Utah State University undergraduate Natasha Gunderson is among eight scholars selected nationally, this year, for the American Mathematical Society’s Waldemar J. Trjitzinsky Memorial Award. The award, given to outstanding students to assist them in the pursuit of careers in mathematics, includes a $3,000 scholarship.
“I’m super grateful and humbled by this recognition,” says Gunderson, a mathematics and statistics education major from Idaho Falls, Idaho. “I’m working my way through school and, with the pandemic situation, finances are tight, so I am very relieved to receive this support.”
The scholar’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics faculty mentor Justin Heavilin says Gunderson is “an ideal future math teacher.”
“Natasha’s work ethic is unparalleled,” says Heavilin, mathematics and statistics lecturer. “She is singularly dedicated to becoming a teacher expressly for sharing the wonders and utilities of mathematics.”
A 2018 graduate of Idaho’s Skyline High School, Gunderson entered USU in Fall 2018.
“I’d heard good things about Utah State’s academic programs and loved the beautiful campus,” Gunderson says. “I also received a non-resident academic scholarship and felt USU was a good value.”
Jumping into university-level mathematics was a challenge, she says, even with her advanced placement background, but Gunderson found help and encouragement from Department of Mathematics and Statistics faculty and staff.
“My advisor Linda Skabelund was a huge help during my freshman year,” Gunderson says.
Graduate student instructor Kaitlin Murphy ’16, MS’19, Gunderson’s teacher for Calculus II, was also a valued mentor and inspiration.
“Kaitlin is so energetic in her teaching, it’s contagious,” Gunderson says. “Through her class, I realized I wanted to go into teaching and become ‘that teacher,’ who makes learning fun and applicable.”
Following graduation, Gunderson hopes to teach at the high school level and pursue graduate studies.
Her interests include sports (she was a stand-out volleyball player on her high school’s varsity team), skiing, being outdoors and playing games with friends.
“Four Square has been my game of choice, which involves some calculations to draw a perfect square with chalk and string,” Gunderson says. “I hope I’ll be able to teach my students similar fun math tricks.”
The Trjitzinsky Fund honors the memory of Russian-born mathematician, university professor and longtime AMS member Waldemar J. Trjitzinsky (1901-1973), who spent most of his career at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He was known for his personal efforts to assist students in financial need.
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