November 2012 Articles

GSAS: Math Ph.D. Opens Doors

Graduate alumnae/i draw on their mathematics doctorates in a range of career paths.

By Maria Jacketti

Jeana Mastrangeli, Ph.D. ’97

From the practical stepping stones of arithmetic to the floral splendor of the Fibonacci sequence, mathematics summons into action both sides of the brain—the logical and the sublime. Similarly those who climb to the summit of math education—a doctorate—can draw upon their training to follow a wide range of careers in and out of academia.

Jeana Mastrangeli, Ph.D. ’97, began pursuing doctoral studies in Bryn Mawr’s Graduate Program in Mathematics in 1997 at age 37. She had three children still at home and needed a flexible schedule. The degree first led her into her apparent dream job, teaching math. The college where she taught, however, was experiencing financial difficulties, plunging her into incessant 14-hour days and taking a toll on her health. After adjuncting and volunteering as a math tutor, she accepted a position as a systems engineer at an aerospace company.

Officially retired today, Mastrangeli serves on the Board of Art Goes to School (AGTS). She has produced a short film based on her research, and she also conducts interactive workshops, connecting math and science with art for local junior high schools. Mastrangeli wants us to remember that “math is fun.”

Walter Huddell, Ph.D. ’02

Walter Huddell, Ph.D. ’02, decided to stay in teaching and is a tenured professor of mathematics at Eastern University. “Teaching, that is being the catalyst by which students learn, is always precious to me,” he says. His current research involves a philosophical examination of the ontology of number. It may surprise some to find ontology, the metaphysical study of the nature of being, and pure math occupying the same intellectual space, but, as Huddell explains it, “There is no pretense in mathematics; nowhere to hide. It strips away all of the incidentals and focuses on the thing in itself.”

Huddell clarifies that most graduate students in mathematics are tempted to abandon their studies at some point. True to this spirit of never giving in or giving up, he is also an accomplished marathon runner.

Math Ph.Ds. also take their degrees and go into fields that are not obviously math-related. Amber Salzman, Ph.D. ’02, has used her math training to help her tackle difficult challenges in the pharmaceutical industry, where she has spent most of her career.

After serving as an executive in a large pharmaceutical company for many years, she recently was the CEO of a small pharmaceutical company that she sold to another company. She is very active in developing treatments for rare diseases and played a key role in developing a new approach to treat a neurodegenerative disease called Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD).

Amber Salzman, Ph.D. ’02

“The world is wide open for math majors today, and our graduates are uniquely qualified to deal with the complexities of the information age,” says Paul Melvin, chair and professor of math, in a press release announcing that the department had received this year’s award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department from the American Mathematical Society (AMS). “By cultivating a special atmosphere—fun-loving yet serious, supportive yet challenging—the department has been enormously successful in attracting a diverse group of students,” reads the award announcement on the AMS website.

Just ask Salzman. Before her defense, Salzman was asked by adviser Helen Grundman to name her favorite dessert. Grundman then prepared it for her, a rare moment that provided relief from an arduous defense. Salzman brims with the memory: “It was the best chocolate and caramel dessert I’ve ever experienced!”

2012 Graduate Career Symposium

Graduate students received advice and connected with alumnae/i of the GSAS at the Graduate Career Symposium on November 10, a collaborative effort by the Graduate Student Association, Dean of Graduate Studies Mary Osirim, the Career Development Office, and the Alumnae Association.

The event began with a lunch and introductory remarks by Osirim on the state of the current labor market for recent M.A. and Ph.D. graduates, and welcoming remarks from Alumnae Association Executive Director Wendy Greenfield, and alumnae and graduate career counselor Cindy Howes.

Next were two panel discussions: “Starting Your Career,” which brought together several recent graduate alumnae/i to answer questions focused on the job search process, and “Hiring and Developing Talent,” in which alumnae/i panelists discussed the importance of networking and “informational interviews,” what they look for on C.V.s, as well as how a degree from GSAS has helped them.

Executive Director of Bi-College Career Development Liza Jane Bernard closed the event by urging students to be strategic in finding a career and stressing the importance of networking early in the process.

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