NWU Student Spends Summer at Selective Math Program
Nebraska Wesleyan University junior Laura Booton has loved math ever since she was old enough to count.
“I still remember the thrill of discovering subtraction by staring at a bunch of bananas and counting how many would be left if I ate some,” said the mathematics and physics major from Lincoln, Neb.
Booton never let that “thrill of discovery” go, which is likely why she was one of just 18 students in the United States selected to attend a prestigious summer math program.
For four weeks this summer Booton attended the Summer Mathematics Program for Women Undergraduates. The program is held each year at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. Goals of the program include introducing students to new areas of mathematics, honing students’ mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills, and increasing awareness of opportunities for continued study in mathematical sciences. More than 180 undergraduates applied to this year’s program.
“I almost felt giddy,” Booton said of her acceptance to the program. “I rushed over to the offices in the math department to tell my professors and they were almost more excited than I was.”
Including Dr. Rebecca Swanson, NWU assistant professor of mathematics and an alum of the Summer Mathematics Program. She joined Booton this summer, serving as a mathematician in residence and mentoring participants.
For nearly four hours each morning, program participants attended class. Afternoons and evenings were spent doing homework, listening to math talks by female mathematicians, and attending panel discussions on graduate school. Weekends were fun-filled with shopping, dinners and games.
“Not many people realize how broad a discipline that mathematics actually is,” said Booton. “I learned so much about getting into and surviving graduate school, as well as information about other opportunities I have as an undergraduate to enrich my mathematical experience.”
One of those opportunities she hopes to pursue is studying mathematics in Budapest, Hungary.
“The frequent math talks exposed me to so many more branches of mathematics, which will help me figure out where my interests lie,” she said.
Booton admits the math lessons and homework were some of the most challenging she’s done.
“But the amazing thing was that I discovered I could do it,” said Booton. “All I could do was push myself to do my absolute best.”
Now Booton will focus on abstract algebra, begin brainstorming senior thesis topics, and serve as vice president of the Math Club. She hopes to eventually earn a Ph.D. in mathematics and teach at a college or university.