Math Major Heads to Moscow

Ethan Twisdale

UNC senior Ethan Twisdale poses for the Math in Moscow program’s traditional opening day photo session held earlier this month. The sign he’s holding reads “Independent University of Moscow.” Photo courtesy of Ethan Twisdale

UNC senior Ethan Twisdale, who’ll graduate magna cum laude May 7, won’t be able to walk the stage at commencement. He’ll be 6,000 miles away finishing an advanced course of study in mathematics offered at an elite Russian university for future research mathematicians.

Twisdale, a Mathematical Sciences major, is one of 12 students from North America selected for the spring semester of the Independent University of Moscow’s prestigious Math in Moscow program. The 15-week program of graduate-level math courses, taught in English by some of Russia’s leading mathematics educators and researchers, runs Feb. 3-May 20.

Twisdale is joining undergraduate and graduate students from schools like Swarthmore College; the University of California, Berkeley; University of Texas, Austin; Virginia Commonwealth University; and the University of British Columbia.

At 25, he’s the oldest student in the program, the result of a four-year break from education he took after attending Colorado State University from 2003-2005.

“I enrolled at CSU as a math education major, didn’t like the large class sizes in the general ed courses and decided to take some time off,” Twisdale explained. “I worked odd jobs while I tried to decide if teaching and/or math were going to be part of my future.”

He finally realized that given his aptitude for the subject – math has always come easy for him – he decided he owed it to himself to continue pursuing his education, but in a different environment.

So he checked out UNC, and impressed with the smaller classes, enrolled in as a Mathematical Sciences major in the 2009 spring semester. He has no regrets.

“UNC has been a great experience,” Twisdale said. “The math department is just great; you get a lot of attention.”

In addition to his coursework, Twisdale has served as president of the UNC Math Club the past year, which has included organizing student trips to various national meetings such as MathFest and local club events.

According to Anton Dzhamay, one of Twisdale’s professors and Math Club faculty advisor, Twisdale is a good choice for the Russian program.

“Ethan is one of our strongest math majors,” Dzhamay said. “He has excellent problem-solving and communication skills. The small and stimulating atmosphere of the program should suit him very well”.

Twisdale said he’ll use his trip to Russia to “find out how the rest of the world runs,” as well as for preparation for graduate school and a final reality check to make sure that math is the right path for him to continue on.

Of Note
Twisdale is the second UNC student to attend Math in Moscow. Brian Shourd, who attended in spring 2009, is now in his second year in the doctoral math program at the University of Notre Dame, one of the top programs in the country, and according to Dzhamay, is doing very well.

- Gary Dutmers