Wu has accepted a position as an artificial intelligence scientist at Target Corporation, based in Minneapolis. We asked her to share more about her experience as a Sun Devil.

Question: What is something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: It’s almost impossible to understand everything in a graduate math class. Every piece of new knowledge requires a lot of effort outside of classrooms to master it. Being smart is not enough to succeed.

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

A: My co-adviser Eric Kostelich (said): “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” It’s OK — or even good — to fail, as failures are good progress towards learning and reaching the final goal/success. This helped me to persevere and push through so many challenges. I also finally realized that perfection is not possible in reality. At least the problems I had to solve are more of delimmas which require ongoing effort of optimization/improvement, so it’s a nonstop learning process.

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

A: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, i.e., you can always do or be better.

Q: What do you like most about mathematics (and your area of concentration)?

A: Math is a universal language that connects different peoples and cultures to communicate the same truth and beauty of the world we are living in. My area of concentration is about developing useful computational applications to help people better understand some chaotic dynamics we observe in life. For example, the butterfly effect is something we are all familiar with — small changes at current time can produce large impacts in the future. Even things seem so chaotic or disorganized can be shown that there are some orders (patterns) within them using mathematics. I’m always amazed that a simple mathematical equation can be used to tell a story of real life.

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

A: The garden in the middle of the Mary Lou Fulton teaching building. The green and water fountain look life-generating and peaceful.

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

A: Cooking anything I can find in the fridge without any recipe. Sometimes it turns out delicious but sometimes horrible. Then invite friends over for quality time if it was a success. I also love backpacking travel when I can have longer breaks. I like to go to Indigenous villages in different parts of the world to explore and observe different cultures and people groups. But I couldn’t do that since the pandemic.

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

A: Mathematics is all about arithmetic/numbers and only “smart” people can do math.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: How to slow down global warming.

Rhonda Olson

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