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How UWEC invested in me: A Blugold Fellowship success story

Just over four years ago, as a senior in high school, I sat at home writing countless essays for colleges and scholarships. One of those happened to be for the Blugold Fellowship scholarship. At that time I had no idea what future would grow from applying for that scholarship; I just thought that there certainly wouldn't be anything wrong with getting it. It turns out, I was right.

Shortly after applying for the Blugold Fellowship, I was faced with the task looming over many high school seniors: choosing a college to attend for four years, a college that would shape the course of my future career. I was really avoiding making a decision, until I received a call that I had been awarded the Blugold Fellowship. Getting the fellowship was the "grain of rice that tipped the scale" and solidified my decision to attend UWEC. Beyond that, it also set me on a path pursuing research, which has shaped my career plan for after I graduate.

My research began the very first week I arrived on campus. Because it was being funded by the Blugold Fellowship, I had the opportunity to choose any project I found interesting. As a first-year student, this was intimidating. I had no clue how I was supposed to find a research project. However, I quickly realized that I certainly wasn't the first research student at UWEC. Just a quick search on the UWEC website brought up hundreds of research abstracts from other Blugolds who had presented their research before. It was here that I learned about the research of Dr. Walker in the mathematics department. Some of his research involved studying the intersection between math and music. Just a couple weeks later I began my first research project with Dr. Walker, studying dissonance in musical selections composed by Claude Debussy.

During my second year, I continued to work with Dr. Walker, but this time on a new project. Our focus shifted from music to art; using MATLAB, we created symmetrical designs by plotting a pixel of an image to a point on a complex curve. I was responsible for creating a graphical user interface that would allow anyone to create symmetrical designs, even if they didn't completely know how the mathematics behind the design work. After a year of work, my research partner (another Blugold Fellow, Emily) and I presented this research at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta, Georgia. We presented to a room of mathematicians, including the author of a book used in our research. Back at UWEC, this research fostered more opportunities. Emily and I helped to organize UWEC's Sonia Kovalevsky Math Day, during which over 100 middle school and high school girls came to our university to learn about math. In one of our planned workshops, high school girls used the user interface I had created to create their own symmetrical designs.

My research experience has opened the door to multiple projects, a passion for the field of condensed matter physics, and many other opportunities, including a summer research experience at a research institution (University of Michigan). If you’re looking for a campus that invests in you and will provide you with countless opportunities (like research, study abroad or an immersion experience), then UW-Eau Claire is where you want to be. The best part is that any Blugold who works with passion and purpose can have these life-changing opportunities.

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