How did you determine what to study in university- Undergraduate ? I mean you major course of study? What drove you in that direction? What did you study?
It is of significant interest to me because I always try to see or understand choices as a collective. Were you forced into a department based on almighty JAMB results? Did your family lobby a particular department for you? I know this tends to happen more in Nigeria.
For me I started out as a Premed – Biology major. My two strengths leaving secondary school were Biology with Mathematics coming in a close second. I wanted to be a Doctor – a surgeon to be exact- in retrospect this makes no sense because the length of my attention span is like that of a five year old. If you notice i tend to deviate from the Original topic after a while…so i hit the ground being a biology major.
In my Sophomore year (year 2), I had to take Genetics and Chemistry classes. I barely passed genetics – absolutely no interest. Chemistry I failed to the point my GPA went from a 3.2 out of 4.0 to 1.3 for the semester. I came out with a cumulative of 2.1 or something real low – I lost my scholarship and got a memo to appear in the Dean’s office. I went with my 17 year old self and looked morose after the poor old white mam kept asking me how the school could help and I just kept crying…one of my gifts when I am confused is I can cry for China…the old man just kept saying “we will figure it out”.
So on my next visit to the Dean – they had gathered all my transcripts and started going through them. Apparently the day i took the math and English placement to enter the College…I had done very well in English (don’t ask me but I think Americans are very forgiving of mediocre English) somehow only managed to pass the mathematics portion without failing to be placed in the 2nd lowest math class-Intermediate Algebra. For Biology majors i Had to take up to Calculus 2 or so, and between that and intermediate algebra there were maybe 6 classes. I was being recommended to skip a math class every year and despite skipping I had A in all 4 classes i took.
The Dean called in the Head of the Math department a Franciscan Brother (I went to a catholic college for the first two years – St. Francis College). And the department head saw me and was like hey kiddo “are you in trouble?”. I said “sort of”. So they began discussing and the Brother said he knew me because I was one of the few females in the school that always got a math waiver letter which he had to approve to skip a class….
So the discussions started. I never considered mathematics as anything that could give me a career up until that moment. I was asked to consider a change in major to Mathematics. I started doing my research and even went back to the said Brother for help. He then recommended a school I could attend to me which would have put me on the applied math path. So in anticipation of year 3 I applied to SUNY Stonybrook and I was denied admission because of my poor GPA. I then decided to apply for a transfer to Dowling college close by for their Mathematics and something program and i got in. My 3rd year was the turn around year for me…i did well and decided to re-apply to Stonybrook and they accepted me into the Applied Math and Statistics program.
Long and short of the story it took me five years instead of four years to finish University. ..I barely went to summer school – a lot of core Math classes aren’t really offered in summer school and I spent most of the time working to supplement my tuition. In Stonybrook I applied for and got a Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) scholarship and was back on track.
I met many great people who kept pushing. The Undergraduate chair Professor Alan Tucker was a funny doofy guy who would always yell about Konisberg in combinatorics class…and pretty much challenge us. I remember my undergraduate wriing paper – i started out writing about coding and he told me – “write something else”. I sat down and wrote a 30 page paper on Pascal’s triangle, probability and quadratic equations (there is an actual relationship between all three)…he told me I was “Intrinsically Brilliant”…and began recommending companies for me to apply to for jobs.
I don’t in anyway regret the 5 years I spent instead of four…neither do I regret the failures along the way…some of it is funny still though. And I am an active contributor to the WISE scholarship of which I benefitted from tremendously. I am pleased to say I got an email recently that SUNY Stonybrook (Stonybrook University)- one of the largest public Universities in America is now number 4 in applied mathematics among all public and private Universities in the US. My alma Matter is ranked higher than Harvard for what I studied? Wow who would have “thunk” it.
The link to the information is here
A brief description of the department is below
The Department has 20 full-time faculty and 15 adjunct faculty with primary appointments in other Stony Brook departments or in federal and industrial research laboratories. Applied Mathematics and Statistics faculty work on a wide-range of important problems, from designing better drugs to fight AIDS to assessing the effectiveness of foster care programs to helping the Federal Aviation Administration route airplanes around weather systems to designing fusion reactors.
So its your turn, what did you study? What are you studying…and why? How did you end up there? If not university what trade did you learn and why?
Winners Wednesday is still HERE