Mobiles and Martingales: Meet Jiyeon Suh
Growing up in South Korea, Jiyeon Suh imagined she would follow in her father's footsteps and become a medical doctor, choosing a profession of service to other people. However, in high school, Jiyeon discovered a passion for both mathematics and teaching. As the content became more challenging, it became apparent that she was excelling; many of her classmates would line up to ask her questions and get extra help and tutoring in mathematics. Jiyeon found that she loved helping others make sense of the material, so much so that she wanted to keep tutoring. She also discovered much joy in solving mathematics problems and searched to find additional reading material. Her quest for mathematical knowledge pushed her to pursue mathematics in her undergraduate studies in South Korea.
Even though her undergraduate degree focused on computer science and statistics, Jiyeon still took many mathematics courses. And after several years of studying statistics in graduate school at Yale University, she found that her persistent love of mathematics led her to take additional mathematics courses at the graduate level. Ultimately, she decided that she needed to follow her heart and study mathematics and thus she transferred to the University of Illinois where she could devote herself completely to the study of mathematics, finishing her Ph.D. in 2003. After the completion of the degree, she taught at Purdue for 2 years (as a postdoc) and at Iowa State for 3 years (as an assistant professor). Jiyeon then joined our department this past fall as an assistant professor, where she continues to find much joy and satisfaction in both her teaching and research. Her research area is probability theory; she studies special functions related to inequalities involving martingales, a type of stochastic process that can be understood as an art mobile like those of Calder.
Jiyeon greatly enjoys teaching and finds helping students understand the material particularly satisfying. She especially enjoyed teaching Calculus I last fall and the opportunity it offered to share her passion for mathematics. She also likes the challenge of motivating students and exposing them to the beauty of mathematics.
Outside of work, Jiyeon is a first degree black belt in Taekwondo. While a knee injury involving both surgery and months of physical therapy has kept her from Taekwondo as well as running these past two years, she continues to walk and weight lift and hopes to one day return to Taekwondo. Jiyeon is also an avid reader, and loves many different types of books. She describes reading mysteries as a way that helped her improve her English; she had to read carefully or she'd miss the important clues and the need to know how the mystery was resolved motivated her to keep reading until the end of the book. One of her favorite books is Silas Marner by George Eliot because it makes her feel good about humanity; even though the book begins with betrayal and hurt, the main character begins to open up and experiences healing through the raising of a child. Jiyeon likes this message of hope: even in the midst of weakness and hurt, good can emerge.