Inspiring Women in Math Profiled

Published: March 29, 2023

Three students in Mathematical and Statistical Science were recently featured in the CU Denver News article Eight CU Denver Women Who Inspire Us:

Angela Morrison, PhD student, Department of Math & Statistical Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS): After getting her master’s in industrial math at Michigan State University, Morrison landed a job as a software developer at an insurance company. A year or so into that job, she realized she missed learning and decided to apply to several PhD programs, six of which were in Colorado. She picked CU Denver because it created opportunities to form a community with other students at the height of the COVID pandemic. 

Why mathematics?: During her time as an undergraduate student, Morrison took a coding course that she thought she would do terribly in. Instead, she loved it and ended up minoring in computer science. She knew she did not want to specialize in computer science, though, and after a math modeling class, she realized she could bring those two educational paths together. Now, she uses mathematical models and algorithms to solve real-world problems.

On being a woman in STEM: Morrison says some days it is challenging and other days it is fun and exciting. She was the only woman in her master’s cohort, where her advisor deterred her from academia. However, since coming to CU Denver, Morrison has found a supportive community that cares about each other and works to help everyone in the program succeed.

Her advice to women entering STEM: “Have confidence in yourself, send out the application, and do not be afraid. It might feel like someone else is more qualified or deserving than you but know you can do it.”

Sage Sigler, Master’s student, The Department of Math & Statistics, CLAS: Sigler got a Bachelor of Science in pure math and a minor in art. She knew she liked the applied side of math more and decided to get a master’s in statistics after her undergraduate degree, which brought her to CU Denver. She is in her fourth semester of the program and will graduate this spring. Sigler is doing research with Audrey Hendricks, Assistant Professor, Math and Statistical Sciences, CLAS.

Why mathematics?: Math always stood out to Sigler as being practiced and applicable. It can be used in any field and allows her to explore these options. “At CU Denver, I have been inspired by Dr. Hendrick’s research team,” Sigler said. “There are a lot of women, which is encouraging. It is great seeing so many women work on amazing, interesting projects. They are so confident in themselves, and I like seeing how far they have come. I hope to put that same example forward to other people that come into the research group.”

On being a woman in STEM: Throughout her life, Sigler has noticed a prominent lack of female math professors, even in middle and high school. Because of this, she wants to be a mentor for other women who are pursuing math, so they can have support and guidance from someone who looks like them.

Her advice to women entering STEM: “Do not give up and do not be afraid to speak up and ask questions. A lot of times people will have the same question you ask, so put yourself out there and speak up for yourself. You deserve the same chance everyone else has.”

Kayley Smiley, PhD student, The Department of Math & Statistics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Smiley has a bachelor’s in both mathematics and statistics from California Baptist University (CBU), where she was the president of the Mathematics Club and worked as a Teaching Assistant. In addition to working toward a PhD in Applied Mathematics at CU Denver, Smiley is pursuing a master’s in statistics and teaches an introductory statistics course.

Why mathematics?: Smiley has loved math since childhood but did not know what that meant for her future career. Even after completing her undergraduate degree at CBU, she still was not sure what she was going to do. Then she landed an internship at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Camp Pendleton Naval Base in Fallbrook, Calif., and saw how mathematics could be used to help other people. Being able to combine her passions for math and helping others pushed her towards applied math.

Being a woman in STEM: Smiley said it can be difficult when you are outnumbered. “It can feel discouraging but can be exciting. We are in a time where it is important to encourage women to pursue their dreams in STEM.”

Her advice to women entering STEM: “Look for a community that is supportive.”