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Yvonne Zhou

Yvonne Zhou

BA Mathematics and Computer Science
Macalester College

Software Engineer
Cray Research, Inc.

In May 1991, I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics and computer science from Macalester College in Minnesota. Since then, I have been working at Cray Research as a software engineer and systems analyst and am now a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. Unlike many students, I studied mathematics very willingly throughout high school. I enjoyed working on the problems and did well in class. My grandma always told me, "If you can do well in math, you can do anything." I didn't really believe it, of course. I studied mathematics because I was good at it. For the same reason, I decided to study mathematics as well as computer science when I entered Macalester College in 1987. My favorite subject in mathematics is geometry, and I did my senior-year honors paper on "finite geometry." That was something I thought I would never be able to make use of after I finished college, but it later came in handy when I became a graduate student in computer science.

I was hired as a software intern at Cray Research in the summer of 1990 to work on a scheduling program for the Cray Supercomputers. The manager who hired me later told me that the reason he picked me was because I had a very strong background in mathematics. I can't tell you the direct connection between calculus and computer programs, but years of mathematics really exercised my logical thinking. A program is like a math problem in a lot of ways.

Mathematics helped me get my job at Cray, and has also helped me do well on my projects. I have often applied my knowledge of calculus and numerical analysis to the projects on which I am working.

While working at Cray, I am seeking a Master of Science degree at the University of Minnesota. My thesis paper concerns methods that allow faster and easier data access in a database system. I never thought my knowledge of finite geometry would have helped me define the first few sets of methods. During my research, I have discovered papers that define allocation methods using fractals and many other new methods that were introduced by mathematicians.

Mathematics alone may seem powerless sometimes, but when it is combined with another science, nothing else can be more powerful. After working in the industry for over two years, I feel even more strongly about the importance of mathematics to computer science and other related fields.

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