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. 


Know another Cougar we should feature? Email Emily Hellewell.

Writer: Paige Vogt