Angela Cooper, a senior mathematics major in SIUE’s College of Arts and Sciences, will be traveling this summer to Northern Arizona University to participate in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. The REU is funded by the National Science Foundation, according to Cooper.
According to Krzysztof Jarosz, distinguished research professor and chair of the mathematics and statistics department, said that the REU math programs are typically very competitive.
Cooper, who is from Washington, IL, started at SIUE in 2008 as an elementary education major with an emphasis in mathematics. She started tutoring at a tutor center in Edwardsville, and quickly became the math tutor for the high school and junior high students, as she was the only tutor that did math. After tutoring for two years, Cooper realized that she really wanted to teach math.
“I realized that that was what I wanted to teach. So, I switched my major, and it set me back a year,” said Cooper. “I didn’t realize how much I liked math until I switched my major. I ended up falling in love with it. Right now, I am majoring in secondary mathematics. I recently decided I wanted to teach at the junior college level.”
Cooper stated that she was passed a lot of information about various opportunities for research but that many of them had too much emphasis on science as opposed to math.
“A lot of the REU’s were science based, or some of them were math based but added chemistry or physics. So I was kind of discouraged by that. Then, my instructor sent me one that was Math Ed. at ISU. So I looked more into it, thinking maybe this would be a good option for this summer,” said Cooper. “It ended up not being the field I really wanted.”
Cooper knew that she wanted to focus as much as possible on math and stumbled upon a REU at Northern Arizona University in applied mathematics. Cooper stated that the applied math is an area she became interested in as she took more classes in her major.
“I stumbled onto this one in Northern Arizona. It’s applied mathematics. Knowing what I know now about math, if I didn’t want to teach so much, I would go into applied mathematics. I’m really interested in it, but I definitely do want to teach,” said Cooper. “[The REU] actually said that you needed a good background in linear algebra and programming and those were two of the classes that I enjoyed the most.”
Cooper has experience working in math research. She worked last year as research assistant in the SIUE Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) program. She said that Adam Weyhaupt, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, encouraged her to get more involved in the program and to apply for the URCA position.
“There have been professors that helped me along with math. I would say Dr. Weyhaupt, for sure. I had him my first semester as a math student and I had him for math, logic, and reasoning which is the class that supposedly scares everybody away. Everyone told me ‘Oh, you’re not going to make it through that class.’ I ended up doing pretty well in that class. He made me realize my potential. He got me involved. I did undergraduate research here for a year. He convinced me to apply for it.”
Cooper stated that she is looking forward to working with the mentoring professor she is paired with for the summer.
“I know the field is called operations research and I will be doing semi-definite programming,” said Cooper. “I’m really excited to learn about it. We’ll attend regular lectures. I have a mentoring professor that I will get to work one-on-one with.”