Undergraduate Student Spotlight: Meet Lia O’Bryan

May 11, 2021

Lia O'Bryan

Graduating Class of 2021

How did you decide to become a math major?

I always enjoyed math and science classes, and I actually came into UChicago as a Math/Physics double major. I always intended to drop one of them, but I planned my schedule as if I were a "real" double major so I wouldn't get behind. I took Calc 150's and Physics 130's and was still pretty evenly split, but once I took Intro to Proofs (Math 15910) I knew that I wanted to stick with the math major.

Favorite math course(s) and why?

My favorite math courses are Intro to Proofs (Math 15910) and Intro to Formal Languages (Math/CS 280). Intro to Proofs encouraged me to question many of the assumptions (or implications of assumptions) that I had never even noticed were assumptions (or implications), like the fact that 1 is not equal to 0. It was a wonderful course that helped me transition from the more application-focused 150's sequence to the proof-based math that I'd be doing in Analysis and Algebra. I loved Intro to Formal Languages because I had a wonderful professor teaching incredibly interesting-to-me content. The course focused on computability and involved frequent opportunities to draw diagrams (one of my favorite problem-solving strategies). I also did not have the strongest computer science background, and this class helped me "speak the same language" as some of my computer science major friends while still allowing me to approach the material from a more familiar background.

Do you have any special story to tell that reflects your experience as a math major?

I can't think of one particular story but being involved with the Society of Women in Math has been a very influential part of my experience as a math major. I have found many friends and a wonderful support system there, and I am excited to see how the organization grows to support future students.

What are your aspirations?

I know this isn't good website material, but I figured honesty would be appreciated: I don't have a ton of aspirations. Well, I think I have a fair number of them, but none of them are particularly grand, I suppose. I would like to have a 40-hours-a-week job that I can leave at work. I would like to be financially secure enough that I don't have to worry about making rent and have a bit of an emergency cushion. I want a strong support system of friends and family, and I want to be a reliable member of their support systems. I want to keep playing dungeons and dragons with some of those friends, and I want to keep working on crosswords with others.

What are you excited about doing after graduation?

I am very excited to spend my second summer working as a virtual math camp counselor/TA with Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (BEAM)! I loved working with the 7th graders last year in class, and I enjoyed getting to know them in non-academic activities (like virtual board games and watch parties). I also had the opportunity to collaborate with some wonderful undergraduates, graduate students, K-12 teachers, professors, and other faculty/staff, and I am excited to see some of them (and some of our returning students) again this summer!

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