the Deanís Medal in the last eight years. Preceding Nick in this honor were Eliana Hechter, Terri Moore, Jeff Giansiracusa, Thomas Carlson, and Kathy Temple. This year we take a look back at these exceptional students, and check in with them to see where their careers have taken them since their time at UW Mathematics.
Nick was admitted to UW via the Robinson Centerís Early Entrance Program, a path that led him to the pursuit of mathematics. "There are so many great things that happened while I was at the UW Mathematics Department," Nick recalls. Even prior to the Deanís Medal and Astronaut Scholarship, he was one of the Departmentís star students. He twice was the top scorer at UW in the Putnam Mathematical Competition, and studied inverse problems in electrical networks as part of the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. Nick was also an undergraduate teaching assistant for the Honors Calculus seriesóa position held by many previous medalists.
"The administration was incredibly accommodating," says Nick, "letting me complete a Masterís degree simultaneously with my undergraduate degree."
After leaving UW, Nickís first stop was the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, where he worked for six weeks this summer as a consultant for NASA. Here he used techniques from partial differential equations to model diffraction patterns for sound waves in order to optimize an ultrasonic detector. Once the summer had ended, Nick moved on to Princeton University where he now pursues a Ph.D. in Mathematics.
2006 Deanís Medalist and Rhodes Scholar Eliana Hechter, the featured graduate in last year's newsletter, also became a Goldwater Scholar and Marshall Scholar after coming to UW via the Early Entrance Program. Her interests also ran to biology and genetics, leading to her spending a year at the Center for Cell Dynamics at Friday Harbor Labs. Like Nick Reichert, during her time at UW Eliana was involved in the REU Program and served as an undergraduate TA for the Honors Calculus series.
As a Rhodes Scholar, Eliana now studies at Oxford University with Peter Donnelly toward a Ph.D. in Statistical Genetics. In addition, she has formed her own mathematical problem-solving firm, eBourbaki, whose mission is to "help leading corporations become more efficient and competitive while increasing interest in mathematics in the global community."
Graduating magna cum laude in 2004 with a double major in Mathematics and Computer Science, Terriís undergraduate career was flavored by research both here and abroad. After participating in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program, she took part in a VIGRE-funded research project titled "Non-Unique Factorization in Integral Domains." Following graduation, Terri began her graduate career at the University of Nebraska where she won an Outstanding Qualifying Exam Award in 2005-06. She now pursues her Ph.D. as part of the Commutative Algebra Group under Roger Wiegand.
In 2003, Jeff won the Dean's Medalóa cap to an undergraduate career that also involved the Goldwater Scholarship, REU, and TAing for Honors Calculus. Jeff was also on the first ever Outstanding Winner Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) team from UW Mathematics, and would earn the Outstanding Winner designation a second time the following year.
The recipient of an NSF graduate fellowship, Jeff entered the mathematics Ph.D. program at Oxford. There he studied with Ulrike Tillman in the area of algebraic topology and also met his wife, Rebecca Clifford. Jeff spent the 2006-07 academic year in Paris, visiting the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques on a postdoctoral fellowship and finishing his thesis during this time, which he defended last April. He is currently a junior research fellow with Magdalen College, Oxford, and has given research talks in many countries throughout Europe and North America. Jeffís work involves tools and problems at the intersection of three areas: moduli spaces, diffeomorphism groups, and algebraic K-theory.
Looking back at his undergraduate career, Jeff notes that he appreciates the opportunities at UW Mathematics even more now that he has seen other departments around the world. "I think that UW Math offers undergrads a far wider array of choices and much more diverse education experiences than any European university. I've been trying, with what influence I can wield, to move Oxford more in the direction of UW."
Graduating in 2002 with a B.S. in both Mathematics and Computer Science, as well as a B.A. in English, Thomas was another student who came to UW via the Early Entrance Program. His undergraduate career involved not only beginning graduate courses in his junior year and TAing Honors Calculus, but also directing and starring in plays and publishing and editing a newspaper.
Thomas worked the first year after graduation as an actor before completing a Master of Divinity at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He went on to earn a Master of Studies in Syriac at Oxford in 2006, and is currently working toward a Ph.D. in history at Princeton.
A double-major in Mathematics and Economics, Kathy was also a double-medalist, winning both the Deanís and Presidentís medal before graduating in 1999. Exposed to probability theory at UW through Krzysztof Burdzy and Rich Bass, she made it her specialty when attaining her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Kathy returned to the Pacific Northwest and is now an Assistant Professor at Central Washington University where she also works with her husband and fellow UW Mathematics alumnus Jim Bisgard. Part of her job is to advise students in the actuarial science program, melding her original majors at UW.
Kathy credits part of her success in graduate school to the supportive faculty and variety of courses (both undergraduate and graduate) available to her here at UW. "There's a stereotype that it can be easy to get lost in large departments...but I didnít feel that way at all about the Math Department," she recalls. "I had faculty who were genuinely interested in their students and willing to put in extra time and effort to help us.Ē
It is a trend worth noting that medalists teach medalists: Eliana Hechter was taught by Jeff Giansiracusa, while Nick Reichert was once taught by Thomas Carlson, who in turn was taught by Kathy Temple.
Congratulations once again to all of the Deanís Medalists on their past and continued success!