Alumni Notes

Panpan Zhang (2012, MA Mathematics). I am currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Biostatistics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. I joined the Department of Mathematics at Wake Forest University as a master’s student in 2010. Like many international students, the language barrier created a lot of challenges for my study in the first couple of months. I was extremely grateful to Dr. Kirkman (Abstract Algebra), Dr. Jim Norris (Mathematical Statistics), and Dr. Miaohua Jiang (Dynamical Systems) for helping me get through those difficult times. I was also thankful to my office mates who have become lifetime friends now. Frankly, I never thought about a career in academia until I took a course on dynamical systems with Dr. Miaohua Jiang. Even though the course itself was quite challenging, it indeed motivated me to pursue advanced studies in stochastic processes and randomized algorithms, which later became my Ph.D. dissertation topic at George Washington University (2012 – 1016). At Wake Forest, I took all the probability and statistics coursed offered by the department, which prepared me well for my Ph.D. study afterward. In fact, the non-statistics courses that I took at Wake Forest, like real analysis, topology, abstract algebra, and combinatorics, were also helpful in my Ph.D. training. For instance, my Ph.D. dissertation research heavily relied on combinatorial probability (involving Stirling numbers of the first and second kind) and the material that I learned in the real analysis course greatly helped me better understand advanced probability concepts like Cauchy convergence and Jensen’s inequality, etc. The fundamental mathematics courses at Wake Forest actually built a very solid theoretical foundation for me and allowed me to start carrying out in-depth research much earlier than those students with pure statistics backgrounds during my Ph.D. training. Last but not least, I would like to send a special “thank you” message to Dr. Sarah Raynor for creating a measure theory class for me after she knew that I was going to apply for a Ph.D. program in statistics. To the best of my knowledge, this class was never offered by the department before. I would say I am really lucky to be a part of Wake Forest. Go Deacs!