2014 AWM Essay Contest: Undergraduate Honorable Mention
By: Carolyn Brown, Valencia Middle School
Ever since she was ten years old, Emily Evans wanted to be like Kate Monday the Mathematician from the TV show Square One. Sadly, this profession has a negative reputation and it is unusual for a child to even dream about pursuing it. You mention you even like math and most people will say, “You study math? I don’t know how you can study math, it is so hard. I don’t get it.” But Emily is not like most people: math has always been her passion because she is good at it and she enjoys the satisfaction from solving a challenging problem. “It’s a very creative field; it lets you try new things,” Emily said. “I’ve always loved math because I love patterns, and there’s a beauty in the patterns of math that once you really start to understand the math, then you start to see these patterns repeated over and over again.”
As a mathematics professor at Brigham Young University Emily realizes her path to become the mathematician she is today was not as smooth as other mathematicians’ paths. She graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Economics and then worked in the industry as a software engineer for eight years. During this time she worked at three software engineer companies including EMC, Lavastorm, and Hewlett-Packard. Though this was a period of time of great growth for Emily, she wasn’t completely satisfied. After marrying David Evans, a fellow lover of math, she decided to pursue what she loved, followed her dreams, and went back to school to become a mathematician. She enrolled in the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts and earned a PhD in Mathematics. Following her graduate studies in domains with fractal boundaries in Massachusetts she moved to Utah with her husband and daughter Eleanor to teach at BYU.
Through her experiences as a software engineer and in Economics she has gained a broader perspective as a mathematician. She learned important skills to become a better problem-solver. And, as advisor of the Women-in-Math club at BYU, she has inspired many young college women to follow their dreams.
The best piece of advice that Emily said she could give me was to not make excuses for my innate talents. I should be proud of studying math because it is what I am good at and love; it doesn’t matter what others may tell me. She said that as women we are apologetic for our choices and talents. Oftentimes we convince ourselves that our successes are actually not our own; that we couldn’t have accomplished them without the help of others. But in reality, we should not be ashamed of what we do well. We must embrace our talents, and not make excuses in fear of rejection or in fear of going against the social norm.
Emily learned this lesson the hard way; she made excuses not to pursue mathematics and chose a different path. These decisions shaped her into the mathematician she is today who continues to inspire everyone around her.
Now living her childhood dream as a Mathematician she enjoys working on three research projects that vary from engineering to biology to pure mathematics. She is truly a Renaissance woman in mathematics! Her first project involves computational mechanics and includes doing mathematical analysis of ships and airplane wings. Together with other engineers and computer-aided design programs, Emily helps link different types of engineering to make new discoveries and advancements. And if that is not impressive enough, Emily also works with biologists to improve cell motion. They specialize in a slug-like moving cell called amoeboidal cells. With other biologists, Emily has come up with mathematical models to analyze the movement of these cells. They have had many breakthroughs with their research and continue making contributions to the mathematical/scientific world. Her last (but not least) project deals with her emphasis during graduate school. She researches domains with fractal boundaries, or shapes with bumpy boundaries and how they relate to their surroundings.
Apart from being a successful mathematician, Emily enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, and reading books. She is living proof that dreams can come to pass despite any detour or challenge you may face.
About the Student:
Carolyn Brown is a senior studying Mathematics at Brigham Young University. She enjoys many aspects of math including combinatorics and complex analysis, two of the classes she is currently taking. She also really enjoys geometry ever since her 8th grade geometry class. In fact, one of her role models is 17th century mathematician Johannes Kepler who said, “Where there is matter, there is geometry.” She is fluent in Spanish and loves hiking, running marathons, and ballroom dancing.