Ryan Trelford began his post–secondary education at Red Deer College and it was there that a mathematics instructor encouraged him to pursue a mathematics degree. He completed both a bachelor of science degree with specialization in mathematics and a master of science degree in pure mathematics at the University of Alberta. Currently, he is a PhD student at the University of Calgary studying computational and discrete geometry.
Due to the recession, Ryan chose to enter a master’s program after graduating from his bachelor’s degree. His master’s did not progress as smoothly as most and he eventually switched supervisors and required an additional year to complete his degree. Because of these setbacks, Ryan took some time oﬀ after ﬁnishing his master’s degree. During this break, he missed teaching and realized he wanted a teaching career at a post-secondary institution; however, this often requires more than just a master’s degree.
From his master’s studies, Ryan knew his research interests precisely and who to work with for his PhD. There were four universities under consideration: University of Western Ontario and University of Calgary as well as the American universities, Case Western Reserve and Northeastern University. He was in personal contact with potential supervisors at both American universities and settled on Case Western Reserve, but was awarded an entrance scholarship to Calgary. Coupled with the economic downturn in the U.S., the University of Calgary was ultimately chosen.
Now two full years into his PhD program, Ryan has no regrets and is very happy to be pursing a degree there. He felt that his graduate experience at the University of Alberta was too independent because of the university’s large graduate program. Calgary has a smaller math community and more encouragement for attending seminars and conferences as well as applying for awards and scholarships.
Though he finds research rewarding, Ryan’s passion is teaching. Once his PhD studies are complete, he hopes to teach full-time and not necessarily in mathematics. He simply loves teaching and, for example, would gladly accept an opportunity to travel overseas to teach English.
Lastly, Ryan’s words of wisdom for current and new graduate students is to keep an open mind and realize that “graduate school is not an extension of undergrad. Do not expect weekly assurances that you’re doing a good job.” Graduate students should also be aware that in research, “you can stare at a problem for months and get nowhere with it” but do not be discouraged because in most cases, no one knows the answer.
A big thank you to Ryan for taking the time for this interview and also read about his teaching philosophies and experiences on NerdyMathJitsu.