DR. SARAH KOCH | Associate Professor, U of M Department of Mathematics
I am a mathematician who works as an Associate Professor in the Mathematics Department at the University of Michigan. My research is in complex dynamical systems. The work I do involves applying certain kinds of transformations to complex spaces over and over again to study what happens to different points in the spaces. There are some amazing structures that emerge from this kind of procedure. These structures are often quite beautiful and fractal in nature. However, these infinitely complicated fractals can sometimes be completely understood. Often, one can find patterns and predictable structure amid mathematical objects and shapes that seem to be very complicated. I really like mysteries, and being a mathematician is sort of like being a detective. You find a bunch of clues, and you have to somehow fit them together to uncover the truth.
I became involved with F.E.M.M.E.S. when I attended the Capstone in March 2016. I saw the young participants spend their Saturday learning about the mathematics of dance, or how a robot works. They also learned why bubbles are round, and how to make elephant toothpaste. It was a very significant day for both the participants, who got to experience the wonders of hands-on discovery in science, and for the organizers, who got to see all of their creativity and hard work pay off. I am extremely impressed with the members of F.E.M.M.E.S.; they volunteer their time, energy, and ideas to run a Capstone event *every semester*, and it is a substantial amount of work for them. Yet they work tirelessly because they know how important it is, and they can see that they are truly making a difference. I continue to be inspired by this group, and all of the wonderful things they are doing; I am honored to be a faculty advisor for such an amazing group.
DR. ALISON NARAYAN | Assistant Professor, U of M Department of Life Sciences
I started at the University of Michigan as a political science major, but quickly fell in love with organic chemistry when I took the course my first semester of college. For me, organic chemistry presented a challenge and required some creativity to solve the puzzle-like problems. Following this classroom experience, I had the opportunity to start learning in the lab as an undergraduate researcher. This hands on experience with chemistry got me hooked!! After graduating from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Chemistry, I moved to University of California, Berkeley, to pursue a Ph.D. The opportunity to be completely immersed in my research as a graduate student further solidified my passion for chemistry. I worked in an organic chemistry research group working on designing routes to synthesize potential new drugs. Following graduate school, I returned to the University of Michigan as a postdoctoral research fellow and then started as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Life Sciences Institute in 2015.
The best parts of my job are working with bright, motivated young scientists and the thrill of discovery in the lab. My research group studies the way that Nature builds molecules and develops these enzyme tools for chemists to use in the lab. Our goal is to provide chemists with more efficient ways to assemble molecules using sustainable (green) chemistry. I also enjoy teaching the course where I first fell in love with chemistry- introductory organic chemistry. When I'm not in the lab or classroom, you can find me with my two little boys, working out, or at a Michigan athletics event, GO BLUE!