Samantha Thompson: An award-winning mathematician

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On April 15, 2024

Samantha Thompson. Photo by Michael Pierce, Missouri S&T.

Samantha Thompson believes that her love of mathematics comes mainly from external influence. Specifically, she says that it is thanks to a series of fantastic math teachers in high school who fostered her enjoyment for math.

“I was an undecided engineering major my first year but eventually realized it wasn’t for me,” says Thompson, a senior in applied mathematics and physics from Manchester, Missouri. “I have always had a passion for math, so moving from engineering to math was a pretty natural move for me.”

After Thompson decided to pursue mathematics at Missouri S&T, she discussed with her academic advisor the possibility of adding a second major and selected physics. She says that she has been drawn to data science as her area of expertise in mathematics because it pairs well with physics and the problem-solving skills she has learned throughout her courses.

“Both math and physics contain a wide range of subjects and, to be honest, I’m fascinated by a lot of them, so it’s hard to choose a favorite,” says Thompson. “Through my upper-level electives, I’ve been able to delve deeper into some more specific areas, including atomic physics, causal data science, and math of machine learning.”

Performing arts as an outlet

Outside of the classroom, Thompson stays busy as a member of Chi Omega, which she says has helped her build a strong support group and meet some of her closest friends.

“While I usually fill my schedule, I try and diversify it so that I’m not only doing math and physics all day long,” says Thompson. “In my opinion, it’s important to have breaks from the mental challenges of STEM degrees.”

She is also minoring in music and been involved in theater at S&T, performing in shows such as “Heathers,” “Legally Blonde” and “Cabaret.”

“One of my main outlet is in the arts,” says Thompson. “I think it’s important for people to know that even at a school as STEM focused as S&T, there are many creative outlets within the arts that we can and should pursue.”

The Roman Dwilewicz Excellence in Mathematics Award

In the spring 2024 semester, Thompson earned the Roman Dwilewicz Excellence in Mathematics Award, which is presented to an undergraduate senior majoring in mathematics with the highest grade point average and most advanced classes chosen as electives in the department. Thompson’s GPA is 3.898.

Thompson says her advice for future students is to always ask questions and stay curious.

“I’ve had the most success in my internships and classes when I approach them with this sort of mindset,” she says. “It might sound silly, but I used to struggle with reaching out to ask questions, instead choosing to try and figure everything out by myself. When this strategy reached a point of diminishing returns and I started having more in-depth conversations with my teachers, I was able to appreciate my courses a lot more and achieve a deeper level of learning.”

She also advises students to never stop learning and try to keep everything in perspective.

“Both math and physics are evolving, challenging subjects, so if you want to succeed in them, find the drive that makes you want to keep going,” Thompson says. “But it’s also important to remember that it’s okay to not do everything perfectly and make mistakes. As long as we learn from our mistakes and don’t let it stop us from pursuing what we want, then they are a valuable experience.”

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2 thoughts on “Samantha Thompson: An award-winning mathematician”

  • Wick Doll ChE ‘65 says:

    Kudos to you, Samantha!!
    I am proud to learn of your excellent grades while studying Math and Physics.
    My mother, Ellen Woodman Doll was one of three coeds to graduate from MSM in 1933. She received a BS in General Science with Education credits from Mizzou. When she went back to teaching in the 1950, she was truly a STEM teacher qualified to teach any of the sciences and math. The school board was certainly impressed with her STEM degree from Rolla.
    My grandfather, Leon Woodman was head of the Physics department from 1919 until the mid ‘50’s.
    I wish you great success in your very promising future.

    • Harley Hickenbotham, ChE '67 says:

      Golly, Warwick! I had no idea that I was a fellow ChemE classmate to such a distinguished offspring!
      Thank you for mentioning the accomplishments of your family members (you surely had a lot to live up to as a MSM/UMR/MoS&T student and graduate). And all this time I considered you just a poor, hard studying ChemE disciple like the rest of us! Truly, I am proud of you and your family heritage. God bless.