Alumnus Nate Burch finds a home on the range
Many students are unsure what career opportunities are available to mathematics majors. If it's travel and adventure they seek, they need only talk to 2006 graduate Nate Burch, who is preparing to begin work on an interdisciplinary research project as a consultant to the National Parks Service monitoring and managing bison populations in two South Dakota national parks.
After leaving Grand Valley, Nate began graduate school in applied mathematics at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. Nate writes that attending CSU was a great decision because of both the "multi-discipline collaboration and the friendly, low-stress environment in the mathematics department." In February, he successfully defended his Master's thesis in which he used probability and partial differential equations to model the behavior of a network of communication devices and found efficient ways to understand this behavior with "stunning" accuracy.
In the fall of 2007, Nate joined the Program for Interdisciplinary Mathematics, Ecology, and Statistics (PRIMES) at CSU, funded by the National Science Foundation to "train scientists and engineers to address the global questions of the future." One of several interdisciplinary requirements of this fellowship program is to participate in a brief multi-disciplined research project over the summer of 2008. Specifically, Nate and a cohort of graduate students from mathematics, ecology, and statistics will work with CSU faculty and National Park Service wildlife biologists on a management project for bison populations in the Badlands and Wind Caves National Parks and surrounding areas.
Nate writes: "This will undoubtedly require several trips to that area (which is great!). And we will actually have an effect on the management issues associated with bison. There are several issues involved in this project, but I will mainly be working on deriving a mathematical model for the population of the bison. Much of the work will be analyzing lots of data that has been collected from mark/recapture studies. I am excited to have a fun project like this to work on."
As a prelude to their work, Nate's team will visit the Bodega Marine Lab in California to explore intertidal ecosystems and coastal habitats. While there, Nate also hopes to observe migrating whale populations as well as visit Point Reyes National Seashore and Muir Woods.
Upon completion of this project, Nate will begin research for his Ph.D. dissertation in applied mathematics and is currently eyeing projects that would have applications in the design of nuclear reactors in power plants and in atmospheric modeling.
Apart from his academic life, Nate tries to take full advantage of the Colorado wilderness by camping, hiking, running, biking, snowshoeing, and snowboarding as often as possible. In the next few years, Nate hopes to visit as many national parks as his busy schedule permits and is considering taking a summer off to help him achieve this goal.