Ziva Myer, Ph.D. candidate in mathematics, has been named the William W. Elliot Assistant Research Professor at Duke University. The three-year post-doctoral fellowship will begin in the fall of 2017.
Ziva came to Bryn Mawr in the fall of 2011, not yet sure what area of mathematical research she would focus on, but certain that she had come to the right place. As an undergraduate at a small liberal arts college in Florida, Ziva debated heading off to a larger, research-one university for graduate study, but a visit to Bryn Mawr convinced her she had found her new home. “The intimate size of the math program at Bryn Mawr allows for everyone to be treated as individuals, without getting lost in a crowd,” she says. “Students form close working relationships with the faculty and get to take an active role in undergraduate education.”
Though she had chosen Bryn Mawr for its intimate program, Ziva has come to appreciate the many “big-school” amenities the College has to offer due to its proximity to Philadelphia and a broader community of mathematicians. In her first year, Ziva became interested in a branch of theoretical mathematics known as topology. She took a class on the topic with Professor Lisa Traynor, who would become her advisor, and began regularly to attend advanced seminars on the topic offered by a consortium of math departments in the region, including Bryn Mawr, known as PACT—Philadelphia Area Contact/Topology. "These seminars were inspiring because they helped me realize my interest in this area of research. In my first year, there were times I wouldn't understand what was being said—I didn’t have the relevant vocabulary." But Ziva was excited by the field and kept attending the meetings.
Over the next several years, Ziva deepened her understanding of the field by attending workshops and summer schools, including research trips to France and Mexico. "I would try to just be a sponge—learn the vocabulary, get a sense of the types of questions scholars are asking.”
Ziva's interest in math extends beyond research. Since 2011, she has been involved with EDGE—Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education—an organization whose mission is to help diversify the math profession by providing support to traditionally underrepresented communities, namely women and students of color. Ziva herself participated in the EDGE "bootcamp," a four-week summer program that prepares students for their first year of graduate school. But the experience was so much more than a crash-course in graduate-level mathematics, she says, "you quickly learn that EDGE is also a powerful network of women mathematicians."
In 2015, Ziva returned to EDGE to serve as a mentor to a new generation of boot campers. And she has continued to be involved with the organization by participating in EDGE sessions at larger math conferences.
At Bryn Mawr, Ziva learned that one didn't have to choose between a career in research and a career as a teacher and mentor. “There’s a false dichotomy in Math," she insists, "that you can only focus on teaching or research. One thing I love about Bryn Mawr is that all of the professors excel at both. They really care about their teaching and they are amazing researchers. It’s rare to have a department that promotes high-level research and nurtures its students to the degree that Bryn Mawr does.” Ziva wants to follow a similar path and credits her professors with providing excellent models for balancing career and service.
When it came time to look for a post-doc, Ziva hoped she would find a place that allowed her to continue to develop in both arenas. At Duke, she will teach three courses a year and be able to focus on research the rest of the time.
While finding a post-doc is never easy, Ziva credits the generous support she received from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with helping her land her "dream" job out of school. Because of the funding GSAS provided, she was able to attend an American Mathematical Society conference this past November in Atlanta, where she gave a talk in a session organized by her future post-doctoral advisor, Lenny Ng. As she explains, "oftentimes the only way to get a post-doc is to have a direct connection to the sponsor." The chance to present her dissertation research for Professor Ng at the conference provided a networking opportunity that proved crucial to her future career.