Jonathan Van Schenck ’16

Jonathan Van Schenck

Hometown: Kent, WA
Majors: Mathematics and Physics

Growing up in my house, I discovered math was something fun. My dad is a huge math enthusiast. He went to school to become an electrical engineer and worked at Boeing for 25 years. He loved “recreational math” as well, and that was something I enjoyed with my father. When my brother and I were young, in an effort to teach us our prime numbers, he forbade us from microwaving any food for a period of time whose seconds’ value was not a prime number.

During Autumn Quarter of my sophomore year I took my first really theoretical math class, “Real Analysis” from Dr. Wai Lau. It turns out that there is a whole component to mathematics that you don’t really learn until you start taking the upper-division classes. Dr. Lau did a great job of training us to think like mathematicians, which was something I had never experienced before. It was great to focus on learning to think like that — combined with the personal attention of a professor who was really invested in your learning and your life.

Probably my favorite time was competing in the Modeling Contest in Mathematics (MCM). It is a 96-hour competition for teams of three students each. This last year, my team and I worked on describing how a theoretical vaccine could be deployed into West Africa to eradicate Ebola.

After graduation, I intend to attend graduate school in theoretical or experimental physics, probably focusing on the subatomic. I want to participate in that great push to uncover the mysteries of the world. I’ve always found such joy in seeing the connections in this world, and math is the tool that shows us that connection.

It’s math that uncovers the deep structure of reality. I know that I have developed so much as an adult during my time here, and I want to help others develop into the best person that they can be — as my professors have done for me. Honestly, I think coming here has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

 Lanae Hollingsworth

Lanae Hollingsworth

“My mother taught me to love math as well, which prompted my third-grade self to write in a school journal that I wanted to be a math teacher in Austin someday.”