Andrew Stocker, Bachelor's in Mathematics '15

Pure Math

Understanding the "Why" of It All

Students often hear that math is something they “just need to know.” But as Andrew Stocker ’15 says, math has a long, interesting history spanning thousands of years. The desire to study this history drove Andrew to pursue a PhD in Pure Mathematics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. At CU, he gets to share his love of math with the undergraduates he teaches and delve deep into the questions that have always fascinated him — from “why does math seem to pop up everywhere?” to “how has math evolved over the millennia?”

How did the Math program prepare you for grad school?
I did several undergraduate research projects which helped me in so many ways. Working with other students on tough problems, reading technical research papers, and talking about my research were all important skills that I developed. The faculty are all interested in what students are doing and made an effort to ask me about the undergraduate research and what I was planning for the future. I also found a lot of other students who were either interested in grad school or interested in other things I enjoyed, like programming. I likely would not have made it through the graduate school application process without help from other students and faculty in the Math department.

Why did you want to major in Math at USF?
I originally attended Rochester Institute of Technology for mechanical engineering, but found that I was more interested in the math that I was learning. I decided I would rather have a career in academics than engineering. Eventually I decided to transfer schools and apply for math programs instead.

My mom went to USF and suggested it as a possible school to transfer to. We visited San Francisco to check it out and I really loved the campus and the city and so it seemed like a great fit.

What are some of your best memories from the Math program?
One of the best courses I took was a Loading... with Professor Paul Zeitz that included helping out with an after-school tutoring program called San Francisco Math Circle (SFMC). It’s a great program and working with the kids and other students was always a lot of fun. I ended up working for SFMC for a year after I graduated and I think it helped me a lot since teaching middle schoolers is harder than teaching college freshmen.

I also enjoyed math tea during lunch every Wednesday since it was a chance to relax and talk to other students and faculty about anything and everything. I also did the Putnam exam a few times with the Math department, which is a national math competition where you work on a handful of really difficult problems for a few hours. The Putnam was a bonding experience and I even did pretty well on a few problems. Lastly, I really miss the end of the semester pizza parties where we took over an unsuspecting pizza restaurant for an entire evening — good times!