Comments about Graduate School after Amherst

The Mathematics and Statistics Department has solicited and posted some comments below from previous mathematics majors about their experiences attending graduate school after graduating from Amherst. These comments include some from students pursuing degrees in mathematics, in mathematics education, and in other related fields. (To return to the main Graduate School page, click here.)

Adam Lowrance completed a PhD in Mathematics at Louisiana State University. Adam writes "After graduating from Amherst, I entered the mathematics Ph.D. program at Louisiana State University. Upon completing the Ph.D. program, I worked in a postdoctoral position at the University of Iowa for three years, and I have just completed my first year as an assistant professor at Vassar College. During my first two years of graduate school, my focus was on completing the entry level graduate coursework and passing my qualifying and oral examinations. These beginning graduate courses were similar to the courses I took as a senior at Amherst. However, the graduate courses moved at a much quicker pace, and I spent many more hours studying outside of class. After completing my initial coursework, my focus turned to research. For the next three years, I worked with my advisor to prove new results, write up those results into research papers, and travel to conferences to present my work. My time in graduate school culminated in the writing and defending of my dissertation."

Benjamin Dickman is attending a Mathematics Education PhD program at Columbia University. Benjamin writes: "Since majoring in Mathematics at Amherst College, I have moved into the related academic area of Mathematics Education. In particular, I spent the immediate year after my graduation researching how secondary school Mathematics teachers are trained in China on a Fulbright Grant; subsequently, I enrolled in a Mathematics Education PhD program at Columbia University, which includes coursework completed at the associated Teachers College (TC). Although my post-Amherst studies have included work in Cognitive Sciences, Psychology, Policy, and – of course – Pedagogy, the mathematical foundation I was able to form at the College has been fundamental to my continued success. In addition to work as a Graduate Instructor, I have also served as a Teaching Assistant for several graduate courses at TC: Real Analysis, Abstract Algebra, Topology (with open sets), Topology (with closure axioms), Problem Posing, Problem Solving, and Set Theory. The opportunities provided at Amherst College – taking upper-level electives, completing an honors thesis, grading for several courses, TAing, and participating in an REU – prepared me very well with regard to the mathematical content knowledge needed for these various teaching positions. Finally, there can be no doubt that the approachability and dedication to student learning evident among Amherst faculty has shaped my own views towards Mathematics and Mathematics Education for the better."

Gina Turrini writes "I am about to enter the Economics PhD program at Duke University with a focus on applied microeconomics.  I am interested in global health, development, and policy and just finished a Masters in Public Policy at Duke as well.  While I was getting my Masters at Duke I worked as a research assistant on several different health-related projects and was a teaching assistant for graduate-level game theory and statistics classes.  Before I came to Duke I spent time in DC working at a non-profit and teaching math and English at a learning center.  The year after graduating from Amherst I taught English at Bilkent University in Turkey.  While I was at Amherst I spent several semesters working in the Q-center and as a teaching assistant for first-semester calculus classes, and those opportunities gave me a huge leg up both in terms of getting my teaching positions after Amherst and in feeling comfortable teaching and managing a classroom.  While I am not pursuing math exclusively in my graduate studies, the solid background I got in the math department at Amherst has helped me enormously in my statistics and economics classes in graduate school."

Ian Mellis writes "I'm pursuing graduate training in computational biology and medicine as part of UPenn's MD/PhD program. Within the math major at Amherst, I focused on applied subjects, and that has opened up a range of opportunities for interdisciplinary work. Projects I've considered or am currently working on have included questions in machine learning, image analysis, genome science, and theoretical biostatistics. At the core of these topics are fundamental challenges that are most effectively described mathematically. More broadly, a strong quantitative background has proven to be very helpful for advanced training in scientific research in general, as well as in the clinical medical profession. I entered Amherst expecting to eventually choose between graduate-level math work and advanced training in some other subject. Instead, it has been extremely gratifying to find important and interesting interdisciplinary options for further study, particularly when considering questions relevant to the basic understanding of human health and disease."

Conny Morrison writes "At Amherst, I was a Mathematics and Political Science double major with a strong interest in health and medicine. During the second half of my time at Amherst, I began to seriously consider medical school as my future career path and am now completing Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical courses at Northeastern University's College of Professional Studies while working full time. I am hoping to pursue a dual MD/MPP (Masters of Public Policy) degree in the future. My first year out, I served as an AmeriCorps Massachusetts Promise Fellow at Health Resources in Action, a public health non-profit. There, I taught health education to high school students and supported them to host events and workshops to teach their peers. I am now a Research Assistant at Brigham & Women's Hospital, where I am working on a 2-year study in the Division of General Internal Medicine examining the effectiveness of a Patient-Centered Care model. I feel strongly that being a Math major at Amherst prepared me for any analytical path, including my post-Bac science courses, the qualitative program evaluation I did as a AmeriCorps member and my new position as a Research Assistant. The flexibility of the major, in that it allowed me to take Physics and Statistics courses while at Amherst, has been important to pursuing my pre-Med requirements. My experience as a Teacher's Assistant was a formative one and definitely also helped prepare me to engage high school students. Finally, the close relationships that I was able to form with a few Math professors have been enriching, fun and helpful to my (short) career, even though it is outside the true mathematics realm."

Paul Reschke writes "My pursuit of a Ph.D. in Mathematics opened up to me an intellectual world far richer than I ever imagined, and I am very thankful that my positive experiences in the Mathematics Department at Amherst eventually led me down this path. In graduate school, the challenges of attempting to understand the current state of mathematical knowledge and then attempting to add to it required and inspired me to work harder (by far) than I have on any other undertaking--and they frequently led me to the limits of my capabilities. To me, the most salient rewards of my efforts have been the opportunities to push my logical and creative capacities to their utmost, to develop truly new knowledge, and to engage with the community of academic mathematicians. The community of mathematicians deserves an extra note: everywhere I go, mathematicians at all stages of their careers consistently impress me with their enthusiasm and encouragement for students who are just beginning their research careers."

Hamed Ibrahim writes "The training in mathematics that I received at Amherst has been instrumental to my academic pursuits after graduation. After majoring in mathematics at Amherst, I have done masters work in groundwater hydrology, where I used tools from mathematical physics to investigate how contaminants move in groundwater. I have also done masters work in political economy, where I used game theory to investigate non cooperative behavior in trans-boundary river negotiations. I have relied extensively on my studies in complex analysis, differential equations, partial differential equations, linear algebra, wavelet and Fourier analysis, and measure theory. While at Amherst I took advantage of the Five College Consortium Program in order to take graduate level mathematics courses. I have benefited immensely from the attention and dedication of the faculty at Seeley Mudd and I continue to benefit even today as I pursue a PhD in Civil Engineering."

Jeff Grover is pursuing a PhD in experimental atomic physics at the University of Maryland. Jeff writes "At Amherst I majored in both physics and math, but I always thought of myself as 'more' of a physics major given that I did an honors physics thesis and am now finishing my fourth year of a physics PhD. That said, I enjoyed my math major immensely from a pure intellectual standpoint and also on a personal level because of the high quality of teaching and mentorship in the department. As an experimental physicist, I do use math frequently but (sadly) rarely at the level beyond advanced calculus, differential equations, or linear algebra. The more career-applicable things that my Amherst math education taught me were how to creatively approach problems and then how to solve them in full generality - these are modes of thinking that I tried to impart to engineering students whom I taught in an introductory physics course.  I also have no doubts that this strong quantitative background will continue to help me beyond graduate school."

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