Have you ever compared extreme wave height estimation techniques for classifying energy resources and conditions? No? Well, University of New Mexico senior Bibiana Seng has.
Seng is getting set to graduate in May, but before then, she is going to Washington D.C. in late April to present her research on wave height at the Council of Undergraduate Research Posters at the Hill event, where students can talk to members of Congress about their research.
Suffice it to say, it’s going to be a busy few months for the senior studying mathematics and statistics.
“I’m kind of a perfectionist, type A person,” Seng said.
Seng said she was home-schooled by her parents in Edgewood, New Mexico. She first came to UNM when she was only 17 years old. She said she chose UNM because it was close to home and started studying Chemical Engineering.
“My dad has a Ph.D. in physics and my mom has a master's in material engineering, and so they were very into nanotechnologies. When I started UNM, I was thinking I was going to go into nanotech too,” Seng said.
The shift in majors came when she took an early-level calculus course.
“What I found really interesting about (Calculus 1) — that I think wasn't necessarily something that people really caught on too — is that it signified the shift of going away from math as a tool to be used and into a way of thinking about solving problems,” Seng said.
From this revelation, Seng said she started taking more math classes until officially switching her major to applied mathematics at the end of her first year. A year or two later (and after more math classes) Seng said that a combinatorics class made her realize that what she wanted to do wasn’t applied mathematics, but statistics.
Outside of the classroom, Seng took part in a few student groups, including the Japanese language club and anime club. Now, she is a member of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico’s Joint Council, an advisory body made up of appointed representatives of colleges and resources centers.
Like many students in their first years, Seng struggled with some social interactions.
“I didn’t know my roommate at all, but she was really nice and she introduced me to her group of friends because she was in chemical engineering. I had a pretty good time checking out the different clubs on campus and talking to people in the dorms,” Seng said.
Professors were another story, whom Seng said she felt nervous talking to.
“Going from having your mom as a teacher to five random people from the ages of barely older than you are, in the case of my lab (teachers assistants), to someone I think was in his 70's, it was intimidating,” Seng said.
Seng said she overcame that anxiety over time. More recently, she said she relied on communicating with her professors to manage a busy schedule. She specifically mentioned Chris Holden, an associate professor with the Honors College, as an example.
“I have spent endless hours talking math with (Seng), and in her courses with me she has shown herself to not only be astute critically, but also a leader,” Holden said.
With less than a month before Seng presents her poster, she has some advice to other students on a similar path.
“Don’t get so focused in academics that you lose track of everything else,” Seng said.
She is currently looking at graduate programs, including Penn State.
Justin Garcia is a staff reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers student government. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Just516garc.