George Shakan, '12

Cumberland, RI

BS, Mathematical Sciences

Why I Chose Math:
“I believe that finding solutions to problems in math is rewarding,” George says. For him, the part of math that most excites him is the “thrill” and “chase” of solving particularly challenging problems. George is a Peer Learning Assistant (PLA) for the math department, specifically for discrete mathematics classes.

George’s hometown is Cumberland, RI. Since he was in the first grade, he has known that he was “passionate about mathematics.” From that point onward, it was clear to him that he would pursue mathematics in college.

Project experience:
George completed his Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) in Costa Rica in 2010. He and his team worked with local sponsors to improve solid waste management. By leading a focus group and interviewing key stakeholders, his team came up with recommendations to encourage residents to better manage waste and increase sustainability in Costa Rica.

Work experience:
The summer after his sophomore year, George participated in a REU program at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. George studied a periodic phenomenon known as masting. Perennial plants have low reproduction numbers in some years, followed by a year of high reproduction rates, termed a mast year. George and his team constructed a life history model for perennial plants “to determine why some plants produce a large amount of seeds in one year, and then produce fewer seeds in the following period of years.”

Following his junior year, George spent his summer working at Iowa State University as part of another REU program studying graph theory, a subset of discrete mathematics. He worked on a project focusing on strongly regular graphs.

Other activities:
George is treasurer of the WPI chapter of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), a group that promotes applied mathematics. He is a member of the math honor society Pi Mu Epsilon, Residential Hall Council, and the WPI Community Council, the Investment Club, and a brother of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. As a Student Government Association (SGA) Senator, he served on the Appropriations Committee.

Future plans:
George hopes to study algebra, combinatorics, number theory, or geometry in graduate school and earn his PhD. He would be “happy to become a professor,” he says.

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