Even before she arrived at Kenyon, Ella Wilson ’23 knew she wanted to pursue a career in mathematical research. This year, the math major from Cortland, New York, is one of just 417 college students nationwide — and only 12 in Ohio — to have her efforts recognized with a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.
Goldwater Scholarships are considered the premier award for undergraduate research in mathematics, engineering and the natural sciences, and Kenyon students are frequently recognized by the competitive program after being nominated by College faculty through a rigorous screening process. The honor, intended for students who plan to continue their research in graduate school, provides each winner with up to $7,500 for tuition and other education-related expenses.
“I came to Kenyon partly because I could have research experiences, but mostly because I knew that I wanted a small school and that I wanted great mentors,” said Wilson, who first learned of Kenyon through family friend Henry Steck ’57, a longtime political science professor at the nearby State University of New York College at Cortland. “And as a girl who really wants to go into math, it was a huge draw to me for the department to have all these amazing female mentors in a field that’s very heavily male dominated.”
Since her first year at Kenyon, Wilson has worked with Associate Professor of Mathematics Marie Snipes on research involving harmonic measure distribution functions, which are part of the abstract study of Brownian motion, a stochastic process that has been used to model random paths in nature. Wilson “approaches research with a mindset of playful exploration and fearless experimentation,” Snipes wrote In a letter supporting her application for the Goldwater Scholarship. “It is clear to me that Ella has the talent, drive, persistence and enthusiasm that will make her a successful mathematics researcher.”