The world is much more ordered than we think; it’s amazing that it can be described so elegantly mathematically.

Updated June 9, 2017: Nathan will pursue a doctoral degree in mathematics at Washington University in St.Louis, Missouri. During Commencement, Nathan received the Oliver J. Decker Prize for the member of the graduating class outside of engineering who has attained the highest average, and the Pi Mu Epsilon Society Prize, awarded to a member of the graduating class whose work in mathematics has been outstanding. Congratulations, Nathan!

Nathan Wagner '17"My study of the pure theoretical side of math at Bucknell has really given me an appreciation of the beauty of mathematics. I had to take Classical & Modern Physics as part of my math major and found that I really enjoyed that too. Physics is the most mathematical of all the sciences — it uses math in beautiful ways to express truths about the physical world. The world is much more ordered than we think; it's amazing that it can be described so elegantly mathematically.

"Professor Gorkin approached me during the spring semester of my first year to see if I would be interested in assisting with her research studying functions called finite blaschke products. Our work culminated in a paper that was recently accepted by the Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications. It was a really valuable experience to have as an undergraduate, especially given my plans to attend grad school to earn my doctorate and ultimately become a professor somewhere I can both teach and conduct research.

"I really have a passion for teaching. Being able to explain something in a way that makes sense to others is extremely satisfying. It's great to see that 'ah ha!' moment when someone realizes that they knew how to solve a problem all along — they just weren't looking at it the right way. That's why I chose to lead calculus help sessions and tutor at the Teaching & Learning Center.

"I've also honed my teaching and communication skills through conferences where I've presented my research. At academic mathematics conferences, people will approach you who may not be very familiar with the topic you're presenting on. Mathematics is such a vast field that it's virtually impossible to be an expert in every area. To present effectively, you have to try to explain your work in a way that is accessible to anyone.

"Some people have a mental block when it comes to math — they approach a problem or even a class and think 'oh, I can't do it, I'm terrible at math.' But all math is really about is thinking logically and making connections. I think if it's presented as an intuitive, logical problem-solving activity, then that can help reach some of those students who would otherwise be turned off to math.

"I wanted to study at a liberal arts college because I have diverse interests. I wanted to major in math, but also keep up with my love of music, which I've been able to do through my band, The Wingmen, and the Bucknell Orchestra, and hopefully through a music minor as well. When I discovered a passion for physics along the way, I was able to integrate that too. I've also taken some philosophy and religious studies classes, and I'm involved in religious life on campus. I didn't want to go to a school where I would focus on getting my degree and nothing else. Here, I'm able to pursue a variety of interests and meet a variety of people all pursuing their own unique combination of interests as well."

Nathan is from Columbia, Md.

Posted 4/20/16