Alumni Profiles

If you are an alumnus of Bowdoin College (and its math department) and would like your own profile included here, please contact someone in the department with your information.
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Sophie Berube

Class of: 2016

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Major(s): Mathematics

PhD program in the department of Biostatistics at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University

What have your been up to since Bowdoin?

After graduation, I began a PhD program in the department of Biostatistics at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. So far I have been involved in research focused on developing statistical methodology for the analysis of genomic and proteomic data related to malaria transmission in Southern and Central Africa. More, specifically I work with lab scientists, epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists at the Southern and Central Africa International Center for Excellence in Malarial Research (ICEMR) on understanding mechanisms of malaria transmission in Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

Why math?

I did not come to Bowdoin with the intention of majoring in math but after multivariate calculus and linear algebra I was convinced that math was the right department for me! It wasn’t until the summer of my junior year while doing research with Professor Taback and Tara Palnitkar '16 that I began to consider graduate school in a math related field as a post-graduation path. I realized that I was particularly interested in applied fields like statistics late in my major but was glad to have taken several theoretical classes like Group Theory and Analysis- they served me very well in my graduate school classes! Being part of a mathematical department in a school of public health is especially great because it allows me to think about theoretical statistical questions arising from datasets and problems that impact the health of communities across the world. 

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Matt Leventhal

Class of: 2017

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Major(s): Biology, Mathematics

Working at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

What have you been up to since Bowdoin?

Since graduating Bowdoin I have been working at the Broad Institute with Ben Ebert and Gad Getz to develop methods to identify acquired mutations in blood samples of patients with no diagnosed leukemia. This is an important question because as these mutations accumulate as one ages, they can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disorder or they can clonally evolve into Acute Myeloid Leukemia. By discovering recurrent mutations in these healthy blood samples, I can identify which individuals may be at risk for adverse outcomes in the future and can allow for these patients to receive treatment at earlier, more treatable stages of disease. I am currently in the process of applying to PhD programs in computational biology, leveraging my double major in Mathematics and Biology at Bowdoin.

Why math?

I entered Bowdoin certain that I would be a Biology major, and took Multivariate Calculus my first semester to fulfill the mathematics requirement for the major. However, I did not want to give up math in my coursework, and so I continued taking math classes until I ended up with a double major in Math and Biology. Along the way, I worked on research projects with professors Vladimir Douhovnikoff and Michael Palopoli in the Biology department to apply math to questions in Molecular Ecology and Molecular Evolution. From this work, I have remained passionate about applying statistical methodologies to questions in biology to predict disease-driving variants in cancer: leveraging mathematics to improve disease diagnosis and treatment.

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Laura Petto

Class of: 2015

Location: Hanover, NH

Major(s): Mathematics

Minor(s): Government and Legal Studies

PhD program in the Department of Mathematics at Dartmouth

What have you been up to since Bowdoin?

I began a PhD program in mathematics the fall following graduation. I mostly took courses in theoretical math at Bowdoin and entered the program interested in combinatorics and algebra. I switched to applied math during my second year, and now my advisor is Anne Gelb. I use techniques from statistical inversion theory, spectral methods, and convex optimization to develop new algorithms for solving inverse problems. I usually work on generalized inverse imaging problems that can be applied to SAR (synthetic aperature radar), ultrasound, and MRIs. This range of applications has led me to work with mathematicians from the Air Force Research Lab in Dayton, Ohio and from the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory as well. Sometimes I work on application specific problems by exploiting features of the particular imaging device, such as the impact of individual transducer angles in ultrasounds. I love working on problems with interesting real-life constraints and thinking about whether our algorithms can be realistically implemented.

Why math?

I came to Bowdoin planning on majoring in Government and Legal Studies with a minor in Math. I mildly enjoyed math in high school but focused on other subjects. I took Math 200 with Professor Thomas Pietraho the fall of my first year and that course changed the trajectory of my academic path. Math was beautiful, intuitive, and stimulating. I loved the challenge of pure mathematics and the extremely collaborative community of the department. I had never considered graduate school until I attended a program to encourage women to get PhDs in math after my first year. I kept studying math because I enjoyed the material, the cooperative nature of the work, and the creativity needed to solve problems. I took mainly theoretical math classes at Bowdoin – my favorites were Geometric Group Theory and Algebraic Topology. Those courses exemplify why I chose math: the professors were exceptionally excited about the topics and dedicated to teaching, and I could spend hours working on those problems, completely entranced by the material.

I also chose math because of a pretty special program that made the department – and Bowdoin – feel like home. I started volunteering in a second-grade math classroom my third week at Bowdoin and continued through my four years. I loved connecting with the kids about math and engaging in different levels of math education. I liked sharing both my excitement about math with them and that math is often hard for mathematicians! I learned about perseverance in mathematics and finding peace with difficult problems from observing them – they were joyful, enthusiastic, determined, and so curious. Going into those classes helped me go back to Searles and do my own math. Their happiness and openness inspired me. I also started an after school math club at the elementary school with Professor Taback during my junior year. Being able to share and receive joy about math from those students was an essential part of my week.

