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Numbers Game

Feb. 20, 2003

When Elisabeth Edwards first came to Lafayette two years ago, she thought she would pursue a medical career as either an orthopedic surgeon or a pediatrician. Then during her sophomore year, she took some math classes and has changed direction.

A diver for the Lafayette swimming team and now a declared Mathematics major, Edwards is spending the spring semester working on an independent study project that deals with cayleygraphs, which are a way of representing abstract groups visually. The study serves as a springboard for senior thesis projects.

"I think that Lafayette, especially the math department, is a very good environment for learning as well as for research projects," said Edwards. "The number of pure math majors is small, but the department caters to the needs of their students. The professors want the students to learn and succeed."

Professor Chawne Kimber is Edwards' advisor and has taught her in three different classes.

"Elisabeth definitely has a lot of fun with it," Kimber said. "She's very inquisitive and she likes to solve puzzles, especially the Rubik's cube."

Edwards said her favorite class was Abstract Algebra and her independent study further builds on those concepts.

"I want to do a thesis next year and this is designed to help me find a topic," Edwards said. "I have never done any other kind of research for the school, but I am hoping to participate in a math program at Miami University in Ohio this summer. That would give me experience to help me tackle my thesis next year."

Along with her independent study, Edwards is a teaching assistant for a Calculus II workshop where she works with Kimber teaching a recitation section where students can seek individual help. Edwards also serves as a proctor for the math department and tutors other students through the College's Academic Resource Center.

Edwards said she feels strongly about her new-found major and that the small-school environment of Lafayette is conducive to learning.

"From the day I chose Math, I have never once thought it was a mistake," Edwards said. "I found out that I really do love math. The faculty here is very nurturing, and through their guidance, my career plans changed. I now plan on attending grad school for math, to eventually become a college level professor."