Seattle University’s Mathematics department in the College of Science and Engineering is your home for a variety of degrees and specializations designed to fit your interests and your professional goals. At SU, you will benefit from our notable faculty connecting closely with you through our average 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and from practical, hands-on learning that is built into our programs at every level from class projects to research. Our graduates find themselves in a variety of careers in a diverse set of industries including finance, insurance, software engineering, and the sciences. In addition, some of our mathematics graduates pursue careers in teaching, while others continue their education through top graduate programs in mathematics, finance, statistics and other disciplines.
Our commitment to your educational and career success begins with our direct admission approach, our success with transferring students from a variety of regional and national institutions. We offer various forms of scholarship support for incoming, transfer, and continuing students. Mathematics is an essential tool in the modern world, as well as a fascinating and beautiful subject in its own right. Wherever your passion is focused, we embrace your dedication and will support you along your path toward making a difference.
The second in a series of Math faculty profiles
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in University Place, WA. We lived close to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which replaced the bridge that was nicknamed “Galloping Gertie” due to its famous collapse in 1940. A video of the bridge collapsing is often shown in differential equations or physics classes when discussing the phenomenon known as “forced resonance,” although we now know that cause of the bridge’s collapse was actually aeroeslastic flutter. In any case, I travelled across the replacement bridge many times in my youth without incident, and enjoyed walking across the second span shortly before it opened to cars.
When and how did you first become interested in math?
I remember enjoying math from a young age, and I was convinced that I wanted to be a teacher at some level before I even graduated from high school. My parents tell me that I set up a classroom in our basement to teach them French shortly after we started learning it in 2nd grade, so I must have gotten the teaching bug pretty early. My dad was a professor in the Math & Computer Science department at University of Puget Sound, so teaching math at the college level seemed like a pretty natural thing for me to do. Dad’s retired now, and he has given me lots of extra math books to draw examples and ideas from. He also shared his Calculus notes with me. It’s great to be able to benefit from his 30+ years of experience teaching. We get to have lots of discussions about teaching and learning, which is really fun for both of us! The picture above left shows my dad and me wearing our regalia around the time of my PhD graduation ceremony.
Where did you go to college and what was your major?
After graduating high school, I moved half-way across the country to attend Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. I had already decided to major in Math before I arrived on campus, and eventually decided to pick up a second major in Physics. Macalester was a small liberal arts school (even smaller than Seattle U!) and I enjoyed the small class sizes & getting to know my professors. The professor who taught our quantum mechanics class even had all of us over to his house for dinner one night. Many of my former math professors are very active in the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), so I still get to see them at conferences, which is a lot of fun!
If you are not from Seattle, when and why did you come here?
After graduating from Macalester, I was ready to return to the Pacific Northwest. I took a year off before entering the graduate program in Applied Math at the University of Washington. My application area was Mathematical Biology, which encompasses everything from modeling how populations of species interact, down to cellular-level phenomena. My PhD research focused on modeling molecular motors, which move things around in our bodies. The mathematical side of my research involved partial differential equations, as well as some probability. One of the examples that I talked about in my PhD defense was about how the bacteria Listeria moves within cells. My mom was a microbiologist, and my dad was a statistician, so it turned out that my dissertation was related to things that they were both interested in. Another fun fact: Dr. Oliveras and I were in the same cohort in our PhD program we had a lot of fun together! I also overlapped with other SU math faculty when we were grad students at UW in different departments.
When did you start teaching at Seattle U. and how did that come about?
While I was in grad school, I took every opportunity that I had to teach. I knew that I would be looking for a job where teaching was my primary role, and I also knew that I wanted to be at a school with small class sizes, similar to what I was used to from my undergraduate days. I also wanted to stay in the Seattle area. My first full-time teaching job was at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, filling in for a faculty member who was on leave. I loved working with the students and my colleagues at PLU, but I didn’t love the 50-mile door-to-door commute from Seattle. I was really lucky that a position at Seattle U became available at the same time that my visiting position at PLU was about to wrap up and that I was fortunate enough to be selected for the job. I have been at Seattle U since Fall 2013.