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Olivia Cannon

Class of: 2017

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Major(s): Mathematics, Physics

PhD program in Mathematics at the University of Minnesota.

What have you been up to since Bowdoin?

Despite my best intentions, I ended up in a PhD program, and am having a rather delightful time studying math at the University of Minnesota. 

Why Math?

I think math eventually chose me. It was kind of like a childhood friend whose presence you never questioned and always enjoyed, and then suddently around junior year of college it got serious and I realized whoa, maybe I should make this a forever thing. 
In all seriousness though I had really great teachers, both in high school and at Bowdoin, who made math come alive and explode with exciting things. I never felt like I was "done" learning math. So if you're that person, like me, who never realized you loved it but just always wanted to take it, keep doing it. It doesn't have to be your entire life, and it's a pretty fun way of life.  I hope to someday be half as impactful as the teachers who taught me. 

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Vianney Gomezgil Yaspik

Class of: 2018

Location: Bologna, Italy

Major(s): Mathematics

Minor(s): Computer Science

Master of Arts program from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

What have you been up to since Bowdoin?

My liberal arts education at Bowdoin College, particularly my Mathematics major and my Computer Science minor, provided me with crucial analytical tools for pursuing graduate studies. Yet, it also provided me with a well-rounded background that allowed me “to be at home in all lands and all ages” (President Hyde) and fit well in new academic institutions and programs.

 I have always been fascinated with areas of studies that combine mathematics, economics, and international relations. Thus, since graduation I have been enrolled in a Master of Arts program from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. This MA has a special concentration in economics, an additional one in international relations, and it also offers several quantitatively challenging courses. Thus, it has been the perfect way to culminate my passions.

I look forward to the start of the second semester in JHU’s campus in Bologna, Italy, and to the following year in Washington D.C, particularly, since I will be closer to Brunswick and will have the possibility of coming back to my alma mater.

Why math?

Talking about the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra at family dinners, determining new recipe portion ratios and solving interest rate problems in long car rides were normal parts of my childhood. The integration of math and its applications were embedded in me at an early age. Because of this, studying mathematics or economics in college had always been a possibility. At the age of 14 however, I left my home country, Mexico, to go study abroad in Quebec, Canada. Completely opening up my perception of the world and allowing me to see that not only did I enjoy learning and understanding mathematics and economics, but also different cultures and the reasons why they act and interact with people differently. Thus, after arriving at Bowdoin the question was: mathematics, economics or international relations? If I chose the latter, it would have been hard to pursue further quantitative studies. With a mathematics degree however, pursuing any of the other areas of study remained a possibility. This is one of the main reasons why I chose math. This degree, apart from teaching me how to think and analyze the world in a different way (and having some of the best teachers at the school), left the door open for the different areas of study that I wanted to pursue.

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Mariya Ilyas

Class of: 2013

Location: Alexandria, VA

Major(s): Mathematics

Minor(s): Government and Legal Studies

U.S. Foreign Service Officer at U.S. Department of State

What have you been up to since Bowdoin?

After graduating from Bowdoin, I worked in Boston for two years for Liberty Mutual Insurance where I developed financial and analytic skills through the Product Management Development Program. I ultimately decided I wanted a career in public service. After serving as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Turkey for one year, I returned to Boston to complete my master's in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Thanks to the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship, I am now a U.S. Foreign Service Officer and very excited for my first post to Amman, Jordan this fall!

Why math?

I have always had a knack for numbers as a kid, but I was not sure I wanted to study math in college, especially because Bowdoin's liberal arts curriculum exposed me to new and exciting disciplines such as sociology, philosophy, and religion. It was not until I took courses with Professor Levy and Professor Zeeman that I decided to major in mathematics. Both of them became mentors and supported my academic growth in the department. As a result of their encouragement, I became a Quantitative Skills Tutor through the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching, where I tutored my peers in calculus and economics throughout my college career. Looking back now, studying math at Bowdoin was one of the best decisions I ever made! My mathematics background has allowed me to use statistical modeling, creative problem-solving, and logical reasoning in almost all of my professional endeavors. In my current role as a U.S. diplomat, I often get the question "what does math have to do with international relations?" I never hesitate to share that in the complex and nuanced field of world affairs, my academic training in math allows me to conceptualize outside-the-box ideas, understand and measure data analytically, and use quantitative tools to evaluate policy.

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Carina Spiro

Class of: 2018

Location: Keningau, Malaysia

Major(s): Mathematics, Physics

Fulbright English Teaching Assistant

What have you been up to since Bowdoin?

