Meet New Faculty Member - Caroline Junkins
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?
In high school I was drawn to mathematics as a subject because it felt "pure": the axioms were fixed, the rules were set, and there was always a right answer to every question. I considered myself a "math person" and was looking forward to working in this perfect world where everything made sense. However, as I dove deeper into university math and started my own research projects, I realized just how wrong my original ideas had been! During my 3rd and 4th year of undergrad I learned how a mathematical proof could be elegant or sneaky, cute or clunky. In grad school I learned how a research area could be in vogue, or, worn out. During my PhD defense I watched as 3 professors argued over the meaning of the word "smooth" and eventually agreed that "it depends" . I came to appreciate just how human mathematics can be, and how we do ourselves a disservice by falsely defining ourselves as either a "math person" or "not a math person". As I watch my students wrestle with mathematical ideas, I have the opportunity to revisit familiar topics with fresh eyes and different perspectives. They inspire me to dig deeper into the areas of math I disliked as a student, to seek out new approaches and ways of thinking, and to admit that not every question has a right answer.
What's the focus of your research?
My mathematics research is in algebraic geometry, while my math education research focuses on improving student engagement in entry-level university mathematics courses. I am particularly interested in helping students build community and navigate the "hidden curriculum" of the university.
When you're not at work, what do you enjoy doing?
Outside of the classroom, you can find me building a tiny cabin with my husband Chris or playing with sticks with my one-year-old daughter Maggie.
Caroline was a student at McMaster University for her undergraduate and Masters degrees (both in Mathematics) and received her PhD in Algebraic Geometry from the University of Ottawa. Caroline completed a postdoc at Western University before shifting her focus to teaching and joining the Preceptor Team in the Mathematics department at Harvard University.