Teaching Assistant Awards series: Patricia Cahn

On June 20, 2012 by Grad Forum

cahn_feature_editedThe Graduate Forum is proud to announce the winners of the Graduate Teaching Awards. The hard working students are Patricia Cahn in the Math department, April Daigle in Chemistry and Morgan Thompson, Biochemistry.

Patricia Cahn recently received a PhD in Mathematics. Patricia came to Dartmouth in the fall of 2007, after completing her Bachelor’s at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts. She earned her Bachelor’s in math, which was her primary field of study for her undergraduate and graduate years. Patricia also played the double bass throughout college, earning a minor in general music.

When Patricia arrived at Dartmouth, she found herself increasingly interested in a specific field of mathematics known as topology. Topology, which involves the study of the deformation of objects in space, was something that she had a knack for.

“I’ve always enjoyed visualizing things in math, especially shapes and their relationships to space.”

Patricia’s thesis work focused on using algebra to “count” crossings of curves on surfaces. This problem is related to a branch of topology called knot theory. One can obtain a mathematical knot by gluing together the ends of a knotted piece of string, and knot theorists are interested in studying when one knot can be gradually deformed into another.

As a  teacher, Patricia showed an exemplary commitment to passing on knowledge and academic excitement. She has been a teaching assistant in five classes during her time at Dartmouth, and has been an instructor for Math 1 (Calculus and Algebra), Math 31 (Topics in Algebra), and Math 32 (The Shape of Space). Patricia admits that her time working with students in Math 32, both as a TA and as an instructor, was especially rewarding. Her “favorite term” at Dartmouth came when she had the opportunity to for Math 32 during her third year, and this led to her being the full instructor for the course this past year.

“That’s really the field I love. To work with students in an advanced math like topology, I felt really fortunate.”

Patricia agreed that her curiosity and passion made those teaching experiences especially enjoyable. Now she’s on her way to share those traits with a new group of students.

This fall, Patricia will start a three-year post doctorate position at the University of Pennsylvania, as a lecturer in their mathematics department. She’ll be running two courses this fall and one this spring, on calculus and differential equations.

“It’s the good teachers I’ve had, both at Smith and Dartmouth, that first got me excited about teaching,” she says.

This early spark seems to have ignited what looks like a wonderful career. We wish Patricia the best of luck next year at UPenn.

Congratulations again Patricia!

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