Academics, Campus wide, College of Science and Mathematics, Student Stories

Parsons exploring world of mathematics through research

By Jan Joslin | August 16, 2022
Maddy Parsons writing on a chalkboard
Maddy Parsons writes a matrix used for proof of theorems.

As a Campus Ambassador, Maddy Parsons gives tours to prospective students and their families. She is honest and tells her tour groups she had a hard time deciding where to go to college.

She said, “I tell them CSU is the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s my job to share what I love about CSU, and I let God do the rest.”

Parsons confesses she is a planner, planning everything down to the smallest detail. Having no idea her senior year of high school what she wanted to do made her uneasy.

Her three older siblings had all attended different colleges and wanted her to follow in their footsteps. Her youth minister advised her to pray and let the financial aid process choose her opportunities.

In a scholarship interview at Charleston Southern, she was asked, why should we choose you for this scholarship? Parsons answered, “Let God lead you to who you should give the scholarship to.”

She received a call two weeks later that she had won the scholarship and came to CSU in fall 2020.

Fascinated with hurricanes, Parsons thought she might want to be a meteorologist, but she admits she had no idea what she wanted to do. Her fascination with weather led to joining a South Carolina Independent College and Universities-funded research project with Dr. Ryan Thomas, her Calculus 3 professor.

Their project in fall 2021, An Analysis of Numerical Weather Prediction and Methods for Decreasing Error, led them to conclude that more sophisticated computing would be required to predict the weather with any accuracy. “Meteorologists rely on computers using seven partial differential equations,” said Parsons. “All of the seven are interconnected, and it is impossible to solve analytically.”

In the summer of 2021, Parsons was selected for another research project, On the Rate of Polarization of Decreasing Monomial Codes Beyond the Binary Field, conducted with Clemson University and funded by the National Science Foundation. Dr. Denise Dawson, department chair of CSU math, encouraged Parsons to apply.

Dr. Ryan Thomas, Maddy Parsons, and Dr. Emily Thomas
Dr. Ryan Thomas, Maddy Parsons, and Dr. Emily Thomas worked on another SCICU-funded research project in summer 2022.

The project, geared to students early in their math career, was conducted completely through Zoom due to COVID. It was an eight-hour-a-day job. Parsons’s research group included two students from the West Coast, so the group worked each day from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. EDT.

Through her research projects and interactions with her professors, Parsons has found her niche as a math major. One particular interaction solidified her future. When Parsons uncharacteristically didn’t finish a calculus assignment, her professor emailed asking if everything was ok and wanting to know how he could pray for her. Parsons told Thomas shewas struggling because she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life.

Ryan Thomas wrote back, quoting Psalm 90:17, “establish for us the work of our hands.” Thomas wrote doing and teaching math is the work he is supposed to do in life. However, he said that wasn’t the real work. “Most of you won’t remember anything about multivariable calculus in 10 years, but hopefully something that’s more meaningful will stick with you,” wrote Thomas.

The quote resonated with Parsons, and she came to believe she wasn’t at CSU by accident. She said, “I couldn’t have gotten myself here, but God gave me more than I could ever imagine.”

Parsons is working on another SCICU-funded research project, this time with the Drs. Thomases: Ryan Thomas, associate professor of mathematics, and Emily Thomas, associate professor of mathematics. Parsons affectionately calls them Mr. Dr. Thomas and Mrs. Dr. Thomas. They will present their research at SCICU in February 2023.

This summer and fall, the Thomases and Parsons are studying a developmental analysis of problem solving skills in an introduction to proof course. This course is a study of discrete mathematics, in which students write their first proofs and get their first taste of real math. Parsons says they are looking at how to introduce more creativity. “The earlier you can do that, the better,” she said. “What would that mean for students? How can we help students in that?”

Parsons is absorbing everything she can to help her in her career as a math educator. She’s also worked this summer with Campus Ambassadors, giving families tours of the campus and continuing to share her love of CSU.

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