Adding Up the Research Anukriti Shrestha ’19 has found an intersection of mathematics, computer science and research — all in the heart of Lexington.
“Summer research is important because it gives students an opportunity to pursue an area of interest and achieve greater understanding through in-depth analysis without any other distractions.”
Hometown: Kathmandu, Nepal
Major: Integrated Engineering – Chemistry and Mathematics
Q. What are you doing this summer?
I’m working with Professor Dresden in the Mathematics Department, along with two other students, Prakriti Panthi and Eric Zhang. We’re looking at different degrees of polynomials that have roots in the form of continued fractions with common tails.
Q. What does an average day for you look like?
We usually meet Professor Dresden in the morning to discuss our findings and talk about what we should focus on next. After this meeting, I usually work in the library or at home. Our tasks vary from day to day. We work with different kinds of mathematical codes and try to find examples that support the theorem we’re trying to prove.
Q. What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?
Mathematical coding. We use the software Mathematica for a lot of our calculations, and it’s been quite a learning process to figure out and understand complex codes. However, once you get the hang of it, it’s really fun to put data into the code and watch it generate equations and numbers.
Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Mathematica can get frustrating at times because something as small as a semicolon can cause the code to stop working. There are also days when you simply don’t get the answer you’re looking for even after spending hours working on it.
Q. Have you had any mentors during this time?
Professor Dresden has been an amazing mentor this summer. He encourages us to think out of the box and guides us as we explore areas of math that are new to us. He’s also extremely supportive and has taught us that it’s okay to be wrong, and that it takes multiple attempts to get things right. He encourages us to be persistent and to not give up.
Q. Has this experience impacted your studies or future plans in any way?
Definitely. I’m planning to go to grad school and this experience has made me realize that I would like to continue doing research in the years to come. It has also reaffirmed my decision to be a math major.
Q. How did W&L prepare you for this experience?
The small class sizes have taught me to never be afraid to ask questions when in doubt, which has helped me greatly. The wide variety of classes that I have taken over two years has taught me to be open-minded and to analyze problems from various perspectives. It has also taught me to work independently, but not to be afraid to ask for help when needed. The mathematics and computer science classes that I took have definitely helped me with coding, as well as typing up mathematical proofs.
Q. Why is this kind of experience important to W&L students?
Summer research is important because it gives students an opportunity to pursue an area of interest and achieve greater understanding through in-depth analysis without any other distractions. You don’t have to worry about other classes or extracurricular activities and can focus on a single subject. Working with a professor also helps a student understand the work that goes behind writing a paper and to be a part of that work. Understanding how research works is also important for students who plan to go to graduate school.