I graduated in 2014 from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, as a math major with a dance minor. The first time I considered going to graduate school was at the Summer Program for Women in Mathematics (SPWM 2013) at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, this program stopped running after my cohort's year due to lack of funding. I feel incredibly grateful for this program. Working on math with a cohort made up entirely of women was exhilarating, fun, and inspiring. I remember one night the group was staying up late to finish a problem set and someone mentioned a Mobius strip, which I had never encountered before. We spent the next hour cutting Mobius strips in half over and over, examining the resulting knots formed by intertwining paper loops. The courses, guest speakers, and panelists introduced me to types of math and careers that I never knew existed. That summer was the first time I learned about a cellular automaton and an SIR model. It was my first experience dabbling in mathematical biology.
My senior year of undergrad, I asked my professors for a list of math bio graduate programs. After applying to schools and later visiting for recruitment weekends, I chose to attend the University of Utah for its research, location, and very importantly: community. I loved the genuine camaraderie among the grad students when I visited, and I liked how supportive and helpful they were toward each other in math and life. The summer before my first year, I joined another amazing and inspiring community of women mathematicians through the EDGE Program (2014). This program gave me a cohort to support each other throughout our grad school careers and beyond. We still have an email chain with occasional life and school updates, and it always inspires and motivates me to hear about the awesome things everyone is working on! Another reason I am extremely grateful for EDGE is that it helped both emotionally and mathematically prepare me for grad school. I acutely remember crying one night because I felt so lost in the material; but then I recovered, tried again, asked for help, and eventually made it to the other side. This experience more than anything else prepared me for the ups and downs of math grad school. I knew it was going to be incredibly difficult, but I also knew that it would be okay, and that together with the people around me we could work through it. I am now in my fifth year of grad school, and I am still thankful for what SPWM and EDGE did for me. I want to help lift others along their math paths, just like the people who came before me did for me.