Skip to main content

Profiles of Students in the Department

 

Yasmin Aguillon ‘22

Major:  Mathematics
First math class at Swarthmore:  Math 015, Single Variable Calculus & Math 015SP, STEM Scholars


Why did you become a math major? 
Although I enjoyed mathematics in high school, I began my first year at Swarthmore feeling tentative about the idea of majoring in math. To be honest, I felt a little intimidated about the idea of starting the math major in Calculus 1. Despite this, my positive experiences with the department have definitely helped me solidify the idea. My experiences in S3P, in my coursework and working for the math department at Swarthmore have afforded me many great opportunities that have introduced me to many wonderful mentors and created many meaningful, mathematical experiences. In short, I decided to major in math because through these experiences I discovered I truly enjoy it! 

What course(s) have you enjoyed the most, and why?   
Although I’ve definitely had wonderful experiences in all of my math courses at Swarthmore, my favorite math courses would probably have to be Abstract Algebra (Math 67) and Discrete Math (Math 29). Both of these courses were taught by some of my favorite professors at Swarthmore. Content-wise I thought both were really fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the graph theory and voting methods units we did in my Discrete Math course.

How do you expect to use your mathematics after leaving Swarthmore? 
Although I’m still not quite sure what I’ll be doing after graduation, math graduate school is definitely something I’m considering.

What advice do you have for an incoming student?
Take advantage of office hours. The department is very welcoming and professors are very friendly and extremely helpful. It’s a great place to bond with fellow classmates and improve your understanding of the material.

 
 

JJ Balisanyuka-Smith ‘21

Sp Maj:  Mathematics, Cognitive Science
First class at Swarthmore:  Math 026, Single Vari Calculus & Stat 021, Statistical Methods II


Why did you become a math major?
I have always had a passion for mathematics and applied maths in particular. I find that this way of problem solving really allows me to solve deeper problems in many different areas.

What course(s) have you enjoyed the most, and why? 
I really enjoyed taking Stat 021. It was the first time in a while that I was able to really see the wonders of using data in applied mathematics.

How do you expect to use your mathematics after leaving Swarthmore?
I plan on doing AI (artificial intelligence) and computational neuroscience research after Swarthmore. The core of these topics is often rooted in Linear Algebra that I learned in my math courses.

What advice do you have for an incoming student?
Go to office hours. It’s a cliche and it took me a while to do it myself, but it is a really an under-used resource in lower level classes and a great place to build relationships with your peers and your professors.

Anything else you'd like to share?
Math is hard for everyone. I feel like something that is really misconceived from the outside is that even the students who seem like they know everything struggle with the material.

 

Owen Buckminster
Ellis Buckminster ‘22

Major:  Mathematics & Linguistics
First class at Swarthmore:  Math 028, Linear Algebra


Why did you become a math major?  
i've really liked math all throughout school, so starting at swat i was pretty set on majoring in math.  i see math as something of a playground in my mind that’s always there if i want to go.  it’s fun and beautiful and exciting, and you can do so so much with just paper and a pencil.  that being said, i think math becomes much more special when you do it with other people.  besides the type of knowledge you get from textbooks, people can expose you to new ways of looking at problems and asking questions.  my freshman fall i took a course in linguistics for the first time and discovered that was also something i really enjoy studying.  i was briefly conflicted about which to study; i knew without a doubt that i loved math, but i couldn’t shut the door on linguistics when my first impression of it was so great.  this turned out not to be a nonissue, and now i'm planning on double majoring in math and linguistics.  they play nicely as subjects, and finding time for the course requirements for both really wasn't too hard.  

What course(s) have you enjoyed the most, and why?    
my favorite math course i've taken here so far is intro to modern algebra.  it was the first course i took that focused on proof writing (which i love) and didn't have very many computations at all (which aren't so much my jam).  i think algebra as a subject is pretty up my alley as well.  so many of the proofs and theorems work out just the way they seem like they should, but it also twists your mind with all sorts of possible structures.

How do you expect to use your mathematics after leaving Swarthmore?  
i don’t tend to make concrete plans very far in advance, but oddly enough i think i might like to keep math out of my professional life.  right now i’m thinking about going to welding school after swat and becoming a welder, but i’m certain i’ll still be doing math.

What advice do you have for an incoming student?
my advice with regards to studying math would be to take a math course that focuses on proofs as early as possible, maybe intro to modern algebra or intro to real analysis.  also, math clinic from 7 to 10 on weeknights is a good opportunity to do homework and talk math with other people.  in terms of general swat advice, i am a very big proponent of exploring campus (it’s beautiful!) and the physical area around it.  the crum is wonderful, and there are longer trails that run through it.  i’d also recommend getting any sort of campus job, but particularly a non academic one.  i work in the science center coffee bar, and that stops me from feeling like i’m only a student.  being a student is great, but sometimes i feel a little lost when all i focus on is my studies. 

 

Thomas Daillak ‘21

Major:  Mathematics
First math class at Swarthmore:  Math 028, Linear Algebra


Why did you become a math major?
Me and math had a bit of a hot and cold relationship until the end of high school when I first started calculus. It sorta made me into a concert and so I started swat knowing I wanted to take more math. From that point on it was a pretty natural process... I realized that if I took all the classes I was interested in I’d qualify for the major and so I said why the heck not. I don’t regret that choice for a second. Whatever major you end up with it should always be fun for you and that’s exactly what math has been for me.

