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Student Spotlight

Our Mathematics students live, learn and grow with us. Their achievements never cease to amaze us, and without fail - year after year - we are proud to see them succeed in our program and move on to brilliant futures. Our Student Spotlight gives you insights into who these bright students are, and how Mathematics has shaped them.

Cassie Prokopowicz

Honors Mathematics; Linguistics
Class of 2023
Oak Park, IL

What are your hobbies/interests (music, art, movies, etc.)?
Playing viola and piano, doing math circle, math club, and Super Saturdays, being a summer camp counselor, and living in a cooperative house (I live at ICC Luther House)!

What inspired you to major in Mathematics?
I have always wanted to be a math teacher so I decided to major in math when I got to college!

What classes have you enjoyed the most in the Math Department (and why)?
I really enjoyed math 295 because of the community we created in the class — it was also my first introduction to mathematical proofs and I really enjoyed learning so much there. Aside from 295, I really loved math 465 and math 590, as the material was just super interesting to me!!

What has been your favorite memory so far during your college experience?
My favorite memory has been all of the times we had office hours in 295 — a bunch of students would come and start working together on the homework problems, and our professor, Sarah Koch, always brought us cookies and oranges so we wouldn’t be hungry while working. It was always a great time.

Do you have any advice for prospective Math Majors?
Don’t overwork yourself — don’t forget to spend some time relaxing, socializing, and engaging in your hobbies! It’s easy to get caught up doing homework all the time, and homework is super important, but make sure you take some time for yourself too! It’s important to have a good balance.

Dhruv Kulshreshtha

Honors Mathematics
Class of 2024
Bangalore, India

What are your hobbies/interests (music, art, movies, etc.)?
I enjoy cooking, reading, watching sitcoms, and meeting new people. I have also recently started kayaking again, which has been a lot of fun.

What inspired you to major in Mathematics?
I believe that my interest in mathematics stemmed from my general inclination towards teaching and problem-solving. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed teaching; especially science and mathematics. I used to tutor my peers and juniors in high school, which not only helped them, but also helped me acquire a deeper knowledge of many concepts. I also like solving problems using various techniques; especially those that follow from other - seemingly unrelated - results. Seeing as how doing mathematics essentially boils down to constantly attempting to solve problems, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to see why I would enjoy it.

What classes have you enjoyed the most in the Math Department (and why)?
In spite of the abnormally high workload and the constant homework assignments, I think Math 297 (an Honors Analysis class) was probably my favorite math class at U(M). As promised by the title, we were introduced to analysis, primarily on finite dimensional inner product spaces. However, this class also gave us our first taste of point-set topology, group theory, multilinear algebra, and many many other things. By the end of the class, not only had I learned a bunch of new math and typed out over 30 homeworks, but I had also attended the final in a onesie and made some great friends with whom I struggled throughout the semester. I also enjoyed Math 582 (Set Theory) and Math 571 (Numerical Linear Algebra), which were both relatively lighter in terms of the workload and covered a bunch of interesting topics.

What has been your favorite memory so far during your college experience?
I don’t think it would be possible for me to pick a favorite memory, but some of my fondest memories so far include working for the math corps, kayaking with my friends and professors from the math department, trying new restaurants across Ann Arbor, hanging up Christmas ornaments in East Hall, TA-ing the proofs class, experiencing the peony garden in the spring, casually walking through a blizzard in the winter, and watching the OSU football game last fall.

Do you have any advice for prospective Math Majors?
Pursuing mathematics can be intimidating. Pretty much everyone I have spoken to has told me that they’ve experienced some level of imposter syndrome at some point in their mathematical careers. However, from my personal experience, the mathematical community is supportive, collaborative, understanding, and super tight-knit. Talking to seniors, going to office hours, and reaching out when you need help can go a long way. It can be especially hard to navigate a math major - while also dealing with the countless other things that one expects out of a college student - but as long as you know that you’re not alone, you’ll be perfectly fine.

Julia Rehring

Mathematical Sciences: Mathematical Biology
Class of 2025
Denver, CO

What are your hobbies/interests (music, art, movies, etc.)?
I love thrifting, painting, reading, and doing anything outdoors (even just sitting outside). I'm also a big fan of whales, the show Jeopardy, and Moe's Bagels from Denver.

