M3 Math Majors Matter ----------------------------------

SPOTLIGHT ON ...

           Nathan Kurtz




Nathan Kurtz is a graduate student and instructor in the Mathematical Sciences Department.
Where were you born?
Denver, Colorado
Where did you get your undergraduate degree?
Here at University of Colorado at Denver
Why did you decide to attend UCDHSC for your undergraduate degree?
Location and price.
Did you start college majoring in mathematics? If not, what was your major?
No, I was a Computer Science Engineer Major and a math minor.
What math class was the most challenging for you?
As a graduate student, Modern Algebra or Number Theory. As an undergrad, differential equations, modern algebra, and numerical analysis.
When did you realize that math was of interest to you?
After having Dave Brown as a teacher. It only takes one good teacher to sway your life's decisions and I was blessed to have this twice in my life. After seeing the "brighter side" of math and how it could be fun, I decided to change. It also helped that I despised computer science :-) The single course that swayed me was Graph Theory.
How did you know which area of mathematics to pursue?
After taking Graph Theory and having so much fun, it was not even a choice.
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment as an undergraduate?
Getting through in less than 3 years while working 36 hours a week and receiving Magna Cum Laude honors.
What would you have done differently as an undergraduate?
SLOWED DOWN! I got through everything with decent grades, but I did not retain very much material. This made my first few years of graduate school very difficult.
What advice would you give to undergraduate math majors?
Find friends to work with. I was in a tight knit group of 4-6 students in every class, and we got together and studied weekly. I would not have made it if it were not for my friends. Get to know your teachers and attend office hours regularly.
Are you the first PhD in your family?
Yes. I was the first to receive a master's degree.
What area of research are you currently exploring?
I am researching in Graph Theory. Essentially, I play connect the dots all day. The dots are called vertices and a line connecting two dots is called an edge. I research what can happen between the vertices and edges if you have specific conditions. For example, if there are 6 vertices and 4 edges (no two edges between the same pair of vertices), can I guarantee that no matter which vertices I put the edges between, there is a path (following along the edges) between any two points?
What aspects of teaching do you most enjoy?
Relationships with the students. I am a very personable teacher who truly cares about the success of my students. I make the students do a lot of work, but am more than willing to help them succeed. Getting to know the different personalities and learning types is always an excitement for me. I always hope to change peoples' point of view on mathematics. They don't need to love it, but they should at least appreciate it and not hate it.
What are some common traits of successful students in your classes?
Hard work and devotion to succeed. The best students attend office hours regularly, come to class on time every day, and try to enjoy the class. Math is usually not a strong subject for most students, so they get stressed and uncomfortable. The good students relax, joke around, and make the best of the class.
What advice would you give to a student who is struggling in his/her math course?
Go to office hours, get a tutor if necessary, go to the MERC, form a study group, do more exercises, pay attention in class, and DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS.
Why did you decide to join the faculty at UCDHSC?
I was already a graduate TA and they offered me a full time position. I accepted without a second thought. I love teaching and this gives me more experience and opportunities.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about mathematicians?
They are boring and only do math. When I leave work I try to have nothing to do with math. I love skiing, watching movies, relaxing, talking about life, etc. The last thing I want to do on a day off is pick up a math book and go at it.
How can an undergraduate get involved with the math department?
Ask their teacher! Most teachers would love to get students involved. They can come to seminars, do extra projects, join the math club, offer to tutor or work in the math lab, get involved in math team competitions with other students, take the Putnam exam, join the undergraduate committee (if available), come grade my homework :-), etc.
Where is your favorite place you have ever traveled?
Mexico, anywhere and everywhere in Mexico. I go to Puerta Villarta, Cancun, Cozumel, Huatulco ... I try to make at least one trip a year!
What CD is in your car right now?
I have over 300 cd's in my car. I like Country, Rock, various Rap and Hip Hop, Techno, Trance, Latin, Classical ... almost everything, as long as they are talented artists. I listen to music all of the time, especially when studying and doing homework.
What is your favorite movie?
I don't know how to answer this question. I love movies and try to watch about one a day to get away from everything. Two of my favorites are Green Mile and Good Will Hunting.
What TV show are you addicted to?
American Idol, Boston Legal, Grey's Anatomy, Rescue Me, 24, So You Think You Can Dance, and more (I have TIVO).
What is the best concert you have ever been to?
One at Red Rocks. I don't remember much so don't ask
What would you be doing if you weren't a math faculty member?
Research for my PhD. Math is a part of my life I cannot deny. I guess I would still be a bartender if I never got involved with math.
What is your favorite sport to play and/or to watch
Football to watch, motorcycling or skiing to do.
What is your favorite food?
Chinese.
What is the worst injury you've had and how did it happen?
Knocked out my permanent front tooth in second grade messing around on the playground. I have never broken a bone, even with all the stupid things I have done.
If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
I don't know who, but it would be on the beach in paradise with a large margarita in hand. As long as I was there I guess it doesn't matter who was in my company.
What is your favorite thing to do in Colorado?
Ski.
Tell us something about yourself that would surprise everyone.
I am missing one of my permanent front teeth from the second grade accident

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