Interdisciplinary involvement on campus

Suzie Hoops ’17 says the experiences she had at St. Olaf prepared her for a Fulbright fellowship in Austria, where she will perform data visualization research at Johannes Kepler Universität and teach English at a secondary school.

During her four years at St. Olaf College, Suzie Hoops ’17 was involved in a number of hands-on projects that applied mathematics to a wide variety of fields.

She joined an independent research project examining graph theory and linear algebra. She helped create a program analyzing phylogenetic trees. And she worked on a project quantifying particle movement in physical chemistry.

Hoops did much of this work through the St. Olaf Center for Interdisciplinary Research, a program that enhances communication between the different academic disciplines and engages faculty and students in problem-based collaborations.

“The CIR brings together people of completely different academic backgrounds. We talk about how we can help each other even though it may not seem like our fields of study are directly related,” says Hoops.

This spring Hoops worked with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Rodrigo Sanchez-Gonzalez, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Matthew Richey, and a team of fellow students — Michael Pearce ’17, Zach Norberg ’17, and Sasha Dmytrenko ’17 — to create a vector field describing the movement of high speed gas flow by capturing laser grid images and graphing the changes over time.

“I love being in a class where I’m with people who are experts in the field and I’m not. It’s amazing how many brilliant people there are on the St. Olaf campus,” says Hoops.

Hoops was recently awarded a Fulbright Combined Award to conduct research and teach in Austria this year. She will perform data visualization research at Johannes Kepler Universität in Linz, Austria, and teach English at a secondary school.

When Hoops returns from Austria, she hopes to work in data science and programming. “I plan to go to graduate school in a field related to biotechnology, but am looking to get some work experience first so I can figure out what field would be most helpful to my career aspirations,” she says.

In addition to her academic accomplishments at St. Olaf, Hoops was a two-time captain of both the Cross Country and Track & Field teams, sang in Collegiate Chorale, and served as co-president of the St. Olaf chapter of Habitat for Humanity. In the spring of 2016, she and co-presidents Kali Gustafson ’17 and Caitlin Nelson ’16 were awarded the Volunteer Program Directors of the Year.

“I truly would not be the person I am today if not for choosing to come to St. Olaf. I am so thankful for the academic opportunities, participation in athletics, and, above all, the friendships that have shaped me over these past four years,” says Hoops. “Being challenged by my peers and professors has given me a new perspective, and prepared me to learn for the rest of my life.”