After graduating from Bowdoin, I searched for a job that would combine my passions for math, education, and outdoor pursuits. I worked as the math teaching fellow at The Alzar School in Cascade, Idaho, a semester school for high-school students that focuses on outdoor leadership while still maintaining rigorous academics. I taught Geometry, served as a mentor, worked in residential life, and had the opportunity to lead students on four weeks of backpacking and whitewater river expeditions. This job reinforced how much I love the intersection between traditional and outdoor classrooms, and how much of an impact experiential learning can have on students. Currently, I'm working as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Keningau, Malaysia. I'm focusing on how English can be a tool for global communication, encouraging students to think of learning language not as memorizing vocabulary or grammar, but rather as building confidence to speak and express themselves. I'm also curious to spend time observing math classes conducted in a language I don't yet understand, exploring the question of how math can serve as a universal common language.

Why math?

I was lucky enough to have an incredibly inspirational high-school math teacher who emphasized the beauty and magic of mathematical connections, and encouraged his students to delve into the reasons why theorems were true, rather than to simply believe. So, I arrived at Bowdoin already excited about the idea of majoring in math, and after one semester of Multivariable Calculus with Professor Levy, I was hooked. I loved the highly collaborative nature of the math major at Bowdoin, and the feeling of finally figuring out a tough problem after working at it for a long time with a group of friends. I also studied physics at Bowdoin, and continue to be fascinated by the interesting problems that arise in the intersection between applied math and theoretical physics, and I got the chance to delve into one through a summer of research with Professor Chong. Through Professor Taback, I came to run a third-grade math club during my last two years at Bowdoin, quickly realizing that inventing crazy, creative, mathematically-minded worksheets for them to puzzle through was one of my favorite parts of the week. I was also able to do an interdisciplinary independent study my senior year with Professor Broda, studying the ways calculus is taught in the United States, and whether or not they are logical. I'm really interested in math in all aspects of life, not just in the classroom, and am continually looking for ways to show students real-life applications and little bits of math magic to get them invested and excited to learn. 

Faustino Ajanel

Faustino Ajanel

Class of: 2016

Major(s): Mathematics

Minor(s): Sociology

My teaching goal is to help urban students realize that learning and excelling in mathematics is possible.

Why Education?

I grew up in South Central, Los Angeles and attended public schools throughout my K-12 education. Coming from a school in a low-income community, I felt overwhelmed coming to Bowdoin where there are an abundant amount of resources, small class sizes, and a wide range of areas of study.

The biggest wake-up call I had about my socioeconomic status was during an activity in the class Sociology of Education. Students were asked to form a circle, and told to step out of the circle if a statement applied to you. The professor said, “Step outside if one or both of your parents attended college.” As I looked from left to right, all my peers stepped outside the circle except me. I felt embarrassed and sad that I was the only first generation student in the class (I was also the only person of color in that class too). However, she used this activity to point out the inequalities in education and how it can impact us in moving up or down in the socioeconomic ladder. My discomfort changed to curiosity as I learned more about how inequality played in the U.S. education system.

In my first year of college, I was nervous about taking math classes at Bowdoin. I felt unprepared in taking Calculus, Computer Science or science classes. My advisor recommended me to take a Calculus with Professor Barker. Throughout the semester, I felt engaged in Calculus as Professor Barker took the time and effort in helping me learn the concepts. I realized that having a professor/teacher who is passionate about the material and offers support outside the classroom is crucial for students to succeed in math.

After Bowdoin, I will be working as a math middle school teaching assistant and getting my Massachusetts teaching license at the Boston Teacher Residency program. My teaching goal is to help urban students realize that learning and excelling in mathematics is possible. I hope to obtain a National Board Certification after a few years teaching in Boston. With a background in teaching in urban schools, I plan to enroll in a Doctorate program in Education Leadership, and return to Los Angeles Unified School District either as a school board member or superintendent.

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Lindsey Thompson

Class of: 2010

Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Major(s): Mathematics

Humphrey School of Public Affairs

What have you been up to since Bowdoin?

Since graduating in 2010 I have been finding ways to integrate the two fields I love: math and education. I started in 2011 teaching middle and high school mathematics -- first in Mombasa, Kenya, and then in Pittsburgh Public Schools. Teaching was a wonderfully motivating and hands-on and creative challenge that brought me more joy than I thought possible at work. After four years, however, I had the opportunity to do education research at the RAND Corporation, where I learned more about statistics and economics and how to measure the impact of initiatives in education. That position led me to graduate school at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs (University of Minnesota) where I am studying education policy and quantitative methods. As a student, I've continued to work in and with school districts on evaluation and research projects and have also found time to teach. When I graduate in May 2019 I hope to either go to work for a school district or head back into middle or high school classrooms. 

Why math?

I always loved my math coursework in middle and high school, but I didn't really think it'd be what I landed on in college. However, after two classes at Bowdoin I was hooked! A big part of math - for me - was the department. I was so happy to find professors that wanted to talk about interesting problems as well as get to know me and invite me into their lives. I also loved the community created by the students -- tight and collaborative and helpful. As an educator, I find that teaching math is a particularly creative endeavor because I don't want to fall into the trap of lecturing and having students fill out worksheets to practice skills all the time. I find most things in math to be exciting and I enjoy finding ways to translate that excitement (or at least understanding) to my students.