“I guess my ‘dream job’ would be to continue working at a university in some way,” Cook said. “But, if that doesn't work out, I would really like to continue teaching, maybe at the high school level.”

"She has graded for me for many courses. I love the different-colored inks she uses for her comments in a beautiful handwriting, very polite, but always to the point," Kawski said. "She has served as a great role model and mentor for many of my students."

“Mary is a natural in the classroom and an unfailingly positive person to be around,” Kotschwar said. “Our program was very lucky to have a student of her caliber. My job as an adviser was really a very easy one.”

Before Cook headed back East, we asked her to share a bit more about her journey as a Sun Devil.

Question: What do you like most about mathematics?

Answer: I like how when working on a problem, it becomes more like a game than work. You know the result you want, but there are so many possibilities to get there.

Q: What is something you learned while at ASU that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Though I think on some level everyone knows this, I was surprised to see firsthand that everyone, even the most brilliant mathematician, makes mistakes. When I was younger, I thought that at some point I would reach a level where I no longer made any errors, but that point never came. It's really freeing to realize that this is true for everyone.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? 

A: It's hard to pick a lesson which is the most important, but my adviser (Brett Kotschwar) has taught me so much over these years. One thing that stands out is that he taught me not to downplay my own work, which is something I've struggled with a lot.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to those still in school?

A: Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. Many students seem to be nervous to ask a question in front of an entire class, but chances are, others will be wondering the same thing and be glad you spoke up.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot is my office. It's a peaceful place to work, and there are always other students around to talk to when I need a break.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time for fun?

A: My favorite hobby is playing music. I'm looking forward to playing in community orchestras again now that some of them are starting back up!

Q: What do you think is most misunderstood about math by the general public?

A: I think most people don't realize how much creativity goes into doing math. I think most people imagine that mathematicians sit around all day adding really big numbers together or something like that, but in reality writing proofs requires a lot of creative thinking.

Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences