Student Spotlight

The Spring 2021 student spotlight participants can be found below. Want to be featured on our Mathematics Undergraduate Spotlight? Please fill out this google form questionnaire! 

Joseph Aulicino, Class of 2022

How did you decide to become a math major?

I always enjoyed math when I was a kid. I loved that you rarely needed to memorize anything: usually all the necessary information was in the problem statement. When I got to college, I tried my hand at a few upper level math classes, and found that upper level math was even more creative and interesting than I had imagined. Using mathematical machinery is a surprisingly powerful joy.

Favorite math course(s) and why?

Intro to Proofs. I took this course on a whim, and it was my first experience with the creative side of upper level mathematics. I really enjoyed learning how to prove things, and what Math really is. I think my current courses are more interesting and challenging, but intro to Proofs is what got me started.

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

I took my copy of one my textbooks home and gave it to my dad. It had some easy, beginner-ish proofs in the beginning that I thought he might like to think about. He promptly handed it back to me. It was I pretty lame gift, I must admit, but I thought he would enjoy it if he got over that aversion. I flipped it over and showed him a picture of the textbook's author, one-eyed infamous, Paul Sally, Math Pirate extraordinaire. I told him a bit about Prof. Sally, and his crazy life. He was intrigued and took the book back and started reading. The moral of the story is Math isn't sexy... until it is.

What are your aspirations?

Let's just say, for all the atoms in my body, we could fit a ball at their center and still have the ball be inside my body. Ha. Ha.

What are you excited about doing after graduation?

I am excited to visit and explore new places

Steve Kelly, Class of 2022

How did you decide to become a math major?

I was originally a physics major, but I decided to take the math 160's anyways. I sat down for first lecture of Math 161, and by the first half of the lecture I was like, "I'm a math major now," and that was all there was to it!.

Favorite math course(s) and why?

I really loved Measure Theory and Point-Set Topology. I thought the theorems were fascinating, and I was always surprised at how powerful even the most basic of ideas in these classes were.

What are your aspirations?

I hope to become a professor in math.

Jennifer Sun, Class of 2021

How did you decide to become a math major?

Doing math is like fighting a battle and challenging my limits. I love that. If you've ever watched a YouTube video showing how big the universe is, you would perceive the insignificance of human lives. Our physical forms set many limits that can be hardly surpassed, but one great thing about being humans is that through efforts of generations, we could possibly reach greater and greater intellectual heights. That's something meaningful to me - reading about the history of mathematics reminds me of a collective leap that humans are taking to escape our physical constraints.

Favorite math course(s) and why?

207 was a very unique experience. It was hard and time-consuming - you can google "UChicago 207" to find out. It was nevertheless an eye-opening experience in my journey as a math student. Learning about infinite dimensional space for the first time, it brought me to a world that I knew not of.

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

I came to know this group of friends from my honors analysis class. At first, we were simply pset buddies who spent maybe 5 out of 7 nights a week on A-level of the Reg. We weren't exactly the social type to start with, but we were always in similar math classes, so math brought us together. It is mind-blowing how much similarities we share - not only as math students, but also just as people. My math friends and I shared common interests from Renaissance art, ancient Chinese history, Chopin, to TV shows in the 2000s and Murakami's novel South of the Border, West of the Sun. In the pandemic, my friends and I are located in different places around the world, but we would send pictures of trees, bunnies, lakes, the sky, or the moon to each other during our daily walks around our neighborhoods. We share the similar excitement for these small but absolutely beautiful wonders of nature. It's fascinating to have people who truly understand me. I think math is an interesting subject - it really brings like-minded folks together, or perhaps, it shapes one's thoughts and values

What are your aspirations?

David Hume wrote "I must confess that a man is guilty of unpardonable arrogance who concludes, because an argument has escaped his own investigation, that therefore it does not really exist. I must also confess that, though all the learned, for several ages, should have employed themselves in fruitless search upon any subject, it may still, perhaps, be rash to conclude positively that the subject must, therefore, pass all human comprehension."

What are you excited about doing after graduation?

I will be going to graduate school. I also plan on visiting Florence once the pandemic situation permits

Daniel Espejo, Class of 2024

How did you decide to become a math major?

Over the summer, I started working through Spivak's Calculus originally just to prepare myself to take Honors Calculus this school year. However, I quickly fell in love with the precision and logical coherence of rigorous proof-based math. I spent most of my days over the summer working through the book and the hours would fly by as I struggled with a challenging proof and then felt the joy of eventually getting it right. I also started looking into pure math online by browsing the research pages of the professors here, and I realized that math is not simply a hierarchy of increasingly long equations to solve (as high school had led me to believe), but a vast sea of wildly varying fields with so many theories to learn and connect. This really appealed to me, and it became my goal to discover as much of this sea as I can.

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

Not any particular one. Just my experience in IBL as a whole.

What are your aspirations?

Perhaps to become a research mathematician (professor), perhaps to work in an area of applied math like algorithms, cryptography, or operations research

What are you excited about doing after graduation?

Traveling

Giovanni Longo, Class of 2023

How did you decide to become a math major?

Family encouragement

Favorite math course(s) and why?

IBL Math courses because they actively involve you in what you’re learning. I find lecture style courses can feel more like a list of rules rather than a deep involvement in the material.

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

My first IBL quarter was an incredible experience. I took MATH 16110 and was unsure whether I should drop into the lower section. I decided to stay on the Honors track despite the difficulty of the material and now have a rich understanding of proof based mathematics I had never imagined. I came into college with no proof knowledge, but through expert instruction and dedication to the work I was able to accelerate to the level of the other students in my class.

What are your aspirations?

Data scientist in the financial world

What are you excited about doing after graduation?

I look forward to applying my technical skills to the financial world. Also, I would like to one day pursue a PhD in mathematics.

Rafael Saavedra, Class of 2021

How did you decide to become a math major?

In high school, I became passionate about math and interested in pursuing a research career. I applied to UChicago on the strength of its math major.

Favorite math course(s) and why?

My favorite course was MATH 27400 with Prof. Schlag. Each lecture was a masterpiece of exposition. The class was fast-paced and challenging but also an absolute pleasure.

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

I decided to come to Chicago because of Prof. Benson Farb. When I was deciding where to study, I called Prof. Farb and he told me about the undergraduate program. Two years later, I finally got the chance to take one of his classes! Prof. Farb ended up being a very close mentor of mine throughout my studies and in my process of applying to graduate school.

What are your aspirations?

My highest aspiration in life is to solve Hilbert's sixteenth problem on limit cycles in polynomial vector fields.

What are you excited about doing after graduation?

I am going to graduate school in math at Harvard.