Sunday, October 13, 2013

ACME (Not Acne)


So this past week I realized something: I actually have a cool response when people ask me what I'm studying! In the past it's always gone as follows: What are you studying? Math. Oh, do you want to teach? No. What do you want to do? I don't know yet. Then they look at me funny and think I'm either counting on being a stay at home mom so I can study something with no relevance at all, or that I'm going to stay in academia my whole life and just prove random unconnected theorems about stuff they can't understand.


I realized that I have a super cool major, and that even though I don't know what I'm going to do yet, I'm learning some really cool stuff and that when I'm done, I'll be able to do whatever I want. If I just start listing off a few of the things I've learned in the first 6 weeks of the major, people are really impressed and pretty excited.

For example, being in BYU's Applied and Computational Math Emphasis (ACME) is like being a math major, but you go a step further and learn about the algorithms that people are using today to do everything. You know those image filters on Instagram? That's just linear algebra, and I've programmed a very simple version of my own. And I've made a program that will take a database of actors and movies and find out each actor's Bacon Number (how many steps away they are from Kevin Bacon). At this point, the only thing holding me back from doing filters on large pictures or using a database from more than just the past few years is computing power. Next week we are learning about teaching computers to read handwriting. The program I'll be doing will just be reading numbers, but still, this is a real problem that real people are working on today. In the next two years, I'll also learn about Google's search algorithms, facial recognition, voice recognition (like Siri!), autopilot, and many other algorithms that get used everyday. Math is in everything we use and creating good algorithms is how we solve all of our problems. I'm not learning something obscure or unusable, I'm learning high level math in order to solve all of your problems. I love it. I love the material, I love the teachers, I love the other students, and I've never been so excited. So now when people ask me what I'm studying, I get excited and I basically spew out this whole paragraph.

So Melissa, this is what I hope for you. Not for you do to math, but for you to find a major or career that gets you excited. Because if you don't love it, you won't be good and you won't be happy.

- Jessica

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