A professor who also works at the U.S. Census Bureau gets to explore both theory and application in his dual career

The national Census—that government survey every American household received in April—only comes around once a decade, but the U.S. Census Bureau never stops collecting data about how Americans live. Every month, the bureau surveys millions of individuals, households and businesses about education, employment, internet access, transportation and other topics that reveal the social and economic needs of communities. 

Eric Slud is one of the mathematicians who helps make sense of all that data. Slud is the area chief for mathematical statistics in the Center for Statistical Research and Methodology, a research unit within the U.S. Census Bureau. He is also a professor of mathematics at UMD. 

Karin Melnick photo

An expert in differential geometry finds beauty and harmony in mathematics.

Growing up, Karin Melnick never imagined herself as a mathematician. The daughter of an accountant and an airline pilot with a background in electrical engineering, she was no stranger to the importance of math, but she saw it more as a tool for other fields of study, a prelude to a career as an ecologist or a medical doctor.

That changed during her undergraduate years at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, when the pull of geometry, calculus and theoretical proofs drew her in, and she realized pure mathematics was the field for her.

Michael Nastac

Years ago, when college and career were still far from his mind, a young Michael Nastac watched a television show that would ultimately shape the trajectory of his life. The program was “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.” As Nastac listened to scientist Carl Sagan discuss space and the universe in the context of humanity, it sparked in him an irrepressible interest in mathematics and science. 

“Before I saw the show, I didn’t think of math and science as beautiful. But after watching it, it changed the way I looked at the subjects,” explained Nastac, now a senior mathematics and physics dual-degree student at the University of Maryland. “To understand the world around us requires mathematics.”