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Meet Dean’s Scholar Wyatt Reeves

Meet Dean’s Scholar Wyatt Reeves

Dean's Scholars, Health Science Scholars and Polymathic Scholars represent some of the most well-rounded and plain interesting students at the University of Texas. We asked three of them – seniors Mia Ramirez of Polymathic, Wyatt Reeves of Dean's, and Milan Stokes of HSS – to look back on their undergraduate years and tell us how they have changed during their time here.

Wyatt Reeves

Where are you from?

I was born in Fort Worth Texas, and lived there until I came to UT. I went to high school at Paschal High School. In high school, I was interested in physics and computer science: I wanted to be a physicist professionally and I took all of the math, physics, and computer science classes that were available to me.

Why did you apply to UT-Austin? What other schools did you consider?

I applied to UT Austin because I figured that UT was one of the best colleges for physics and computer science in the state of Texas. I was also admitted to Rice, but after visiting both I decided on UT because Rice didn't seem any better of a program than UT, but over four years it would have cost me $50,000 more.

How did you hear about Dean's Scholars, and why did you apply?

I heard about Turing Scholars [the computer science honors program] from an older friend who went to my high school. After learning more about CNS honors, Dean's Scholars seemed like the best fit for me. I was interested in pursuing a research career, so Dean's Scholars' focus on research was what drew me in as a high school senior.

What did you decide to major in? How have your original academic plans developed?

I started UT as a physics and computer science major. Over the course of my freshman year, though, I realized that my favorite part of my physics and computer science classes was the math. I also took some really interesting mathematics classes and got to meet wonderful professors from the UT math department. By the second semester of my sophomore year, I decided to make the switch to being a mathematics major.

What are you researching for your Honors thesis?

My thesis will be about the interplay of two areas of mathematics: representation theory and algebraic geometry. Representation theory is the study of the symmetries of vector spaces, which are collections of objects that you can add together and scale. An example of vector space you encountered in high school is the collection of displacements in the plane. Representation theory has all sorts of applications: For example, in physics, representation theory tells you that physical particles all have to have spins that are integer multiples of the spin of the electron. In number theory, representation theory tells you that there are approximately as many prime numbers that have a remainder of 1 when you divide them by 4 as there are that have a remainder of 3 (you can check this one at home!).

Algebraic geometry, on the other hand, is the field of mathematics that studies the geometry of shapes cut out by polynomial equations. Plenty of shapes we're all familiar with arise this way: the unit circle, for example, is cut out by the polynomial equation x2+y2=1. It often happens that the symmetries acting on a vector space themselves have an interesting geometric structure that can be described by polynomial equations. One example is the rotational symmetries of the plane, which have the geometric structure of a circle. Since around 1980 mathematicians have found that one can use results from algebraic geometry to gain a better understanding of representation theory -- my thesis will be on one of these applications called the Kazhdan-Lusztig theory.

What do you plan to do after UT? Describe your professional goals. Have you begun interviewing, and if so, where?

I am currently applying to PhD programs in pure mathematics. My long-term professional goal is to become a professor of mathematics at a research university like UT. I haven't begun interviewing; at the time of writing, my grad school applications aren't due for another couple of days! I'm applying to UC Berkeley, Caltech, UChicago, UMich Ann Arbor, Columbia, Harvard, and MIT.

What have you most appreciated about Dean's Scholars?

The thing about Dean's Scholars that I've most appreciated is the wonderful students in the program, and especially the interactions that people have between different years. There are a lot of aspects of college in general and the academic admissions process in particular that are opaque and intimidating when you first encounter them, so it really helped me to be able to talk to the older students in Dean's Scholars about their experiences and hear the advice they had for me. I've also made many great friends in the program, whom I very much enjoy spending time with.

How have you changed since your first year at UT?

Besides my changing academic interests, I've grown a lot as a person since coming to college. I've learned how to live on my own, how to balance my studies and my personal life, and how to take the initiative when I think there's something that I can change for the better.

What were you most surprised by in your time here?

Back in high school, I was pretty skeptical of honors programs. I thought that they were only good as résumé filler or as a part of a convoluted signaling game. Throughout my four years at UT, I have been surprised again and again by the level of community that the Dean's Scholars honors program has managed to foster.

Meet Polymathic Scholar Mia Ramirez
Meet Health Science Scholar Milan Stokes

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Thursday, 29 October 2020

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