Maia WIchman is our 2020 Outstanding Graduate
The Mathematics Department Outstanding Graduate in 2020 was Maia Wichman of Grand Haven, MI. We include her article in this year’s Gazette due to the newsletter not being published in 2020.
Maia started at Grand Valley in 2016 as a math major. She writes “I really loved taking math courses in high school and so, as soon as I realized majoring in math was even an option, it was an easy decision” and we are extremely glad she did so. In response to what she loves about math, she notes “One thing I love is how deceiving it can be. A question can be asked that seems intuitive or easy or direct, but yet takes mathematicians hundreds of years to answer. I also, as I think we all do, love the thrill of finally proving something after what feels like ages of getting nowhere.”
During her time at GV, Maia took as many math courses as she could fit into her schedule, including many proof-based courses, all of which she enjoyed immensely. She was also actively involved in many co-curricular activities, such as undergraduate research, tutoring in the Math Center, the department’s drop-in tutoring room, and being involved in the women math majors mentoring program for two years, initially as a participant and later as a mentor.
Similarly, Maia was involved in multiple research projects during her time at GV. She participated in two independent studies that ran as mini research experiences, in the GVSU Math REU program as a rising junior, a senior project in her junior year fall semester, and in GVSU’s Student Summer Scholars program as a rising senior. Regarding her research experiences, Maia says “I enjoyed the independence of research. I liked that there was no already solved answer to the problem and I had the freedom to try different things and see what produced results. Sometimes when working on a homework problem I get stuck in my own head and worry I am not solving it the way ‘it should be solved,’ but with research, it is okay to get a little in my head at times!” For their REU project supervised by Professor Emily Marshall of Arcadia University, Maia and her project partner won an MAA Outstanding Presentation Award at the 2018 MathFest. For her S3 project, Maia worked under Professor Michael Santana’s supervision and her presentation for this project received the Council for Undergraduate Research Award for Outstanding Student Research among all Pi Mu Epsilon talks at 2019 MathFest.
Maia is currently pursuing a mathematics Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Of her decision to go to graduate school, Maia writes “Graduate school was always a plan since I entered college. I realized throughout college that there are many opportunities for math majors outside of teaching and that going to graduate school opens a door to do research. I decided to go to graduate school since I knew I needed to learn more mathematics.” She adds “I think my favorite thing about graduate school is having a cohort that all care as much as I do about their education and mathematics. It feels as if these are my people.”
Asked about her experience in the GVSU Math Department, Maia writes “The thing I like most about GV's math department is the faculty and the environment they provided. I always felt right at home in Mackinac Hall. The faculty in the math department genuinely care about their students' success. I think active learning played a large role in this as well since the classroom environment had so much collaboration between students and between students and the teacher that it felt as if we were all working together for the same goal.” She also encourages fellow math majors to get to know their professors by actively engaging with them in class and during office hours, as well as to go deeper in their learning by taking extra time to actively reflect on their learning and asking questions like “How does this fit into what we have been learning? What is interesting about this result? Do I fully understand this? Do I need to ask a follow-up question on this?” She suggests “Don't rush through something just because it is easy or just because you want to get it done fast. Enjoy the ride. Find a quiet space, have a cup of tea or coffee, and just sit with the assignment and get to know it.”
Outside of mathematics, Maia enjoys hiking, playing various video games, knitting, sewing, and reading, as well as hanging out with her family and partner. We congratulate Maia on her outstanding accomplishments and wish her the best in her graduate studies and beyond.