Growing up in Alpharetta, Georgia, Bryson Graham Kagy thought he wanted to be an engineer because his father is an engineer. He did robotics summer camps and joined the robotics team of his high school, Milton High School. Although he enjoyed science and engineering, Bryson realized that what he enjoyed most about science and robotics was the mathematics.
As it happened, one of his high school teachers – Beau Chilton – was “passionate about and encouraged me to learn more about math outside the classroom,” Bryson says. This motivation led Bryson to pursue a mathematics degree in college.
“I initially was not that excited about Tech,” Bryson says. “Growing up near the school made me think it wasn’t as good as it really was. I thought I would not meet new people, because lots of people I know would be going here.”
Bryson now acknowledges how wrong he was. “I love the academic environment and community at Georgia Tech,” he says. “The people here are very nice and support and want to help each other. And there are so many research opportunities, academic talks, and professional opportunities.”
What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?
I learned the importance of hard work. I didn’t think would take as much work as it actually does to learn math.
I remember getting at 38 on my first analysis test and then really studying hard for the second test, and got an 85!
I am blown away by how much the students want to help each other succeed here. I love how not competitive the environment here is and the sense of solidarity within small classes to try and get everyone to succeed.
What are your proudest achievements at Georgia Tech?
I am proud to have served as president of Club Math for two years. I love that club. I hope it continues to support math students for years to come.
I am proud to have posted two research papers to arXiv. It feels great to have a tangible finished product from your work.
I am proud to be part the team that created Mathapalooza and the Seven Bridges of Königsberg concert. Both are mathematics outreach projects that I helped create with a team and Dr. Evans Harrell. I loved showing the public a glimpse of higher mathematics.
Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?
Dr. Michael Lacey made the biggest impact on me. I had him for Foundations of Mathematical Proof, which was my first exposure to higher mathematics. He was my research advisor for my first research project. We have since done a reading course together and planned a new course curriculum and materials. He has given me invaluable guidance both professionally and for life in general. His support and mentorship is what has made it possible for me to pursue my passion in mathematics.
I talked to Dr. Mohammad Ghomi almost daily during coffee and tea times. He made me feel welcome and boosted my confidence about approaching professors.
Dr. Enid Steinbart gave me lots of support and advice. She let me know about lots of opportunities and cared about my well-being.
What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?
Some of the most enjoyable times are the breaks between homework with my friends. Once, after we finished our homework, we played bridge at 1:00 A.M. It was so much fun to play with them into the late hours of the night. I have had a lot of fun hanging out with friends. I will miss them.
In what ways did your time at Georgia Tech transform your life?
Georgia Tech is where I met my fiancée. It is also where I truly realized my passion as a mathematician. I can’t wait to take the skills and knowledge Tech has given me and continue my studies in math in graduate school.
What unique learning activities did you undertake?
I participated in two research experience for undergraduates (REU) programs, at Georgia Tech and at Carnegie Mellon. They cemented my love for mathematics research. I loved learning a specific topic deeply and being in an environment where I could just focus on research and immerse myself in math.
I highly recommend anyone thinking about research to apply over the summer to REUs.
What advice would you give to incoming undergraduate students at Georgia Tech?
Work with other people. When I got here, I did the work for my classes all by myself, because I thought it would make me understand the material better. I have found the complete opposite to be true.
Working with others has made me understand material more deeply, because you can get different perspectives on the problem, as well as explain to each other parts of the material the other person didn’t grasp as well. It also gives you collaboration skills, which you will need in your career. Lastly, it is a great way to make friends, because working on homework together into the night is great way to bond.
Where are you headed after graduation?
I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Mathematics in Michigan State University.
Georgia Tech has prepared me with its rigorous classes, research experience, and opportunities to present my research at conferences. All of these will help me succeed in graduate school.