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Formula for Successful Careers

UNLV hosts Math Day event to encourage local high school students to continue their studies in math.
Business & Community  |  Feb 20, 2015  |  By Shane Bevell
(R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

Math can seem esoteric and abstract, especially for high school students starting to consider their future careers. UNLV helped illustrate the real-world applications for more than 100 high-achieving students from Clark and Rancho high schools during the Math Day event Feb. 19 on campus.

"We wanted to talk to these math students about the universe of opportunities, in a huge spectrum of fields, that awaits them as they continue their studies in mathematics," said Tim Porter, dean of the College of Sciences. "It is sometimes difficult for high school students to look well beyond their existing math courses to see what awaits them in fields that increasingly rely on mathematical skills."

He noted that math is critical to careers in medicine and the biomedical fields, materials science, all of engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, astronomy, geoscience, business, finance, technology, teaching, and many others.

Hosted by the UNLV College of Sciences and the department of mathematical sciences, the event brought in faculty, alumni, and local scientists who have made a career out of mathematics.

Jessica Jaynes, assistant professor of statistics, gave the example of when you go to buy a book on Amazon.com and you are given recommendations for other similar books. She explained that mathematical algorithms are used to analyze your past purchases and correlate your choices with those made by other users who show similar preferences.

Jaynes stressed that employers value the skills that the study of math instills in students. Even if students don't choose math as a career, it teaches them a certain way of thinking.

Alumnus Avnish Bhatnagar, '89 BS Mathematical Sciences, a senior technical solutions engineer at Google, spoke about how the tech giant uses mathematical algorithms and modeling for its search engine and many tools such as Google Earth and Google Maps.

Other speakers included alum Nathan Rowe, '08 BS and '10 MS Mathematical Sciences, and mathematician Eric Machorro with National Security Technologies. Rowe talked how he uses math to write computational geometry software and analysis software in his job with a 3D printing company. He also discussed how he used math in previous jobs in border and airport security.

Machorro gave examples about how his company uses mathematicians to differentiate between seismic signals generated from earthquakes and those generated by nuclear events in addition to how math is used for nuclear threat detection and emergency response.