Name: Olga Shevchuk
Class Year: 2022
Hometown: Kovel, Ukraine
Internship Organization: University of Chicago Department of Mathematics
Job Title: University of Chicago REU Participant
What’s happening at your internship?
This summer, I assisted a University of Chicago graduate student in her research related to the applications of mathematics in cryptography. I had frequent meetings with the student where we would discuss the readings and unique proofs to theorems. The outcome of my research was summarized by me in the final paper, which I had to submit to the University of Chicago Department of Mathematics faculty and which they would post on their website for future reference. Besides the research part, I had frequent lectures and discussion sessions in combinatorics where I could apply my problem-solving skills. Finally, we had to attend frequent talks on mathematical topics not usually taught at the undergraduate level and prepare our questions for the speaker.
Why did you apply for this internship?
I applied for this internship because I wanted to gain high-level research experience with the top university. I also wanted to improve my proof-writing and problem-solving skills which would help me with future math classes and beyond. Since my plan was also to pursue graduate school after graduation, I thought that the opportunity to network with the world-class faculty, graduate students, and peers with the same interests would be a useful asset.
Can you talk about the skills you are learning and why they are important to you?
It is well known that it is not easy to communicate something in math to others even if you know the precise solution. I learned to organize my ideas in the concise way and present them well to others, especially to someone who had never had experience with the material I was working with before. In other words, I learned digital research and writing skills which are extremely important for me as I plan a career in academia or prepare to write a thesis. The remote setting made it difficult to collaborate with others and one had to be initiative in order to do so. Because of this, I learned to reach out to people and communicate with them despite unusual circumstances. This skill will be useful for me in any kind of work setting or life situation.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?
Since most of my time was occupied by problem solving and research, the process was mostly self-paced and given little outside control. I got to experience the life of a graduate student, when the entire time you rely mostly on yourself and your sense of self-discipline. The remote home setting with no clear distinction between work and free time and an entirely different time zone I was in only complicated the whole process. Sometimes, I had to adjust my time to mentor availability and work in the middle of the night.
Visit the Summer 2020 Internships page to read more student stories.