Addie Harrison is an Applied Mathematics major from Winston-Salem, N.C. Though Wake Forest is right around the corner from her, applying to the university was something she never “thought that much about.” But the guided tour sealed the deal for Harrison and led to her future as an exceptional student in the Applied Mathematics field.
She came to Wake Forest as a pre-med student, but soon found the Applied Mathematics major to be her calling.
“I really fell into Applied Mathematics. I liked math class and I originally thought this would be a good major to pair with and stand out as a med school student. I ended up doing a research project, and it switched my track. I decided I was more interested in the math behind sciences, not the science itself,” Harrison said.
In fact, Harrison was the first at Wake Forest who entered the new Applied Mathematics major. The new major was already in development, but with her interest in math and science, Harrison was a natural fit.
Over her time at Wake Forest, Harrison has taken multiple courses that have helped cultivate her interest in the major. One of her courses included Mathematical Modeling, where the class paired calculus ideas with modeling to look at population dynamics and natural systems like predator/prey relationships.
“By pairing equations and calculating hard numbers, we can determine if a system will survive or not survive,” Harrison said.
However, she credits the mentorship and guidance of the Math Department in helping her flourish academically. Harrison explained that “the Math Department as a whole has been a highlight for me at Wake [Forest]. Their mentorship is what gave me the confidence to believe I could pursue math as a career.”
In her career as an applied mathematics major, she has been on the Dean’s List every semester, she was welcomed as a member of the honorary national mathematics society Pi Mu Epsilon, and a recipient of the Barry & Anne Griffin Driggs scholarship which assists juniors and seniors majoring in mathematics.
Harrison’s advisor and mentor John Gemmer, a professor in the Math Department, has also been a guiding force in her career at Wake Forest.
Gemmer describes Harrison as “incredibly hardworking, incredibly intelligent, very meticulous, with high expectations for herself.” According to Gemmer, her greatest strength is her courage. “She was the first Applied Mathematics major and it is pretty demanding. She wanted math with more applications in science and had courage to step outside of her comfort zone and transition into mathematics.”
Harrison has taken many courses taught by Gemmer and completed two research projects with him. She claims that the project called the “Eureka project,” convinced her to change tracks altogether to applied mathematics.
“He has been the reason I switched into the major and is a big part of my undergrad experience. He has been a big supporter of me going to grad school and now I have gotten into a Ph.D. program,” she said.
In the fall, Harrison will continue her studies in applied mathematics in a Ph.D. program offered at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She will be in a teaching “assistantship” where she will study as a student, hold office hours for other students and eventually teach to undergraduate students in the classroom.
Though Harrison is excited for the bright future that lays ahead, she describes her departure from Wake Forest as “bittersweet.”
“I’ll miss Wake [Forest] so much and it’s hard because all of the goodbyes got cut-off, and I think that it really hasn’t hit me yet. The sweet part is just the fact that I am going to be able to continue my education and pursue a Ph.D. and I am just very thankful and grateful for the opportunities that I had because of Wake [Forest],” Harrison said. “I don’t even know if I would be a math major if I hadn’t had professors and experiences that I had.”