What inspired you to major in Mathematics?
I've always loved math my whole life and found it easier than other subjects, but was really inspired to pursue it as a career when I learned about Applied Mathematics and how so many things depend on and rely on mathematicians. I particularly became interested in Mathematical Biology when I learned how math was used to revolutionize how AIDS/HIV was treated in the 90s from Professor Steven Strogatz.

What classes have you enjoyed the most in the Math Department (and why)?
I haven't been in the department too long, but so far have really enjoyed both 217 and 201 as they have given me a great chance to bond and learn from/with peers in a way I haven't experienced before.

What has been your favorite memory so far during your college experience?
Definitely the Ohio State Game last fall (2021). So freaking cool!

Do you have any advice for prospective Math Majors?
There are a lot of cool math majors out there so make friends with them!

Akash Narayanan

Honors Mathematics
Class of 2023
Rochester Hills, Michigan

What are your hobbies/interests (music, art, movies, etc.)?
I really enjoy playing chess competitively and have been doing so for around ten years. I also enjoy playing the violin and playing Mario Kart with my sister.

What inspired you to major in Mathematics?
I’ve always liked math and I especially love explaining math concepts to others. I also really enjoyed my freshman-year math courses, which convinced me to major in math.

What classes have you enjoyed the most in the Math Department (and why)?
One of my favorite math courses was Math 295, which was my first introduction to proof-writing. While the course was very difficult, the supportive and collaborative learning environment helped me understand the material and encouraged me to major in math. I also really enjoyed Math 396; the material was very interesting and working with others on homework was always fun.

What has been your favorite memory so far during your college experience?
One of my favorite memories is going to the math walking club. I also really enjoy helping out with Super Saturdays.

Do you have any advice for prospective Math Majors?
Try to collaborate with your classmates! I find that discussing the concepts and homework with others reinforces my understanding of the material. Relating to this, explaining a concept to others almost always strengthens my own understanding of the material. Attending office hours is also a great way to clarify the material.

I also recommend starting homework as soon as possible after it is assigned; this will give you a few days to think through each problem, especially those that are particularly challenging. Sometimes, you may come up with a solution to a difficult problem even when you are doing something else completely unrelated to math.

Miho Kasai

Honors Mathematics
Class of 2024
Tokyo, Japan

What are your hobbies/interests (music, art, movies, etc.)?
I like going to museums!

What inspired you to major in Mathematics?
I decided to major in mathematics after taking a few math classes during my freshman year. I found it beautiful that every result is derived from a series of axioms, definitions and theories. Learning math was as if I were discovering a new world, and I wanted to explore more.

What classes have you enjoyed the most in the Math Department (and why)?
I liked Math 575 because I was interested in Number Theory and Professor Kartik was a great teacher.

What has been your favorite memory so far during your college experience?
The Morning Walking Club!

Do you have any advice for prospective Math Majors?
Go to lectures and do homework.

Adam Earnst

Honors Mathematics
Class of 2023
West Lafayette, IN

What are your hobbies/interests (music, art, movies, etc.)?
I play the cello, and I'm a member of the Campus Symphony Orchestra. I also love going on hikes, bike rides, and doing just about anything outdoors (which is a great mind-refresher if I ever feel stuck on a math problem).

What inspired you to major in Mathematics?
I was drawn to advanced math for its combination of logic and creativity. I also just loved playing around with numbers growing up, so mathematics seemed to be the perfect choice for me.

What classes have you enjoyed the most in the Math Department (and why)?
My favorite math class here was probably math 575 (number theory). It was so rewarding to rigorously study a subject that can be appreciated by people with pretty much any level of math background.

What has been your favorite memory so far during your college experience?
Going to the OSU football game this past year was amazing (2021) - it was amazing to see everyone rushing the field through the snow after we won!

Do you have any advice for prospective Math Majors?
Go to office hours! It takes time to understand math, and that's okay. My professors have always been happy to explain concepts I didn't understand. One specific tip - people think in very different ways when it comes to math. If there is something that your professor thinks is obvious, don't be afraid to probe deeper. Doing so has given me some great mathematical intuition that I otherwise would've never gained.

