The beginning of the 2019 school year kicks off a year of change and innovation for Gonzaga University. In addition to the building of collaborative science and engineering facility being underway, a new applied mathematics major has launched.
The goal of the program is to bridge the gap between theory and practical implementation.
Joseph Stover, professor of mathematics, has experience and background in applied mathematics. He received his doctorate in applied mathematics at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He said the difference between the two main types of mathematics — pure and applied — is very blurred.
“Applied mathematics solves problems that should tie into a real-world problem, while pure mathematics solves mathematical problems just for the sake of solving them,” Stover said.
The director of the new program, Michelle Ghrist, started working on the applied mathematics major at GU three years ago.
She previously implemented an applied math major at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. When designing the applied mathematics major at GU, the math department looked at the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics for inspiration.
The program was designed to give students skills, knowledge and experience that employers in this space actually look for. This major and minor are intended to help advance students’ future careers.
The mathematics department started working on the development of internships with the career center for the different areas in the major and minor. Some career paths for people majoring in applied math include actuary, systems engineer, operations researcher, forecast analyst and much more.
Currently, students and outside prospects have expressed interest in the applied math program at GU. Overall, this major’s growing area of interest in combination with the new collaborative science and engineering building coming, the program projects major advancement.
“It is very exciting to see the university grow, through new programs, new building and more,” Stover said. “The whole faculty is very excited about this program’s addition.”
There are six tracks with different concentrations in the applied mathematics major. This flexible major has concentrations that include biology, biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, economics and physics. Stover also kick-started another concentration addition, the actuarial track. This potential upcoming program focuses on applying statistics to estimate things like insurance or financial risk.
Students can also minor in applied mathematics, which is designed to be helpful for engineering students.
The department also accepts concentration suggestions if students have something that interests them, the mathematics department wants to hear it. The most popular concentration in this major is computer science, at about 50% of the applied mathematics majors. Other popular concentrations include economics and no concentration, but with continual program growth, this is expected to change. The concentrations were explicitly designed so that students can easily get a minor with only the addition of a few credits.
The entire mathematics department is made up of about half pure mathematicians and half applied mathematicians. This program is hoping to integrate the two more closely.