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Cougar Queries is a series profiling BYU employees by asking them a few simple questions about their work, interests and life. 

Name: Jessica Purcell 
BYU employee since: 2007
My job at BYU is...I am a professor in the mathematics department. 

I’m working on…a research project to drill knots out of geometric spaces without deforming the geometry much, organizing a conference to be held in Moab in May and teaching Math 290 students that the set of all real numbers is uncountable!

I'm reading…4-manifolds and Kirby Calculus, by Gompf and Stipsicz, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The latter doesn't have much to do with mathematics, but I seem to read it once every few years. 

I get most excited about my work when…when I discover something that has not been discovered before, or when I understand objects in new ways. I also get excited about my work when students make these discoveries, or re-discover important mathematics. 

My advice to incoming freshman is…Be a math major! You will be prepared for a lifetime of learning, and the skills you learn will be valuable and valued. If you can't be a math major, be a math minor! If you can't be a math minor, at least take calculus from Michael Dorff. You won't regret it.

My favorite college class was…It's a tie between abstract algebra and computer graphics—fun math and fun geometry. When I grew up (in graduate school), I combined both interests and became a geometer. 

My favorite spot on campus is…the lawn on the east side of the Talmage building. The view across the library to Y mountain is spectacular.

On Saturday mornings you’ll find me…in the Talmage building, helping to organize Math Circles for six, seven, and eight year olds. 

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Know another Cougar we should feature? Email Emily Hellewell.

Writer: Paige Vogt