What course(s) have you enjoyed the most, and why?
I have a penchant for algebra so linear and modern ended up being my favorite courses. I think that even if you’re not interested in honors you should absolutely take any seminar that sounds cool to you, I think they’re the best classes we offer. They teach you all about math, but more importantly they teach you how to teach yourself, a skill that’s pretty much invaluable. Besides they’re such a blast, and honestly it seems like each one I take just gets more and more fun... Topology last spring was probably one of the coolest classes I’ve taken at swat. If you think that sounds like you then don’t let anything scare you off this department. I know I’ve never been the fastest or most natural mathematician in the department, but I love it and it’s never stopped me from succeeding. Passion is all you need. Besides math can take you anywhere, every single discipline alive uses it. As someone who spends a good chunk of time in the humanities and social sciences because of his second major in linguistics, I can promise you I’ve used some piece of what I’ve learned in the math department in every class I’ve taken. 

How do you expect to use your mathematics after leaving Swarthmore?
I know I for one am applying all around when it comes to post-swat plans, some of that is math PhD programs, some is consulting and finance, some is non-profits, some is MBA programs, some is law school... the list goes on and on. As crazy as that all sounds, my time here has taught me to always keep my options open, give new things a chance however strange they might seem. Eventually we all have to make a choice, but no ones ever been hurt by more options. Besides sometimes you find something you love. I took microeconomics one semester just because I had a bunch of friends in the class (I’ve been taking one class for that reason my whole time at swat- would recommend) and it turns out I find economic modeling absolutely fascinating. 

What advice do you have for an incoming student?
There’s more to learn at swat than pretty much anywhere else you’ll visit, so if I could give one piece of advice, whatever major you end up picking, it would be this: take advantage of it, do something absolutely new to you, be curious, and always leave room for the world to surprise you.

 

Ray Sidener '21

Major:  Mathematics
First math class at Swarthmore:  Math 027, Linear Algebra


Why did you become a math major?
When I started at Swarthmore I thought I would do engineering - I’d been told that it was good for students who liked math. Turns out I just liked math. When I had a semester without any math courses I realized how much I missed it. There’s a kind of satisfaction that comes with working hard to solve a difficult math problem or proof and finally getting it right, that I wasn’t getting from engineering.

What course(s) have you enjoyed the most, and why?
My favorite course was Modern Algebra 1. It’s very proof based, and focuses on ​why​ math works the way it does, and what math would look like if it worked differently (like if we had imaginary numbers, or only integers, or only integers 1-5).

How do you expect to use your mathematics after leaving Swarthmore?
I’m also a Computer Science major, so I’m planning on working in the tech industry after I graduate. That will involve some math, but not necessarily a lot of it. I have a vague idea of going back to school for a PhD some day, but that wouldn’t be for a while.

What advice do you have for an incoming student?
This might be a little hypocritical coming from me, but make sure to lean into the liberal arts aspect of Swarthmore!  It’s easy to see distribution requirements as just some annoying thing you’ll have to get out of the way, but there’s a whole lot to be gained from other departments and subjects.

Anything else you'd like to share?
I’m fairly active in Swarthmore’s LGBTQ+ community, which is important to me. STEM in general can have a reputation for being less welcoming/inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community (and other marginalized groups) compared to social sciences or liberal arts fields. Personally, I’ve found the Math department and community very accepting - people are open to conversations about sexuality and gender identity, and professors have been great about using correct pronouns.

 

Riley Thompson ‘22

Major:  Mathematics
First math class at Swarthmore:  Stat 021, Statistical Methods II


Why did you become a math major?
I became a math major after thinking I wanted to study biology. I needed a fourth class to round out my freshman fall schedule and found myself in Stat 21. I realized quickly that my stat class was my favorite one despite it almost randomly finding itself onto my schedule. From there I never looked back or stopped taking math and stat classes!

What course(s) have you enjoyed the most, and why?
My favorite math class so far has absolutely been multivariable calculus with Professor Ralph Gomez. Not only did I really enjoy the material, but Professor Gomez has a really incredible delivery and energy that makes you want to learn more.

How do you expect to use your mathematics after leaving Swarthmore?
After leaving Swarthmore I hope to pursue either actuarial science or to work as a statistical research analyst before attending graduate school.

What advice do you have for an incoming student?
My advice for an incoming student would be to utilize as many of the resources provided to you by not just the math, but all academic departments. Professors, teaching assistants and clinicians would love to work with you and there is nothing wrong with asking for help!

 

Joy Zhang '22

Major:  Mathematics
First math class at Swarthmore:  Math 063, Real Analysis & Math 067, Modern Algebra


What course(s) have you enjoyed the most, and why?   
Taking the Real Analysis I and II series was a transformative experience for me. For the first time, I was introduced to some fascinating concepts such as compactness, an open set, and integration over manifolds. I also improved my proof-writing skills in these courses, which has allowed me to take a stab at the problems that I don’t have much background knowledge about. Adjusting to these higher-level proof-based courses was difficult at first. I am grateful for the incredible support by the professors and senior students in the department, who sacrificed their free time to answer my questions. I appreciate the nourishing and inspirational learning environment in all of my math classes.

How do you expect to use your mathematics after leaving Swarthmore? 
I’m interested in applying the ideas from pure math to problems related to neuroscience, complexity and information theory. I hope to draw inspiration from algebra, graph theory, and topology to study the structure of network and data. I plan to pursue a graduate degree in applied mathematics after leaving Swarthmore.

What advice do you have for an incoming student?
Do the things that feel right to you as a human, not to your ever changing overarching goal that takes place in 3-5 years. Embrace the uncertainties, and enjoy the present moment of joy that learning brings you. It is the experience that matters at the end of the day.

Anything else you'd like to share?
If you are drawn to math for its beauty, also check out the amazing courses offered in the philosophy, religion, classics, theater, and art history departments at Swarthmore. The cool thing about a liberal arts education is that it gives you a holistic view of knowledge and the freedom to enrich your mind in a multitude of ways. The future of problem-solving is interdisciplinary!