My experience as an Undergraduate in the Department of Applied Mathematics

Submitted by Tony I Garcia on

By Michael Gabalis

When I got accepted into the University of Washington, I don’t think it surprised anyone when I decided to major in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. I come from a small town in Southwestern Washington, and the glamour of famous companies like Boeing and SpaceX captured my attention. I intended to finish my degree in engineering and do all the steps necessary to get out of school and into a career as soon as possible. However, in the back of my mind I longed for something more out of my academic journey, I wanted to make my college experience something to remember, not just one step in a tunnel for a career. 

The Applied Mathematics department seemed the perfect fit to further my mathematical journey and align with my goals in becoming an engineer. I brushed up on my math skills, began a job as a Math tutor for the CLUE center at the University, and started taking a couple AMATH classes the summer before my sophomore year. I had taken summer classes before, but nobody could prepare for having to take them online. Though, while my Spring classes seemed like a shadow of their in-person selves, those summer classes are still some of my favorites. Partial Differential Equations and Waves (AMATH 353) gave me that extra depth I was looking for and explained all the complicated formulas you see in engineering classes. 

Once Fall quarter started, I began to see Applied Mathematics as more than just a major, but something I wanted to do in life. The pace of the upper-division classes was intense, and the workload was demanding, but the topics were interesting, and I loved the project-based atmosphere of classes like Scientific Computing. Coming from an aerospace background, the diversity of the Applied Mathematics program amazed me. I was able to learn about computational neuroscience in Amath 342 and about population dynamics in Amath 383. In addition to this, the project-based structure allowed me to be creative, exploring visuals and techniques outside the scope of the class. While coding and mathematics can be learned anywhere, I am forever grateful for the plethora of ways I was able to use it. 

Snapshot of a movie for the solution of the streamfunction equations

I knew that my undergraduate journey would be full of learning, but I didn’t realize how much it would change my life. Interesting projects like dissecting notes out of a Pink Floyd guitar solo and making movies to the solutions of partial differential equations expanded my thoughts on what mathematics were. Connections in the department keep me opened to opportunities for future collaborations on technical projects and research. I had high expectations for the quality of learning, and the AMATH department kept their promise.

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