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The math department welcomes Professor Lora Bailey
We are delighted to welcome Dr. Lora Bailey to the GVSU Mathematics faculty. After completing her undergraduate degree at St. Olaf College, Lora earned her PhD in mathematics from the University of California-Irvine in 2020, and started at Grand Valley in Fall 2020. We recently sat down to talk with Lora about her interests and experiences.
What drew you to study math in college?
I've always loved mathematics. In college I was drawn to both math and physics because they allowed me to solve puzzles and learn about how the world actually worked. The further I journeyed on my way to being a mathematician, the more my eyes were opened to all of the exciting possibilities math has to offer, and the more I wanted to pursue mathematics. I love that math can be used to explain complicated real-world phenomena, and how math is everywhere whether we notice it right away or not.
What were some highlights of your time in graduate school?
In grad school I really enjoyed becoming involved in the community. I was one of the founders of the Association of Women in Mathematics chapter at UCI, and we went on to throw many events that were both (I like to think) helpful and really fun. One of my favorite events that we got to organize and host was the WiMSoCal conference in 2020 (Women in Math in Southern California). We turned it into a weekend event, and were able to include a screening of “Secrets of the Surface” with the director of the film that is about the first woman to receive the Fields medal, Maryam Mirzakhani, as well as a walk on the beach. I was also able to work with local middle school kids in the Math CEO program, and I loved getting to know them and see them discover that math can be fun. Another highlight with multiple parts would be going to conferences, meeting people with similar interests, and seeing some of the amazing discoveries happening all over the world. I also met my husband during grad school, which I think definitely qualifies as a personal highlight.
How would you describe your research to a non-expert?
I study cancer and stem cells. Most of my work so far has been exploring possible cancerous networks, how a harmful mutation can occur, and the behavior of a dangerous mutation. A network of cells within an organ is heavily regulated to limit the effect of a mutation, but exactly how a network is regulated is unknown, so I explore the possibilities. Interestingly, not all networks behave the same way, and some are more vulnerable to mutations than others. Once a dangerous mutation occurs and the cancer cells spread, I study the effect of different treatments on the tumor and the resilience of the tumor to those treatments.
What drew you to GVSU?
The first thing that drew me to GVSU was the new applied mathematics major. While I love math in general, my favorite thing about math is the ability to apply it to the world. We can look at the world as a huge puzzle, and use math to problem solve and perhaps solve just a piece of that puzzle, and I wanted to share that with students. When I visited GVSU, I was really impressed with the students. I admired their ability to think creatively, and am awed by the challenges they take on and conquer. The open and friendly environment created by both the students and the faculty and staff was big draw as well. GVSU also emphasizes real-world applications, which I think is so important in today's world. I also appreciate the liberal arts education within a school that also offers professional opportunities, and I like being back in the Midwest and being closer to my family.
What's something you really enjoy about teaching?
I love “aha” moments. Seeing something click for a student for the first time is perhaps one of the coolest things about teaching. I also enjoy the creative solutions that students can come up with! One of my favorite things to do is to help people, and I think teaching is one of the best ways to do that.
What has it been like having your first year be the Year of COVID and remote work?
It's been tough working for an entire school year without meeting almost any of my students and coworkers in person. It's hard to feel like you're making any impact when you cannot see those you are teaching. I'm grateful to be part of the community at GVSU however, where ideas and help are shared freely, and I look forward to casual conversations in hallways as a normal occurrence again!
What are some non-academic things you enjoy doing?
I enjoy making things. My current obsession is woodworking (I'm still an amateur at best but it's fun), but I also like crocheting and knitting. I like spoiling my nephews & godchildren, skiing, traveling to new places, camping, playing/hiking with my dog, gardening, watching baseball (but mostly the Cubs), and spending time with my husband.
We are so glad to have Lora as part of Grand Valley Mathematics and look forward to all of the contributions she will make.