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4+1 master's grad plans to pursue research career in applied mathematics

Jade Buzinski

Jade Buzinski is graduating with a master’s degree in mathematics, after completing the accelerated 4+1 program through the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences in only four years.

May 06, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

Jade Buzinski is graduating with a master’s degree in mathematics, after completing the accelerated 4+1 program through Arizona State University's School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, which she highly recommends to other students.

“It can be scary to take graduate-level classes as an undergraduate, but it is manageable — with a lot of effort,” said Buzinski. “I think the 4+1 program would be particularly useful for students that want to enter industry after graduation, although that’s not my case. I also want to emphasize that it can be a huge advantage when coupled with dual-enrollment credits.”

Buzinski was able to transfer so many dual-enrollment credits from high school, in fact, that she completed her 4+1 master’s degree in only four years, with a Presidential Scholarship covering the courses she took at ASU. 

Her sister played a significant role in influencing her educational journey. Although she attended another university, her sister being only two years older allowed Buzinski to observe her academic career very closely.

“I saw her engage in research as an undergraduate, then apply to graduate school. This reassured me that ‘normal’ people could pursue higher education, as funny as that sounds,” said Buzinski.

She participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates through ASU, working with Professor Rosemary Renaut in image deblurring, an ill-posed inverse problem.

“It was my first research experience, and my first realization that research was something that could be a career for me,” said Buzinski.

She then joined a group of students involved in a research project supported by a National Science Foundation-funded Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics mini grant. This collaborative project spanned a year and included students from both South Mountain Community College and ASU.

“Our focus was on investigating a wavelet-based multilevel method applied to separable operators,” said Assistant Professor Malena Español. “Jade’s exceptional performance in this project was evident from the outset. Her strong computational and mathematical foundations greatly contributed to the project’s success.”

Last May, Buzinski started working with the Computational Research Accelerator (CRA) where she worked on a project involving experimental data from a fluid dynamics experiment that is often referred to as the “stratified inclined duct.” Essentially, two fluids with different densities are connected by a small rectangular channel. When the less-dense fluid is sufficiently below the heavier one, the fluids will flow past each other within the channel to re-equilibrate. Understanding the dynamics of the interface that forms between the two fluids is fundamental to better understanding how Earth's oceans and atmosphere balance global energy budgets.

“This exposed me even more to the importance of computational efficiency, as well as the huge computing resources available to ASU researchers,” said Buzinski. “ASU’s supercomputer, Sol, played a huge role in the research I conducted as a student worker.”

Buzinski worked with others in the CRA, driving collaborative research with the University of Cambridge, to determine if artificial intelligence/machine learning techniques could classify and ideally predict when turbulent mixing events in stratified fluid dynamics experiments would culminate. She presented her robust results at the Rocky Mountain Advanced Computing Consortium’s HPC Symposium and won best student poster, funding her travel to SuperComputing, an international high-performance computing conference.

“Many students have to learn how to be effective with their time in the office or at conferences. Not Jade,” said Assistant Research Professor Jason Yalim. “She would come in everyday with a joyful, witty demeanor, trading thoughtful jokes or post-Wordle analyses with the director of the CRA, Dr. Gil Speyer, with whom she shared an office.

“Jade is excited about her progress in work or a curiosity on the path and has a nice way of sharing those results with the rest of the office. At conferences, she had no problem approaching anyone and learning from them or about them while explaining her own work.”

In addition to her academics and research, Buzinski also played an important role in the ASU student chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM at ASU). She participated first as a member, then as undergraduate ambassador, and most recently as vice president.

“Speed friending is always my favorite AWM at ASU event, because it’s a great chance to meet new people interested in math, especially in more of a social setting. But AWM also gave me opportunities to participate in events like Homecoming Block Parties and other schoolwide events through SoMSS, which made me feel a lot more connected to ASU as a whole,” said Buzinski.

“For a long time, I’ve felt like ‘community’ is just a buzzword that every organization throws around. At SoMSS, I really do feel like a part of the community.”

This fall, she will start her PhD in applied mathematics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. We asked her to share more about her journey as a Sun Devil.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study mathematics?

Answer: I began at ASU with no idea what to study. I eventually chose computer science, which I liked in some ways and hated in others. I knew I was decent at math and (more importantly) that I liked it — but I didn’t think math could be my job. I attended an AWM meeting and was very excited that so many people studied math! I emailed some professors in the math department and was finally convinced that it could be a career.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Math can be a collaborative effort! Doing homework with other students helps maintain sanity.

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

A: All my professors taught me really important mathematical lessons, obviously. But Dr. Yalim taught me a lot about academia itself: what a professor actually does, the importance of academic collaboration and crediting, what to look for in an advisor, how to convince others that your research is important, etc. I think having a mentor can be really valuable for those topics, which are sometimes a little more obscure for students.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Reach out to professors and go to office hours. And take classes that have nothing to do with your major.

Q: What is most misunderstood about mathematics by the general public?

A: That it only exists as a source of suffering, and that you have to be a genius to appreciate it. People always told me they “could never” be a math major, because they’re not any good at it. But the truth is that you really don’t have to be “good” at it. You can just try really hard.

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

A: I like all the campus spots with super fluffy, green grass. It’s hard to resist skipping class to lay on the grass when the weather is nice.

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

A: Modeling the human brain with perfect biological accuracy.

Q: What are your best memories of your time here in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences?

A: Being in pictures for the SoMSS website with friends is a silly memory. (Editor's note: She is featured on the homepage video montage.)

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