Ph.D. candidate Kathryn Bryant first discovered her passion for mathematics in a calculus course she took during her freshman year of college. Much to her own surprise, that excitement only deepened the more she confronted the challenges of mathematical inquiry in subsequent courses. When the opportunity to participate in a small research project offered her a glimpse into the world of higher mathematics, Kathryn realized this was the profession for her. Perhaps it is no surprise then that, having discovered her love of math as an undergraduate, Kathryn ultimately decided she wanted to teach at the university level. In the fall of 2016, Kathryn will achieve that goal when she begins her post as Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Colorado College.
In the highly competitive academic market, Kathryn credits the training she received at Bryn Mawr for her success. During her time at Bryn Mawr, Kathryn was able to gain first-hand experience teaching undergraduates as a teaching assistant and to learn pedagogy from professors who really care about teaching. Kathryn applied to a range of teaching positions but felt especially suited to programs at other liberal-arts schools because of the smaller class sizes and thoughtful students—an environment in which professors play an important role in the lives of their students.
At Bryn Mawr, Kathryn also received excellent mentorship from faculty who balance the demands of teaching with their own rigorous research projects. “The professors at Bryn Mawr are great models for people in an academic setting who care equally about teaching and research,” Kathryn says. “This is a rare place where both are true priorities.”
Kathryn is a low-dimensional topologist who specializes in an area known as “knot theory.” Her dissertation looks at properties of an infinite family of knots called “pretzel knots.” While her work up to this point has been purely theoretical, knot theory as a subject has applications to DNA research, sensor networks, artificial intelligence, and big data. With the future unfolding in front of her, Kathryn plans to broaden her research program to include applications such as these.
After six years of study at Bryn Mawr, Kathryn is ready to start her academic career but she is grateful for the ways Bryn Mawr has shaped her both professionally and personally. “I feel like a completely different person than when I entered the program. Bryn Mawr is such a unique place; the students here are socially and politically active, and I think that’s really cool. It has changed me a lot as a person.”
In a fun twist, Kathryn will defend her dissertation on pretzel knot on April 26th: National Pretzel Day. Assuming all goes well, next year she’ll get to experience first-hand how the local Coloradans celebrate the holiday.