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Penn Admissions Blog

Discovering the World of Math
Anova | January 23, 2018

With many mathematicians in my family, my childhood rebellion took the form of a rejection of any interest in the field in favor of biology and chemistry – admittedly not much of a rebellion! Throughout my life, my parents always tried to reason with me that since my grandparents were all mathematicians, and uncles and aunts offshoots of that focusing in statistics and computer science that I ought to uphold my genetic legacy through computational exploration. However, I insisted that I wanted to learn about medicine and molecular interactions and especially the complexities of the brain.  I thus ended up in an internship at a neuroscience lab at Stanford, using algorithms to measure the white and grey matter of the brain in MRI scans. Ironically, I was using math to solve for reasons underlying decreased math cognition in children with a developmental disorder called dyscalculia.

 The experience gave me a dramatically different perspective on mathematics and stimulated my mind in new ways. I was able to see children who lacked a skill dubbed numerosity that prevented them from conceptually understanding quantities and relating them to numbers themselves. In comprehending the limitations to being unable to grasp numbers conceptually, I began to appreciate even the menial computations we perform in our day to day lives such as calculating a tip after having a meal. Understanding how we learn has been transformative in developing insight into my own learning.

The impact reverberated through my other interests. Hesitantly, I joined a Linear Algebra class, and became intrigued by the predictive value of applying quantitative principles to predict the future of markets and to track the progression of diseases. I began using calculus to go deeper into my chemistry and economics classes and improved my fundamental understanding of key concepts. In biology, my junior year differential equations class gave me the knowledge to grasp how sound waves resonate in our ear canals and allow us to hear.

Coming to Penn, I knew I wanted to pursue Biology and examined the concentrations available through the major. And though I was still fascinated by molecular interactions needed for cells to divide or metabolize glucose, I found being able to underlie this foundation with a mechanism of explaining why and how such interactions can occur as being most fascinating. Moreover, opportunities to incorporate models and statistics as medical tools is becoming more pervasive especially at the convergence of the multitude of schools of thought supported by Penn’s famed interdisciplinarity. All of this led me to decide on pursuing Mathematical Biology and Statistics as my fields of study in college.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell said that mathematics possess not only truth but also beauty. In using its concepts to better understand science, I realized that the beauty of math is not only in the elegance of a math proof, but in the lens it gives us through which to explore the wonder of science.

About the author

I’m a California native from the Silicon Valley in the Life Sciences and Management dual-degree program between the College and Wharton. On campus, I’m involved in 180 Degrees Consulting, the Student Federal Credit Union, and the Penn Undergraduate Biotech Society. Additionally, I’m working with a professor in London on Health Economics Research. In my free time, I love exploring restaurants (ask me for my color-coded restaurant week spreadsheet), painting, traveling, and most of all taking a nap outside on College Green.

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