William Y. Vélez, Ph.D.

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Mathematics Major: Mathematics

Degree Granting Institution(s): University of Arizona

Job Title: Professor of Mathematics, Department of Mathematics, University of Arizona, Tucson

Job Responsibilities: It is difficult for me to describe my job responsibilities as a university professor of mathematics. I don't feel that I have a job. I live an adventure. Throughout my academic career I have pursued ideas and activities that have interested me. Creating mathematics, using that mathematics to solve problems in the world, and trying to communicate that mathematics to my students and to the community at large, have been my passion.

There have been periods in my life where I was lost in thought as I attempted to gain insight into some mathematical problem. This requires intense concentration and dedication, especially at 2 a.m. when I am sitting alone with just a blank pad of paper in front of me. I enjoy that feeling of being completely lost as I work on a problem--my mind struggling to make sense of the few bits of information that I have been able to obtain. Weeks go by as I grasp at ideas and run into dead ends, but finally a glimmer of understanding leads to a method of attack on the problem. What a thrill!

Best Advice: Several years ago I was speaking to a very successful student and I asked her what the secret to her success was. She replied, "I take advantage of all opportunities." Nowadays with so many opportunities for summer internships, getting to know faculty has an added benefit. Most internships require letters of recommendation. I believe that students should establish contact with faculty early in their undergraduate careers so that faculty can write letters of support later.

Mathematicians are involved in creating, applying, and teaching mathematics. Undergraduate students should be involved in all of these activities before they graduate. There is nothing like tutoring another student to fully understand the material. Undergraduate research opportunities are growing at many of our universities and industrial internships are also available. Having these kinds of experiences as an undergraduate helps students decide which path to take once undergraduate studies are completed. Students should contact their faculty, their department, and their university career center to find out about these opportunities.

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