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Applied math is undergrad's ticket to law enforcement

Arizona State University undergrad Nathan Brockman
December 08, 2014

Arizona State University’s applied mathematics for the life and social sciences program is designed to equip students to use math modeling and computation in the resolution of real-world problems. Many of its students focus on areas like sustainability and epidemiology.

Undergraduate Nathan Brockman is using it to build a solid foundation for a career in law enforcement, a field where problem-solving and critical thinking skills may mean the difference between life and death.

As a child, Brockman admired police officers and firefighters, and hoped to grow up to be one. “I wanted to be just like them, going around every day protecting and helping out others who need it,” he says.

As he grew older, he leaned more toward the police side because of his interest in justice and his athleticism – he was MVP of his high school team and received the First Team All-Section MLB.

Brockman is aiming for a career with the force and eventual placement as a homicide detective or SWAT team member.

The Scottsdale, Arizona, native is already working with his hometown police department. As a high school sophomore, he entered Scottsdale’s Police and Fire Public Safety Teen Academy, where he got a taste of the training required of police officers and firefighters, as well as an idea about these professionals’ everyday lives. He took to the material immediately and was presented with the Overall Recruit award at the end of the program.

The next year, he was invited back to participate in the Advanced Teen Academy as one of a small and select group of high-performing youth who are interested in careers in law enforcement.

Last year, Brockman was asked to step into a different role in the academy by serving as a junior training officer.

Moving from high school to college was challenging for Brockman, who viewed some of the changes as good and some as bad but most as simply different. Now, as he nears the end of his first semester at ASU, he has adjusted to his new life.

“A big help has been all of the tutoring and resources that ASU presents its students with in order to succeed,” he notes.

Though he almost pursued a criminal justice major, math-lover Brockman turned to the applied mathematics for the life and social sciences program because of its innovation and location.

Offered by the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the major offers a different approach to – and way of applying – mathematics.

“It's like taking math and putting it into real-life situations and doing a lot of statistics work,” says Brockman, who was intrigued by the concept and saw the value of that knowledge base in everyday life. He feels confident about the program's ability to provide him with a secure launching pad for his career.

He is also glad to be at the Tempe campus because of its convenience for ASU football tryouts. Brockman is working out to increase speed and strength for a 2015 go.