Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Ioana Suvaina
Each month, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Ioana Suvaina, Assistant Professor in the Mathematics Department talks about her teaching philosophy and interests:
College is a wonderful period in one’s life. It is a time of discovering the world around us through science, art and interactions. It is a time when doors are opened to all kinds of possibilities, when we are given the means and the opportunity to develop into a better person and forge a path for our lives. I feel privileged that even for a short time I can be a part of my students’ road in life.
“When I teach I try to convey to my students the subtleties of a concept, the deeper meaning of the material, and the connections between concepts and different, seemingly unrelated, subjects.”
One of the challenges of teaching mathematics is getting students’ interest and making them understand that mathematics is not a series of algorithms which solve problems. All the concepts are introduced because they answer some universal questions, and understanding the concepts helps you apply that knowledge not only in the course but in a variety of other disciplines. For examples: many students assume that derivation is a set of rules which compute a formula. Nowadays, there are computer programs that compute the derivative of a function. Understanding that the derivative measures the rate of change of a functions, allows you to take this concept and apply it in a variety of contexts: computing the derivative of the distance function one obtains the velocity, if you compute another derivative you obtain the acceleration, and in the same manner you can analyze and interpret any numerical data from physics, biology, chemistry, etc. When I teach I try to convey to my students the subtleties of a concept, the deeper meaning of the material, and the connections between concepts and different, seemingly unrelated, subjects.
My area of research is geometry. It involves mostly a rigorous analysis and logical developments, but also intuition and imagination. The driving engine behind my research is the desire of discovery and understanding.