NSF Graduate Research Fellow Kerstin Baer to Study Topology at Stanford

Posted May 12th, 2011 at 1:58 pm.

Photo of Kerstin Baer

Kerstin Baer ’11

Kerstin Baer is one of five Bryn Mawr graduates and alumnae who have been awarded a 2011 Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.  Baer plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics at Stanford University beginning next year. Her primary area of interest is topology, which focuses on the spatial properties of objects when they are stretched, twisted, or bent.

As an academic, Baer says, she’ll be able to contribute to the expansion of knowledge and share her enthusiasm for mathematics. She is keenly aware of the importance of strong mentors in developing students’ confidence.

“Having grown up in foster care, I know first-hand just how important role models are. College was initially way out of my comfort zone and I never saw myself going to graduate school. Only the support and encouragement I received from my professors and classmates at Bryn Mawr have allowed me to blossom into a young scholar confident in her abilities. I found a new home in the mathematical community! ”

“Bryn Mawr has opened my eyes to my own potential,” Baer says. The sense of community Bryn Mawr’s Department of Mathematics fosters played a key role in that, she observes, and Baer has repaid the favor by undertaking leadership roles in the College’s undergraduate math club. One of her key achievements as co-chair was establishing ties with undergraduate math majors at neighboring institutions.

“Now Bryn Mawr is regularly hosting undergraduate speakers from neighboring colleges, and a number of Bryn Mawr students are joining me at the Problem Solving Group at Haverford and the math colloquia at Penn. I believe that exchange across institutional boundaries not only enriches our undergraduate experience, but also gives us a better appreciation for the benefits of collaboration in academia and other spheres of life.”

Opportunities to learn from scholars throughout the Philadelphia area and to share her experiences with her fellow students at Bryn Mawr have contributed to Baer’s understanding that mathematics researchers form a community—one that she is eager to join.

Research mathematicians, says Baer, “are not just solving problems—they are pursuing a vision for the future of their field, and in doing so lay the mathematical foundation for technological advances that might transform society. ”

“I want to take part in this research process. As much as I enjoy learning about other mathematicians’ work through personal interactions and at seminars, workshops and conferences, I yearn to take a more active role in the mathematical community.”

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