Karen Haar

Over the summer, I worked under the tutelage of Associate Professor Dr. Carina Curto. I originally met with her to ask about her neuroscience research. Dr. Curto happened to be writing a book chapter for an undergraduate textbook in biological math and asked me to help. To more thoroughly plan the book chapter, mock classes were held to actually teach the material. During the lessons I took notes, asked questions, and helped inspire activities and sample problems for the book. In addition to the class, I participated in a journal club, learned about Dr. Curto’s neuroscience research, and had an opportunity to learn about and experiment with her research software. I even came up with my own hypotheses for the data and tested my ideas under Dr. Curto’s guidance and the help of other post-doc students.

The entire research experience has been eye opening and rewarding in numerous ways. I had an opportunity to observe Dr. Curto and some of what her job as a professor entails. She mentored me one-on-one. Through guidance and example, Dr. Curto showed me how to be a better mathematician. I immersed myself in mathematical research and experienced firsthand what math professors do in an informal, fun environment. I was able to utilize my rather unique skill set in education and English to aid and support Dr. Curto’s academic endeavors. The mentorship of professors like Dr. Curto is priceless, and I’m honored to play a small role in her academic achievements.

My in-class learning and academic studies complimented my grant experience tremendously. Textbooks used in my math classes were analyzed and discussed during the formatting process of the book chapter. I was able to immediately incorporate math I learned from class into the text being written. In addition, my future coursework is consistently enhanced by my exposure to Dr. Curto’s research and mentorship. Almost daily I am questioning an idea, researching a former mathematician and his/her work, or finding discrepancies or anomalies in the math to later address or learn more about. I’m grateful for the opportunity to enhance my classroom learning with such wonderful opportunities outside of the classroom with other graduate students and professors in the field.

I wholeheartedly support and appreciate the grant opportunity. I have learned what a math professor’s job entails, how mathematical research works, and some of the complexities of publishing one’s work. The opportunity to work with a professor both ignited my own passion for math and inspired me to continue seeking unique and rewarding learning experiences both in and out of the classroom.  As I hope to be a future math or math education teacher, learning from and with Dr. Curto greatly benefited my understanding of mathematicians and their work. Regardless of where in the field of math I go, I know that my experience with Dr. Carina Curto will better prepare me to teach math and become a more professional and successful mathematician.

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