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Growing In STEM: Meet Amanda Lake Heath

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at App State chapter.

Meet Appalachian State’s most wonderful alumna, Amanda Lake Heath.

This is a woman who has brains, beauty, drive, love for the Lord, and love for others. Is there anything she can’t do? (Actually, yes, because she says she can play the oboe and scuba dive, but not at the same time. Tragic, we know). 

Amanda Lake is a recent App State graduate from Shelby, North Carolina.

She went against the grain and accomplished something incredible by graduating with a degree in mathematics with a concentration in statistics, a male dominated field, and is now at The University of Tennessee, Department of Mathematics, working towards her Doctorate of philosophy in mathematics. I asked her what she finds most interesting about what she studies and she replied, “The research areas I currently find interesting include Algebra, Number Theory, and Topology.”

While she works to complete her degree, which takes anywhere from 4-7 years, Amanda Lake is a teaching assistant. Because she is so passionate, she took on this job hoping to inspire others saying. “I absolutely love being a teaching assistant. This semester I am responsible for leading two recitation sections for calculus II, and I also grade homework and quizzes for a section of differential equations. The recitation is an additional hour and a half per week of class time for a very large lecture that meets three times a week (when I say large, the lecture is around 370 students). Throughout the rest of the week, I hold office hours so that my students can visit me and ask questions that may not have been answered in class.” 

With so much to do, it can be hard to find the joy in the tasks and responsibilites a TA has, but that’s one of Amanda Lake’s best qualities: finding joy. “My favorite part of being a TA is getting to explain concepts to my students and seeing the moment where it suddenly makes sense to them. In addition to teaching my students math, I just really love having the opportunity to get to know them and provide a positive and accessible mentor and teacher for them.”It is clear that she has the talent and the intelligence it takes to prosper in her major, however it hasn’t always been easy being a woman in the mathematics field. I asked her to tell me about how that felt. “Being a woman in mathematics is a really interesting experience, and it’s something I’ve researched quite a bit. Only 15% of tenure track positions in math are held by women, and this is one of the lowest among the sciences (along with computer science and engineering). I’m not typically intimidated to contribute in class or collaborate with my peers. However, when I am the only woman in the room, and I answer a question incorrectly, I sometimes do feel like I just answered the question wrong for ALL women.”

With the intimidation factor as well as the gender barriers women are forced to break each day, it is easy to give up or to ease up on the amount of intensity you put into your work, but that was, and never will be, an option for Amanda Lake. “As a TA, I also find it interesting because among my 80 engineering students, I have a total of seven or eight female students. I do notice that the women are less inclined to speak up and answer questions during class. I hope that my teaching them will provide encouragement for them to be successful and continue pursuing their engineering degrees.”

I think I can speak for all women when I say you are making us proud everyday by taking the risk of being one of the 15%, and succeeding, and growing everyday. 

In the future, Amanda Lake intends to finish graduate school and hopefully teach at a university with a supportive community where she is able to share her love of math with her students. It’s safe to say that she is well on her way to becoming the best woman she can be and I am supremely thankful that I get to be there to wacth her do it everyday. 

Jennifer is a senior Public Relations major with a minor in Sociology. When she isn't writing, Jennifer is involved with her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta-Nu Alpha, is writing music, is making your favorite coffee, stopping every stranger on the street to pet their dogs, probably napping, and giving glory to The Lord for all of the opportunities she has been given.