Women’s History Month Featuring: Yanping Ma

Each year March is dedicated to Women’s History Month. LMU Seaver College is celebrating this month by featuring some of the amazing women in our college, who are extremely successful in their fields. Cheers to celebrating Seaver’s own wonder women! Here we feature a Q and A with Yanping Ma, associate professor of mathematics.

Q: Please share with us why you wanted to pursue your Ph.D. and work in higher education?

Yanping Ma speaking at the Vocare Spring 2019 panel
Yanping Ma at Vocare Spring 2019 panel

A: I pursued a Ph.D. degree for several reasons. The first being my father. He is a Geology professor, and I lived in a public university since I was born (Chinese public universities used to provide housing for all faculty and their family members.) When I was young, I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with a Bachelor’s degree because almost everyone I saw around had one. The second reason was I really enjoyed the learning of mathematics and the potential of being an expert in a field. I knew it wouldn’t be possible unless I received the highest level of degree, a Ph.D. Lastly, doing research is more than taking classes to get in-depth knowledge. The analytical skill is vital. I chose to work in higher education because I really enjoyed teaching ( I realized it when I worked as an instructor in graduate school). I like the challenge of finding an excellent way to organize my knowledge and identifying the best way to share with others. I interact with different types of personalities; I meet young people full of energy; I get to know new faces each semester; and most importantly, I don’t have to follow orders from a boss/manager.

Q: When you advise students, what words of wisdom do you find yourself sharing consistently with different students over the years?

A: When I teach in class, I always tell my students to learn from their mistakes. Find a notebook, organize all the mistakes, and then summarize the types of issues. When I advise students, I encourage students to be open-minded and explore as many opportunities as possible. Also, try to have more conversations with senior students, faculty members, and people from different work fields. Last but not least, take advantage of all the recourses made available to you by the university.

Q: As a woman in STEM, is there a woman that you’ve looked up to or who has influenced the work you do? Who is that person? And how did they influence you?

A: When I was in graduate school, I was the only female Ph.D. candidate admitted in our department, and before I worked with my advisor, one of my academic brothers told me my advisor does not recruit female students. I definitely see the challenges and loneliness of being a woman in STEM. I never had a chance to find a close female role model, but I was lucky to get a lot of help and support from the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM). They provided advising, networking and collaboration opportunities, as long with financial support. For any female math student or mathematician, they have special resources and support for you. Now, I am trying to give back to the community to serve on a grant selection committee for AWM.

Screenwriting major Abigail Braccia and entrepreneurship major Sara Appelqvist contributed to the Women’s History Month series. This article was written by communications major Jordan Lindsey.