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  • Rochester, Minn.
  • Bachelor of arts degree in mathematics, history minor
  • What's next: Graduate school at Arizona State University
Weberlg
UW-Eau Claire photo by Bill Hoepner

Eric Weber gets math, and he's learning that it's fulfilling to help others get it too.

While the challenges of mathematics are intimidating to many, they are a main attraction to the field for Weber.

"Math has an incredible amount of applications and requires creative, often nonlinear thinking," he said. "[Math] challenges me on a daily basis and doesn't allow for a partial understanding. Rather, to comprehend a topic in mathematics, you must be familiar with the intricacies of the system."

Less than one month after his graduation from UW-Eau Claire, Weber will begin graduate studies at Arizona State University, where he has received a full-tuition scholarship. He credits the opportunities he's had at UW-Eau Claire with helping him make such an achievement.

High on his list of important undergraduate opportunities are faculty/student research projects that ultimately put him in touch with top mathematics researchers across the country and led to his selection of Arizona State for graduate school.

"I was able to work on various research projects throughout my college career," Weber said. "I worked with Dr. Marc Goulet in mathematics education research and Dr. Michael Penkava in deformation and cohomology theory, and as a result of those opportunities I was able to work with a nationally renowned mathematics education research program at Arizona State last summer. I was able to work with the top students and researchers in the nation as an undergraduate, and that experience ultimately convinced me to attend Arizona State for my Ph.D."

As an undergraduate, Weber made research presentations at several national conferences and helped author two soon-to-be-published journal articles. He received a Blugold Fellowship his freshman and sophomore years, which included a scholarship and stipend for assisting a faculty member on a research project. He also received several other UW-Eau Claire Foundation scholarships and, in spring 2008, he was awarded a prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the highest undergraduate award in mathematics and sciences in the United States. (Read a related UW-Eau Claire news release.)

In the midst of his many academic successes, Weber made time to volunteer as a tutor in an after-school program for area elementary, middle-school and high-school students in need of academic help. He found his work with the students — many of whom had troubled home lives — both rewarding and enlightening.

"I enjoyed getting to know the students and seeing them develop over the course of two years," Weber said. "Mentoring students and getting to know them was often the key to finding their motivation to succeed in school. It helped me realize how many factors affect the ability to do well in school because for these students, it was a battle to even go to school each day."

Weber, who plans to teach college mathematics after earning his doctorate, one day will likely apply in his own university classroom at least some of what he learned as a volunteer tutor. First, he looks forward to his doctorate program, where he will gain new insights into the best ways to teach the subject matter he loves so well.

"I have the ability to do mathematics, but I recognize it is a struggle for many," he said. "I don't consider mathematical knowledge to be exclusive, rather I think everyone has the ability to do it — it just takes time to find out how they learn it best."

More on Eric Weber

Future plans: Graduate school in a dual Ph.D. program for mathematics and mathematics education research at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. Afterward, I would like to teach and conduct research at a major university in the Midwest, working with students just as my mentors have done with me at UW-Eau Claire.

Unique aspects of his UW-Eau Claire experience: I have had the opportunity to conduct research with Dr. Michael Penkava in the math department. We have studied infinity algebras and their deformations. As a result of this great opportunity, I began to consider graduate school in mathematics. I became successful both in and out of the classroom, something UW-Eau Claire allows hundreds of students to do via student-faculty research. I was able to attend major conferences around the United States to present research, ultimately leading to the offer of a full ride from Arizona State's School of Mathematical Sciences.

The people I have met have been wonderful. There is something about this university, specifically my department, that promotes working together. The students graduating this year from the mathematics department have a tight bond, something that is uncommon in quality mathematics departments.

What he liked most about his UW-Eau Claire experience:

  • Amount of possible involvement both in residential and academic life
  • Student-faculty research
  • The depth and breadth of courses available at a university of its size
  • The beautiful campus (even in the winter)
  • Grading and tutoring in the mathematics department
  • Working at the 3-5 Club for my service learning and putting in 200 hours after my initial 30 because I felt it was such a great program.

Highlights of life at UW-Eau Claire and his proudest accomplishments while here:

  • Receiving the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.
  • Being a Blugold Fellowship recipient.
  • Receiving three research awards for student/faculty research from UW-Eau Claire's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.
  • Participating in SUREPAM, UW-Eau Claire's Summer Research in Pure and Applied Mathematics program.
  • Making eight oral presentations and six poster presentations and writing two papers (to be published) in relation to research. (These have been in La Crosse, Minneapolis, San Diego, San Francisco and here at UW-Eau Claire.)
  • Maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
  • The doors that opened, such as graduate school, because of my involvement in research and extracurriculars.
  • Being a First-Year Experience mentor for freshman students.

Advice for incoming students: I am proud I have been able to mix research and academics with everything else UW-Eau Claire has to offer. My best advice would be to get involved, but make sure you are passionate about what you are involved in. You will get a lot thrown at you, but if you are careful and dedicated, you will find most of the things you learn in college are outside of the classroom. Research doesn't have to be your thing, but maybe being a coordinator for a campus organization is what you love. UW-Eau Claire has a lot to offer, but you are the one who has to find it — no one will come searching for you. Meet people in your department, talk to your professors during office hours, go off campus to Acoustic Café, try out the Farmer's Market, tube down the river, and just get to know the city. Make sure you get the whole experience Eau Claire offers — it is unique and, from what I know, unmatched.

Learn about other featured December 2008 graduates

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