Math graduate earns elite academic achievements
Published May 2016
Loren Anderson was the high school kid who read math textbooks for fun. He scoured online forums for interesting problems to solve, and then solved them. If you ask, he’ll say he has always liked math. But that would be a lowest common denominator. A description of his talent and passion for math needs exponents.
He really likes math. And he’s very good.
Anderson has studied math at NDSU for four years and graduates on May 14. During his time at the university, he has earned elite academic achievements, including a Barry Goldwater Scholarship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
He is another example of NDSU students and graduates who compete successfully nationally. His accomplishments put him among the top students in the country, yet doing the work and stretching his mind has mattered as much as the recognition. As an undergraduate, he spent his summers doing math research at universities around the country, then returned to NDSU in the fall and continued to work on the summer research problems.
Anderson refuses to plateau. Like an athlete preparing to be a champion, he trains, refines his skills and works on the small details to get the large challenges right. “He is always going above and beyond,” said Benton Duncan, chair of the math department at NDSU and one of Anderson’s mentors. “He doesn’t look for the easy answer.”
Anderson has a mathematician’s precision. Everything he does is meticulously researched, analyzed and executed. He pursued a National Science Foundation-funded undergraduate research experience during his freshman year. He didn’t apply for just one or two positions, however. He applied for 17. He was about to perform at the Ordway in St. Paul, Minnesota, with the NDSU Wind Symphony when he learned he made the cut. He would spend his summer doing math research at Auburn University, and he was thrilled.
Anderson spent eight weeks solving previously unsolved math problems with other top math students from around the country. “We used hundreds of sheets of paper and tried to find promising ideas.” And they found plenty of good ideas. Anderson has three academic publications, with a fourth submitted, as a result of that summer and the work he continued to do afterward.
The intellectual rigor and the collaboration involved in math research spoke to him. And it gave him the experience he needed to build his competitiveness for other national awards and opportunities.
He completed two more summer research experiences at Sam Houston State University and the University of Connecticut as well as the Mathematics Advanced Study Semester program at Penn State. He presented research at several national conferences, including the Ohio State Young Mathematicians Conference, a premier annual conference for undergraduate research in math. Only about 65 students are invited each year. He gained national recognition for an outstanding student poster presentation at the Seattle Joint Mathematics Meetings. And he still found time for an internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory through the U.S. Department of Energy.
When he thinks about his future, Anderson thinks about using math to solve real-world problems. He added a computer science minor his junior year because math has many direct applications to computer science. He wants to use his knowledge to make a difference.
But first he’ll take a break to celebrate his graduation day, which he’ll share with his sister Sarah Anderson, who is earning her Pharm.D. at NDSU. And he’ll find time to play tennis and piano this summer. He excels at those hobbies, too.
Anderson wasn’t sure he wanted to go to graduate school until this March when he secured the National Science Foundation fellowship and an institutional fellowship from the University of Minnesota. “I knew I needed to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said. “I will strive to honor these fellowships.”