Senior Spotlight: Kelsey Nanan Is Applying Math Everywhere

Van-Ahn Truong
Kelsey Nanan
—Photo courtesy of Kelsey Nanan

If Kelsey Nanan ’17 has had one problem at Columbia Engineering, it has been choosing among all of the classes and areas of study available. The C.P. Davis Scholar from Trinidad & Tobago started out majoring in industrial engineering and operations research and switched to biomedical engineering before discovering her passion: using applied math to take on an endlessly diverse set of challenges.

Her main focus is economics, and her investigations have led in some unexpected directions. One of the more memorable was a project in her applied math senior seminar, where she and a partner presented Menstruation and Mathematics. For the project, they modelling hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle as a system of dynamical equations.

“Applied math has been perfect for me because I had a lot of flexibility to make it the major I wanted it to be,” Nanan said. “I could choose tech electives from a wide range of fields, such as quantitative economics, and still have the core applied math courses to build on what I learned and improve my mathematical abilities.”

Additionally, she has researched hair follicles in synthetic skin with the Columbia University Medical Center’s Department of Genetics and Development and honed her critical sensibilities in the core curriculum’s literature humanities component. Nanan has also served as curriculum chair for Peace by PEACE, a volunteer organization that teaches conflict resolution to elementary school students in public schools near campus.

Looking ahead, she is considering jobs in market research or data analysis and may eventually pursue a degree in business—as long as problem-solving is involved.

“I always had this romantic notion of the idea of living in New York,” Nanan said. “It hasn’t been romantic all of the time, but it’s definitely been memorable, and I wouldn’t trade coming to Columbia and New York for anything.” 

      —By Jesse Adams

View all of the Class of 2017 Senior Spotlights here.

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