What is your favorite class to teach and why?
I mainly teach classes at the precalculus & calculus level. Working with students is always the best part of teaching, which is why I really enjoy all of the classes that I teach. My favorite class is probably Differential Equations, because the kinds of problems that we can solve start to have even more exciting applications. Solving differential equations also builds on techniques & skills that I teach in lower level classes, so it is exciting for me to see students start to put it all together.
What is your favorite pastime, other than math?
I love spending time outside, rain or shine, since I was raised in the Pacific Northwest. I enjoy hiking, playing soccer, and have recently started running a couple of times a week. I especially enjoy gardening! My parents have been very active in their local rose society since before I was born, so gardening has always been a part of my life. I’m fortunate to live in a house with a yard that I have filled with about 25 rose bushes, a fig tree, and two apple trees. There are four raised beds where we grow tomatoes, strawberries, snap peas, and other assorted vegetables. When I’m inside, I like to read and spend time with my husband Doug (pictured with me above right) and our two cats, Jack & Teddy.
If you could give college students one piece of advice for success in school, what would it be?
Ask lots of questions and go to office hours!
Each year the American Mathematical Society selects a number of geographically distributed schools, which in turn make one-time awards to math students to assist them in pursuit of careers in mathematics. The schools are selected at random from a pool of AMS institutional members. For the 2020 awards, the AMS chose eight schools to receive the $3,000 awards. The mathematics departments at those schools then chose students to receive the funds.
The Waldemar J. Trjitzinsky Memorial Fund is made possible by a bequest from the estate of Waldemar J., Barbara G., and Juliette Trjitzinsky. Waldemar Trjitzinsky was born in Russia in 1901 and received his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1926. He taught at a number of institutions before taking a position at the University of Illinois, where he remained for the rest of his professional life. He showed particular concern for students of mathematics and in some cases made personal efforts to ensure that financial considerations would not hinder their studies. This award is made in the spirit of that concern.
Kelemua Tesfaye is a senior studying Applied Mathematics at Seattle University. Kelemua is deeply invested in mathematics education and research, as a transformative tool for the liberation of oppressed peoples. As a tutor, TA, and teacher, Kelemua enjoys engaging students who are rarely included as contributors to the mathematics community and investigating problems they are curious about. This past year Kelemua did knot theory research and designed the game Knotris as well as attended an NSF REU that used machine learning to improve electoral district maps. Kelemua plans to do more research in the future that can contribute to uplifting people and challenging power dynamics, while continuing to teach others by attending graduate school.
Working with data is increasingly becoming an important skill in a wide variety of fields. In the social sciences, business, leadership and management, journalism, engineering, and many other areas, the ability to understand, analyze, and summarize data can be a valuable skillset for employees.
Seattle University's new interdisciplinary minor in data science prepares our students for an increasingly data-driven world. In this minor, students will be introduced to the fundamental skills necessary to incorporate data analysis into their work. In keeping with the mission and identity of Seattle University, this program includes an emphasis on issues of justice, ethics, and equity in the ways that data are used in our society. Students learn how to engage with data in their careers in ways that are not only technically proficient, but informed by the social context of data in the modern world.
As part of this minor, two new data science courses are being offered for the first time this academic year. DATA 3310, Data Visualization, will be offered in Winter Quarter 2021, and DATA 3320, Methodology and Applications of Data Science, will be offered Spring Quarter.
For details, please see our Programs of Study page (Data Science). You can also follow news and events from the Data Science program on Instagram and Facebook. If you have any questions about the minor, please feel free to contact McLean Sloughter (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The faculty and advisors in SU’s Mathematics Department are second to none! I am beyond impressed with the passion, care, and enthusiasm that they express inside and outside the classroom. I feel that I’ve received a top-tier education that has established a solid foundation for my future endeavors.2018 SU Student