Major: Mathematics and Computer Science
Hometown: Macomb, Illinois
Researching Mathematics at Iowa State
Joe has worked on two research projects while at Iowa State. One was a topological problem, where he worked with Dr. Kris Lee. The other was in computable structure theory, involving both mathematics and computer science, where he worked with Dr. Tim McNicholl and Donald Stull. They both resulted in authorship on published research papers (found here and here). In addition, Joe had the privilege of presenting his work at the Midwest Undergraduate Mathematics Symposium (MUMS) at Simpson College in 2015. “It was a great experience to be among other undergraduate mathematics majors who had conducted research.”
When performing research, you’ll get stuck a lot. Joe mentioned that “the most challenging part of these experiences for me was the sheer amount of time spent struggling to solve smaller problems. Ironically, it is also the most enjoyable part.” On the other hand, “The most rewarding part of these experiences, for me, was to experience the equalizing effect of a research problem. When you’re trying to solve a problem that has not been solved by anyone to date, an undergraduate, a professor, and a graduate student all contribute in equal measure to the discussion and eventual solution.”
Joe plans pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics. In addition, he would like to perform mathematical research throughout his career and eventually end up in a position at a university with a significant research expectation. His research experience revealed his passion for mathematical research.
Want to perform research? Ask your professors!
Although Joe did not use the resources offered by the LAS Career Services Office, he mentioned that the ability to communicate professionally (particularly in written form) is extremely important in research. He said, “I think that many students who are interested in research opportunities with ISU faculty could benefit significantly from the receipt of advice about proper professional communication.”
Joe found research opportunities by simply building relationships with professors here at Iowa State, and showing interest in the fields related to their past research. But, how do you develop relationships with faculty? Joe says, just be involved in your education! “In my experience, intense engagement with course material inevitably leads to the development of a strong relationship with instructors and faculty in related areas. This sort of interaction formed the basis of both of my research experiences.”
For any students interested in research with ISU faculty, Joe says, “strike up conversations with those professors that do research in areas they find interesting. Most are more than happy to discuss at length and in great detail the problems of their field.” Also, they need to be ready to make time for the research. Joe’s method was to set aside time for research each day regardless of what else he had to do. However, it’s not just time lost from coursework. For Joe, “the taxing task of research work contributed to a significant increase in my clarity of thought about my coursework.”