Ever since Carlos Barajas was in high school, he wanted to be a mathematician.
The Perfect Formula
As a Charlotte, Michigan resident, Olivet College has always been right in Barajas’ backyard. He had heard about Olivet and its math program early in his college search as a high school student. In addition to the locality, it was the affordability of tuition through scholarships that attracted him to campus.
“I got into a lot of other colleges, but Olivet was the one that offered me out-of-the-gate scholarships,” Barajas said. “Olivet was one of the few colleges that I saw and was willing to go to that gave me the OC Connection Grant – they made it upfront affordable.”
Barajas enrolled the following fall and quickly plunged into his mathematics studies. But when a recurring interest in computer science kept nudging him, he realized adding the two majors together would make the perfect formula.
“I’ve always been interested in computers but I didn’t really know anything about [them] … I had a preconceived notion about what I wanted to do in college, and when I got here I realized it was exactly what I wanted to do, so I didn’t have to change majors, I just added one…,” Barajas said, crediting associate professor of mathematics Janine Peters for advising him along the way.
“I definitely think Janine (Peters) has really helped me, with literally everything I have to do; whether it’s the classes I’m taking with her, or applying for graduate schools, or research experience for graduates. All that stuff Janine has been right there for – just super helpful and informative,” Barajas said.
The Future Adds Up
With the encouragement and support of both Peters and associate professor of physics and mathematics Marco Wiedenhoeft, Ph.D., Barajas is looking to pursue graduate studies upon his early graduation next December.
“I’ve actually decided that I want to go on to study numerical analysis in scientific computing. There’s several programs about scientific computing. Basically, you use computers to help solve these huge, incalculable problems,” Barajas said, adding that it can take as many as one to 20 computers to consecutively help solve complex math problems in this area of study.
To prepare for entry into such a complex field of mathematics, this summer Barajas will be participating in a highly competitive research experience for undergraduates at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County (UMBC). Over the course of eight weeks he’ll be learning about parallel and scientific computing. Only 20 positions for this program are open to candidates across the nation and applicants undergo an intensive application process.
The OC Factor
Barajas admitted that he was uncertain at first whether or not he would receive the same learning opportunities as one might expect to find at a larger institution. But Barajas accredits not only his involvement in campus organizations like the Hosford Society of Scholars, Mathletes and Sigma Zeta but also the liberal arts curriculum for helping to shape his undergraduate studies into a well-rounded experience that’s prepared him for graduate work and beyond.
“…It’s actually a great impact having to take all of these social understanding classes that I normally would not have ever taken. I was always concerned about going to a small college because I was like, ‘will it leave me as ready as MSU (Michigan State University) would?’ and the answer is yeah,” Barajas said. “You’re technically just as qualified to take the GRE (graduate readiness exam) and go to graduate school as anyone else from any university. Maybe you have a bit more prep work on the back side but you didn’t have to pay $60,000 a year.”
And as for high school seniors who are hesitant to pursue math or computer science as a college major, Barajas offers the simple advice to dive in, because the disciplines aren’t as intimidating as you think.
“People usually don’t want to do computer science because it seems hard and scary, just like they don’t want to do math. But it’s not really. You don’t have to be gifted or special, it’s no different than trying to pass a biology exam. As long as you can remember what you’re supposed to do and how to do it, that’s it. It’s like painting a piece of art, not like trying to build a puzzle,” Barajas said.
Interested in pursuing a math or computer science degree at Olivet College? The possibilities are infinite and careers are in high demand. Contact Janine Peters at 269.749.7659 or firstname.lastname@example.org today.