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Student Snapshot: Kate Erfle '21

Kate Erfle '21,

Kate Erfle ’21 has studied abroad in Germany and created a dynamic intranet site through an immersive internship. This summer, she will present an educational webinar based on her student-faculty research on how to teach and learn mathematical concepts through aestheometry—the art of creating patterns and curved images. Her work will be published by the Bridges Conference, originally planned for this August in Helsinki, Finland, but canceled because of the outbreak of the global pandemic. She and her father, a Dickinson professor, will co-present three Dickinson at Home webinars to alumni, parents and their children looking for a fun and novel way to learn about math.

Hometown:  

Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Majors:

Mathematics and computer science.

Clubs and organizations:  

Women’s Swimming, Quantitative Reasoning Center (tutor), and Mathematics and Computer Science Majors Committee.

Honors/scholarships/awards:

The William W. Landis Memorial Prize in Mathematics, The Forrest E. Craver Memorial Prize in Mathematics, Upsilon Pi Epsilon, Pi Mu Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Pi Leadership Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta and Dean’s List.

Favorite movie:  

The Incredibles.

On choosing a major:

I knew going into college that I wanted to study math (although I had no idea what I wanted to do with it professionally). Math has always been my favorite subject in school because it is complex and abstract but also very practical. I love problem-solving and thinking of creative ways to apply what I’ve learned in different scenarios.

I took the intro computer science class on a whim the second semester of my first year and loved it. Computer science extends everything that I love about math into new and constantly changing technologies. From there, I chose to double major in both subjects, and I am so glad that I did!

Favorite place on campus:

The Kline Fitness Center.

Favorite professor:

I have too many to pick one.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Baked oatmeal.

Favorite class:

I’ve had many classes that contend for the spot as my favorite class at Dickinson so far, but the one that stands out to me the most is the Multivariable Calculus class I took with Assistant Professor of Mathematics Eddie Tu in my first semester of college. Professor Tu’s teaching style, enthusiasm and creative labs made this class engaging and something I truly looked forward to each week. I really enjoy calculus, so the content of this course was extremely interesting to me as well. It was a fantastic introduction to Dickinson and made me certain in my choice to major in math.

As I kid, I wanted to be …

a teacher.

On studying abroad:

I studied abroad in Bremen, Germany, for the fall 2019 semester. This program is a language-based, full-immersion opportunity to experience German culture at a large university in Northern Germany. The highlight from my five months in Germany was the bond that I created with the other Dickinson students in the Bremen program as well as with my German roommates. I created a bond with this group of Dickinsonians through the unfamiliar experiences we were all sharing and navigating. It was comforting to have peers in the same situation as myself. Knowing that we were all slightly out of our comfort zones allowed me to continue to push myself to more deeply immerse into the German language and culture. My German roommates also supported my experience by welcoming me into a new city, having bilingual conversations with me and getting me involved in fun local activities.

Proudest accomplishment so far:

Taking Abstract Algebra in German and getting an A.

Little-known hobby/talent:

I started playing piano when I was 7, and I have been taking lessons throughout (and before) college with Professor [Jennifer] Blyth!

About my internship:

Last summer, I interned at Enterprise Knowledge (EK), a consulting firm that helps organizations effectively manage their information and knowledge. EK has a strong Dickinson alumni presence—particularly the CEO and co-founder, Zach Wahl ’98—who made our office in Arlington, Virginia, feel like a home away from home. The company culture was truly special, and I had such an amazing time getting to know and work with all of the employees at EK. During my summer, I helped create a dynamic company intranet. In the process, I worked with systems and computer languages such as WordPress, HTML, PHP, and CSS—all of which were new to me. I gained confidence in my collaboration, technical, and problem-solving skills. This internship gave me insight into the inner workings of a fast-growing company and helped me to determine the qualities I want in my future employer.  

Post-Dickinson plans:

As of now, I want to be a software developer, probably in the D.C. area (although I am open to working almost anywhere). I am still considering the option of eventually going to graduate school because I love school and learning.

About my research:

For one of my courses this spring semester, I completed an independent study with my dad, Professor of International Business & Management Steve Erfle, on a project that uses aestheometry—the art of creating patterns and curved images from straight lines—to teach geometric and algebraic topics to students of various age levels. We narrowed the scope of our project to create a symmetry-focused workshop for submission to the Bridges Conference held in Helsinki, Finland. Our work was accepted and will be published by Bridges. However, unfortunately, the in-person conference planned for August has been cancelled due to COVID-19.

Because that workshop will no longer take place, and also because so many young students are stuck at home, my dad came up with the idea of hosting a few webinars for interested K-12 students (and any other interested attendees) to explore the capabilities of our Excel sheet and learn more about mathematical concepts while creating artwork. I’m excited to get our project in the hands of more students and to show them that math can be both beautiful and fun!   

Most important thing I’ve learned so far:

Other people’s successes are not your failures. I think this saying has been really impactful on my perspective on my peers and on myself throughout college (and will be throughout my life). As a very competitive person, I know it is easy to instinctively feel like I’m falling behind if someone else is getting ahead and to feel like I’m losing if someone else wins. However, the most important race is the race against yourself. You can’t control the trajectory of someone else’s life, so you need to put that energy into yours. If you support and empower others along their journeys, then you are going to feel that support and empowerment in your own journey.

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Published June 5, 2020