Alumna still driven by the beauty of mathematicsMarianne Mckenzie | 2011 Alumna, B.S. Mathematics, 2012 Graduate University of Oxford | Department of Mathematical Sciences Marianne McKenzie never dreamed her love of mathematics would take her very far, certainly not overseas, but the School of Science alumna learned early in her time at IUPUI the difference the right encouragement and support can make.
“At each stop of my education there have been people who not only encouraged me to succeed but also pushed me to set high goals for my future,” said McKenzie, a 2011 mathematics graduate with a minor in computer science. She recently graduated from the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford in England.
“I had never thought of a doctorate program or studying abroad, but being at IUPUI just broadened my view of the world, made me want to achieve more and gave me the skills necessary to do it,” she added.
It still surprises her when she considers the journey her education has taken. She was home-schooled as a child and enrolled in Ivy Tech Community College “with the idea that I’d transfer to a larger university when I had a better understanding of what I wanted from a degree.” She once thought her career path would most likely lead her toward something traditional like nursing or pharmacology. Then she started taking math classes “just for fun.”
“I discovered that I wanted to study something that would always hold something new for me to learn,” she said. “The world around us is filled with delicate, intricate mathematics just waiting to be observed.”
“Dr. Patrick Morton and Dr. Luoding Zhu in math and Dr. Judith Gersting in computer science are professors who were especially good at inspiring me to go out and just explore, read and think for myself,” she said. “Dr. Ray Chin really helped me develop a rigorous approach to exploring mathematics and taught me what being a researcher is all about.”Those early math courses piqued her interest, but it was the influence and support of faculty, both in mathematics and computer science, that McKenzie credits for fueling her passion for the field and its possibilities.
McKenzie’s first exposure to research at IUPUI involved observing a project that explored numerical methods, which encouraged her interest in computer science. In her senior year, she worked with a bioinformatics team using connectivity maps to discover cancer drugs.
“I enjoyed the challenge of translating complicated problems from other disciplines into familiar mathematical terms,” said McKenzie. “Research challenged my understanding of mathematics, provided opportunities to work with people from a variety of backgrounds, and helped me to develop the ability to communicate mathematical concepts to people outside of the field.”
She credits those experiences with helping her to decide to explore network science, graph theory and combinatorics (the study of finite or discrete structures, useful in developing algorithms) while at Oxford.
McKenzie also immersed herself in campus organizations and student groups while at IUPUI, which she said allowed her to “network with highly motivated students who gave advice on what courses to take, what professors inspired them and how to discover the resources you need to succeed.” She was president of the IUPUI Physics Club, a Bridge program math mentor and a tutor for the TRiO program at Ivy Tech, a mentoring program for disadvantaged students.
McKenzie plans to take some time off before pursuing her doctorate and possibly teach someday. Whatever career path she chooses, she hopes to be able to help others realize the study of math and science is not some sort of “genetic club.”
“I find it frustrating that so many people feel excluded from something that is so integral to the world in which we live,” she said. “You don’t have to be ‘born good’ at math to appreciate its beauty and develop your skills.”