In Applied Mathematics Path, Students Learn from IndustryJanuary 21, 2015

Job forecasters are predicting those with degrees in mathematics are in demand, and will be for some time. Job growth in those sectors where high-level mathematics are required, like data science, are expected to continue growing until at least 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Rockhurst University is responding to that need, having launched a new Bachelor of Science in applied mathematics this year. Guided by an advisory board of representatives from companies such as VeriShip, Lockton and Cerner, the new degree path is designed to teach students the advanced mathematics concepts used every day by engineers, analysts and those in other career fields.

“That focus on working with real problems from industry is what makes this major different from pure math-focused programs,” said Zdeñka Guadarrama, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics and chair of the math department.

Aside from being among a handful of schools that have an applied mathematics degree, another somewhat unique aspect of the program, the problems in industry seminar, got underway last week.  During the seminar, students will help solve problems drawn from real life. Sasanka Are, Ph.D., senior director of math at Kansas City-based health information technology company Cerner, will serve as the consulting executive professor for the first seminar, working directly with students as they tackle those data-based problems.

Guadarrama said the seminar gives students a chance to learn face-to-face with those like Dr. Are who use mathematics every day and to tackle problems of the type they might see in their careers.

“We want the students to think critically and independently, to problem solve, to do mathematics, and to communicate very clearly what they have done,” Guadarrama said.

In the future, she said the department also hopes to build an internship network with local companies, allowing the students to put the knowledge they gain into practice.

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