Masters Matter: Dr. Katie Mawhinney and Tyrel Winebarger, Mathematics

Dr. Katie Mawhinney, professor of mathematics in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and former graduate student Tyrel Winebarger discuss Appalachian’s Master of Arts in mathematics. This program is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Mathematical Sciences.


  • Katie Mawhinney: My name is Katie Mawhinney and I am a professor of mathematics here in the Mathematical Sciences Department at Appalachian.

    Tyrel Winebarger: My name is Tyrel Winebarger, I’m a recently graduated Grad student and I work here at ASU and the community college.

    KM: We are here at Walker Hall, the Mathematical Sciences building.

    TW: Usually when I’m here I’m working on either teaching or my research in algebraic representation theory. Specifically what I do research in is called wild groups representing Lie-algebras. I’ve also done research in programming, computer science as well as random number generators and other things like that.

    KM: When I’m here I am very busy teaching. I usually spend about 30-40 hours a week here on campus with a lot of interaction with students. My research is in point-set topology so when I’m not teaching I’m interested in problems in topology and also mathematics education.

    TW: Working with professors here was great, honestly I would say that made my experience at Appalachian State. The professors are down to Earth and helpful. I was kind of surprised with that when I first got here, due to my own expectations, but I was very happy that they weren’t this genius mathematician that couldn’t relate to students just now learning lower level math. That resonated with me and helped me to enjoy my time here.

    KM: One of the challenges in thinking about how we can engage students in research and mathematics is thinking about how we can bring students to the level of understanding that is needed at the forefront of the questions that are being asked in mathematics. Typically we find that we have students that are very interested in and curious about mathematics that motivates them into digging deeper in the content we’d like to talk about. We found problems that engage students and they are excited about those problems and are willing to work with us in discovering new ideas about mathematical sciences… I chose to work here at Appalachian because of it’s reputation as a University in which faculty have time to work with students. Everybody has a different experience at the PhD level depending on where they go to school and then when you think about the amount of research effort required by faculty in different places it varys. Appalachian is a place in which we have time to do our research, but we are also encouraged to engage our students in research. That’s a really important characteristic that allows us to do that. That work is appreciated in our departments. That work we do with undergraduate and graduate students is enjoyable and facilitated by our jobs and what we are able to do here.

    TW: I chose Appalachian for a few reasons: Probably first and foremost was that it was convenient. I came from Ashe County which is just about forty minutes from here. I also didn’t feel like leaving this area, even though I had the opportunity to. I love the mountains this is my home. Appalachian State has always had a good reputation. It is a smaller school, but still manages to have the prestige and ameritist reputation that you would get from larger schools.

    KM: The graduate program here in the Mathematical Sciences Department is of a size that allows faculty to give lots of attention to individuals in the program. We try to pay attention to the whole student and think about where they will be heading after they’ve completed their Master’s. We want to think about the mathematical understanding that they have, the research opportunities that we can provide, but also to prepare them for teaching. Many of our graduate students go on to teach at the college level either at four year or two year institutions. We try to pay attention to all of those aspects when we think about what is appropriate in preparing students for where they are headed.

    TW: I think if you are considering a graduate degree in math Appalachian State is a great choice because of the small class size and the location. I can’t say enough about the scenery, all of the outdoor activities, and there is a lot to do in town as well. As far as the math program goes, it’s top notch. Everybody here is completely if not overqualified to be doing what they are doing and also care a lot about student success. They work hard to help students along not only with learning the material, but all the facets that are involved in being successful as a grad student.