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Mathematics Department

Department Pride: Mathematics

February 22, 2017

The Moravian Mathematics & Computer Science Department is home to some of the most intelligent people on campus - at least, in my opinion. While simultaneously solving the world’s problems through origami and drinking tea, the mathematics department is full of hidden talents just waiting to be found. Take a deeper look at the “Mathematics” portion of Moravian College’s Mathematics & Computer Science Department: meet two professors, Dr. Talbott and Dr. Shank, and four mathematics majors, Brittany Strausser, Bryan Harvey, Emily Reiter, and Rachel Myers!

Dr. Shannon Talbott

1) "What is your favorite thing about the math department?"

“I would say the people. At least for me, my colleagues are fantastic. Very supportive, very welcoming. As a faculty perspective, that would be my opinion.”

2) "Why did you choose to be a math professor?"

“So when I left high school, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t going to teach and I wasn’t going to do math. I started as an engineering student, but didn’t like that much. But I really liked math. So I started math classes, and when I went to graduate school I got an opportunity to teach students. I began to feel moments of pride when things would fall into place and they would finally understand something. And I fell in love with it.”

3) "Do you have any hidden tricks or talents?"

“I feel like I would have to ask other people that. I played rugby for awhile. I knit, but I am not amazing at it, don’t know if that is a talent. I am really snarky, I feel like that should be a talent.”

4) "If you had to teach another subject here at Moravian, what would that be?"

“If I teach chemistry do I get to burn things? That would be awesome.”

5) "Do you have any suggestions for students considering a math major?"

“Do it. First of all. Then just come talk to someone in the department; we are all pretty friendly. If you’re concerned about what to do with math degree, or about how your interests fit with a math degree, just come talk to us.”

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Dr. Nathan Shank

1) "What is your favorite thing about the math department?"

“If I had to put in one word, I would say the relationships. There is a strong relationship between the faculty. We get along, whether it be about work, home, or other things - including college in general. We can have different opinions but still get along. When it comes to students, especially the upperclassmen, it becomes a colleague relationship. I enjoy them being able to sit and stare at a chalkboard, throwing ideas at each other and figuring out “oh that's a good one or not a good one.” Students that graduate still come back or I still talk to them. It’s no longer a teacher-student relationship anymore.”

2) "Why did you choose to be a math professor?"

“Because I enjoy working on whatever I want. You can go into industry and make more money doing other things, but there is someone always telling you what to do. I have student centered days which makes it more interesting than having someone give you problems to work on when you can pick and choose and are motivated by other things. A college professor once told me that the best part about being a math professor is you can work any 70 hours a week you want, which is almost true. College life is not 9:00-5:00. A lot that happens on a campus between 5:00 and midnight. I like the idea that to me it’s not a job, it’s almost more of a lifestyle.”

3) "Do you have any hidden tricks or talents?"

“One hobby I have which most people probably don’t know about [is that] I enjoy woodworking. I like to take old barnwood and make it into something new, but I like to add a math twist to it.”

4) "If you had to teach another subject here at Moravian, what would that be?"

“It depends, do I have to know it now or learn it first? -- The easiest to jump into that I’d feel most comfortable with would be some sort of economics class. But, if I could learn it first, I think I would have the most fun with a music theory class, because I think I could see the math in it. I am not good at music, but …”

5) "Do you have any suggestions for students considering a math major?"

“Talk with someone in the department for sure, because there is this misconception that with math all you can do is teach. Which is not true at all. In math, we don’t teach skills; we teach how to solve problems - which is needed in any discipline, in any job. The ability to take apart a problem, find out what you need to do, find a solution, and show [how] it’s an optimal solution is very important. That stigma of “all I can do is teach with a math degree” is something that [hinders] people thinking of getting a math degree.”

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Top: Dr. Shank’s finished version of the Sierpinski Carpet -- 729 pieces of wood put together. (took about: “on and off 3-4 months”).

Bottom: Dr. Shank’s Sierpinski Carpet in progress.

Brittany Strausser '18; Math Tutor on the Tutor Advisory Board

1) "Why did you choose math as your major?"

“Because in high school I found it really interesting and I liked that you got one specific answer and then you knew you were correct. It made more sense to me that way. I liked the certainty of it.”

2) "What is your ideal study spot here at Moravian?"

“Probably the math reading room in PPHAC. We have a few computers in there and a bunch of math books. It’s a good spot to hangout, study, and be alone.”

3) "What are you planning on doing with your math major?"

“I am planning on becoming an actuary. So I have a lot of tests to finish before that, but hopefully it all works out.”

4) "What is your favorite math joke?"

“Q: Why did the chicken cross the Möbius Strip?

A: to get to the same side.”

5) "Would you rather be banned from all computer use for a year or not be allowed to eat any desserts or sweets for a year?"

“Oh no… probably not be able to eat any desserts or sweets for a year because I am not crazy about super sweet stuff anyway.”

Rachel Myers '18; Math Society and Pi Mu Epsilon (Honors Math Society), Math Tutor

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1) "Why did you choose math as your major?"

“I enjoy doing math. It makes sense to me. I enjoy problem solving, and solving problems. I like seeing the real world application and how systems work.”

2) "What is your ideal study spot here at Moravian?"

“The physics periodical room. Sometimes I like to go to the library in the lounge area where the whiteboards are, that is also really convenient.”

3) "What are you planning on doing with your math major?"

“Mathematical Physics. I am hoping to either go into industry or research. I am not sure which one yet, I don’t know specifically which yet - application portion.”

4) "What is your favorite math joke?"

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5) "Would you rather be banned from all computer use for a year or not be allowed to eat any desserts or sweets for a year?"

“Not be allowed to eat any desserts or sweets for a year.”

Emily Reiter '19; Math Tutor

1) "Why did you choose math as your major?"

“I chose math as my major because when I was a freshman I took Calc I and I really enjoyed the class and my professor at the time, Dr. Hartshorn, had encouraged me to think about math as a major and it just felt like a fit.”

2) "What is your ideal study spot here at Moravian?"

“My room in Jo Smith because it is very quiet.”

3) "What are you planning on doing with your math major?"

“I am planning on becoming an actuary.”

4) "What is your favorite math joke?"

“A: "What is the integral of 1/cabin?"

B: "log cabin."

A: "Nope, houseboat--you forgot the C."”

5) "Would you rather be banned from all computer use for a year or not be allowed to eat any desserts or sweets for a year?"

“Not be allowed to eat any desserts or sweets because I need to use the computers for life.”

“Does that include candy? If so, I’d rather be banned from computers.”

Bryan Harvey '19; Pi Mu Epsilon, Math Tutor

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1) "Why did you choose math as your major?"

“It supplements Physics nicely. It started as I was good at it and helped my physics, and then I became better at it and it became my major.”

2) "What is your ideal study spot here at Moravian?"

“Either my dorm, or the back corner table at Sandella's.”

3) "What are you planning on doing with your math major?"

“Using it to supplement my Physics degree when I pursue Physics. I’m shooting for a PHD in PHysics, I want to do chemical physics or particle physics.”

4) "What is your favorite math joke?"

“I do not have one. Actually…”

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5) "Would you rather be banned from all computer use for a year or not be allowed to eat any desserts or sweets for a year?"

“I would rather not be allowed to eat any desserts or sweets for a year because them I’m in shape and can use my smartphone.”

Looking for more? Check out these clubs related to the Math Department:

Computer Science Club - MC computer club MC^3 (MC3)

Math Society -- Epsilon Talks

WISE (Women in Science and Engineering)

Pi Mu Epsilon