Words of Advice to Prospective Math Majors

“You can achieve anything if you're willing to work for it! Never back down from a challenge that you want to pursue. Also, talk to your professors as much as possible. Forming connections with them is not only helpful while in classes, but it also teaches you how to form connections further down the road as well as help you remain invested in the material.”

Ishpreet Kohli, Class of 2021 - Actuarial Mathematics

“People think you either "get math" or you don’t, but I know first hand that being good at math is a matter of how much you practice and how much support you have from a mentor. Try to avoid using language in classes that might ostracize individuals (i.e. "this result is obvious"). Recognizing that others may not know the same level of math as you can prime you to help others, which fosters a collaborative environment and gives others the confidence to ask questions without fear of judgement. Math is like a team sport - every mathematician is on the same team and they are up against the newest problems in the different fields of math. Everyone, including you, has valuable insight into a problem (however much it may be) that could determine whether a solution is found or not. I think reminding yourself of that can be useful in combating impostor syndrome."

Antareeksh Deb, Class of 2021 - Pure Mathematics

“Being a Math Major who knows how to code makes it super easy to get a great job offer!”

Skyler Hardt, Class of 2021 - Mathematics of Finance & Risk Management

“Math at Michigan is hard. You're not the only one struggling, we have all gone through the imposter syndrome!”

K. Faryab Haye, Class of 2021 - Mathematical Sciences: Discrete & Algorithmic Methods

“Be open to taking classes that pique your interest because college is a wonderful time to explore all your passions.”

Jiazhen Yang, Class of 2021 - Actuarial Mathematics

“Never be afraid to ask questions. Some of your peers will be extremely intelligent - don't forget you are too! You may feel like you're slowing the class down, but odds are you aren't alone in needing help!”

Joseph Minnella, Class of 2021 - Mathematical Sciences: Mathematical Physics

“If you feel you are not doing well in a math class, do not question your intelligence. Find a professor who fits your learning style and retake the course.”

Isaac Deng, Class of 2021  -  Mathematics of Finance & Risk Management

“Go to office hours, and be as honest and genuine with your professors as you can. It'll make the class material way more engaging for you and your prof can customize your learning experience a lot better.”

Marianne DeBrito, Class of 2021  -  Pure Mathematics

"Anyone can be a mathematician as long as they are willing to put in the time and effort required. You know yourself better than anyone else- if you want to major in math, don't let anyone dissuade you. Remember that it's okay to feel overwhelmed at times. Taking on a challenging major is going to be difficult and will definitely push you. Go to office hours if you have problems and try to make friends with people in your classes, so you have a strong support system."

Marisa O'Gara,  Class of 2021  -  Mathematical Sciences: Discrete & Algorithmic Methods

“The classes that math majors take are very different from those you take in high school or even in the calculus sequence. Join a math club. Watch youtube videos. Learn math outside of school. That's the best way to see what the subject has to offer and to know if it's right for you.”

Christopher Rose, Class of 2021  -  Pure Mathematics

“Challenge yourself and keep moving. Discuss problems with your peers and professors!”

Rui Dong, Class of 2021  -  Honors Mathematics

“About 90% of all the problems I've ever been stuck on have been solved by taking a break, going for a walk, and returning to it later with a clear head. I think this applies to any discipline. When the work gets tough, take a step back and clear your mind, it's more helpful than you think.”

Faustas Udrenas, Class of 2021 - Pure Mathematics

“Prepare well! Math can be hard.”

Ziyu He, Class of 2021 - Mathematics of Finance & Risk Management

“Don’t worry - notations on the chalkboard looked like a bunch of scribbles at first to me too. There is nothing more important I've learned in college than making the overwhelmingly complicated into something manageable and simple. There is nowhere that has taught me that skill better than my math classes.”

Charlie Butz, Class of 2021 - Mathematical Sciences: Mathematical Economics

“Don't take calculus at a community college...you'll regret it!”

Parmida Davarmanesh, Class of 2021 - Honors Mathematics

“Get involved in math extracurriculars! Student Actuaries at Michigan was so helpful to me as I figured out what career to pursue after graduation.”

Emily Coffield, Class of Fall 2020 - Actuarial Mathematics