Ella Pavlechko ’17

At the end of the semester, I was so proud of my paper, and I felt it was the first time I could express my thoughts about math coherently, and it was a topic I truly enjoyed researching.

What is one of your favorite conference projects?

My favorite conference project would have to be “Applications of Group Theory to Chemistry,” which I did for my “Calculus II” class sophomore year. It entailed learning an entirely new field of mathematics and then applying that to chemical structures. Chemicals fit into specific structures. Graph theory studies how the symmetries on that object work and change the object or grant it certain properties. I wanted to know: If an object has a certain property, what does that mean for its chemical bonding? Is it more likely to bond with a certain chemical? Does it bend or stretch more easily?

How did faculty support you?

My professor Dan King (mathematics) knew I was interested in the intersection of chemistry and group theory, so we started by reading as much as possible on the topic. Dan was wonderful at keeping my spirits up, helping me to verbalize my thoughts and work through the concepts I was learning. At the end of the semester, I was so proud of my paper, and I felt it was the first time I could express my thoughts about math coherently, and it was a topic I truly enjoyed researching. So receiving my evaluation from Dan continued to motivate me in other conference projects and later in my research funded by the National Science Foundation.

What's next?

I’ll be starting a PhD in mathematics in the fall.