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Maya Jones Creates Winning Combination With Math, Engineering and Asian Studies

November 2016

Spelman Math Major Maya JonesSophomore Maya Jones, C'2019, is a mathematics, dual degree, industrial engineering major, Asian Studies-Chinese concentration minor. She is also very active on campus and serves as the Spelman College Society of Women Engineers Treasurer, A.L.L Ambassadors interim vice president, Pre-Alumnae Council treasurer, and a RISE Program Student Researcher.

1. What inspired you to major in mathematics?

Throughout my years of school, I developed an appreciation for numbers and how they come together in some of the most simple or sophisticated equations. I’ve always loved solving problems through activities such as puzzles or the strategic game of chess. 
2. What are your short-term and long-term career goals? How do you plan to use your skills to impact change in your chosen field?
My short term career goals include getting a summer internship abroad as an Industrial Engineer, graduating from Spelman and successfully transitioning to my engineering school. My long term career goals include working for a Fortune 500 company as an IE and going to graduate school at Stanford University to earn a PhD and eventually become a Mathematics professor. 

3. Please describe any internship, research or study abroad experiences you have had while at Spelman. How (if at all) did these experiences further convince you to pursue your chosen career?

Last summer, I had the pleasure of doing research at Yale University for nine weeks through their BioMedical Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship(SURF) Program. During this research program, I worked in a Physics, Applied Math, and Engineering Lab where we developed a computational model to predict energy configurations in proteins. Working in this lab allowed me to learn a significant amount of technical skills, i.e. coding, but it also allowed me the opportunity to relate my computations/models to a real world application, which is what motivates me to become an Industrial Engineer.  

4. What resonates with you most about the film "Hidden Figures?"
Although it may seem trivial and even obvious to most, the simple presence of seeing brilliant, Black females in such a highly skilled area is incredibly inspirational. In addition, their ability to work successfully while faced with injustices such as racism and sexism is extremely motivating, not to mention the relevance of the topic in today’s current society, particularly as our country shifts under the new.
5. What person has had the biggest influence upon you as it relates to your interest in mathematics?
I was inspired to major in Mathematics by my mother, who is a CPA and my high school physics teacher, Dr. Valerie Bennett. I remember walking into her class freshman year and being shocked that she was Black AND a physics teacher at a predominantly white high school. Although she was assuredly one of my hardest teachers, she inspired me to reach my full potential and strive for greatness. 
Coming from a predominantly white high school, I was the only Black person to be in activities such as the Math Team, where we would travel to  Similar to the Hidden Figures film, I was often in situations where I was the only black person and one of few females if any. At one of our competitions, my teammates were missing some members and were scrambling to strategize how we could win. It wasn’t until the competition was over and I received 2nd place for computation that some of my teammates began to even acknowledge my presence on the team. However, I believe those situations strengthened me as an individual and made me want to work even harder.  

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