November 1, 2018
MurphyKate Montee was born in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. She majored in math and music and the University of Notre Dame and received her MASt in mathematics from the University of Cambridge. Now, MurphyKate is pursuing her Ph.D. in mathematics, focusing on geometric group theory. We interviewed her about her experience at the University of Chicago.
Why did you choose UChicago?
UChicago is a great school and very prestigious program. The faculty in the math department here are top-notch, and pretty varied. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to specialize in, so I appreciated the math department’s first-year program, which gives you a year to meet potential advisers and broadens your mathematical knowledge base. It wasn’t until the middle of the first year that I knew what area I wanted to study, and doing reading projects with two potential advisers helped me choose who I most wanted to work with.
What noteworthy academic, research, or teaching activities you have pursued while at the UChicago?
Our teaching requirements are unique in that you get to design and teach your course in whatever way you want. This year, I’m flipping my classroom so that instead of lecturing, I help my students with problems. They read the textbook prior to coming to class, and we have more opportunities to discuss what they found confusing. I’ve also been involved in teaching SESAME courses, which are further learning classes for local high school teachers. It’s great to be a part of the larger Chicago community. I also help to run How To Solve It, a weekly problem-solving session for undergraduates, which aims to give students a toolbox of problem-solving techniques and mathematical tricks to attack difficult math problems.
What activities do you participate in outside of the classroom?
I’m the President of the UChicago chapter of the Association for Women in Math. We plan and host events to support all gender minorities in math, and build a friendly community of mathematicians at UChicago. I’m also a member of the University Chorus and the Vocal Performance Program. As part of the latter, I take regular lessons and get a lot of solo performance opportunities around the campus.
What are your plans after you finish your degree?
I hope to stay in academia, both teaching and researching.
What support have you received at the UChicago?
Financially, my first three years were funded by the math department and an NSF GRFP grant. From now on, I’ll be teaching. For teaching support, I signed up and took a course design class through the Chicago Center for Teaching and later served as a Teaching Mentor for that course.
Academically, both my advisor and other members of the faculty have been very helpful in both classes and one-to-one meetings.
If you were speaking to a prospective student, what would you tell them about UChicago?
The math faculty here are brilliant, and very supportive of all the grad students. They want everyone to succeed here, and are willing to help anyone who asks. And, the weather really isn’t that bad!