Junior Emily Peraza has always had an aptitude and knack for crunching numbers. So much so that she’s currently pursuing a double math major, with an emphasis in operations research and computer science and a minor in computer science.
She plans on putting her number-crunching skills to use to realize her lifelong dream of becoming a mathematician at NASA, a dream she says was fostered by time spent with her father.
“He has always loved to talk to me about space and all of the different shuttle launchings. He’s definitely somebody that inspired me to say to myself, ‘This is something I can do. I can achieve this,’” Peraza said.
Peraza says she looks forward to achieving her dream because she likes exploring the unknown aspect of space and pushing the envelope.
“I think the most interesting part about it is that they’re constantly doing research that expands our field of knowledge beyond what we can see right now,” Peraza said. “I think it’s cool that we’re reaching further and further, and we’re trying to push the limits and take people further out into space. I think that’s really neat.”
But before she can realize the dream, Peraza needs to hone and sharpen her mathematical skills to move one step closer toward making it a reality. And she has the support of everyone within the mathematics department. From her advisor, Dr. Venkata Dinavahi, Dr. Pamela Warton, and others supporting her, Peraza has been able to grow and flourish within an atmosphere that she says feels like home.
“I think the whole math department is like that. The math department is just like my family away from home, really,” Peraza said. She feels comfortable working with them, especially Dr. Dinavahi.
“He is amazing, funny and helpful. He showed me the ropes when I arrived as a scared little freshman,” Peraza said. “He’s teaching one of my classes now. I really respect his guidance, but he’s also easy to talk to.”
Peraza has an equally glowing opinion of Dr. Warton, since she works with her as a student tutor.
“She’s basically like my second mom. I can tell her anything. She’s always been super supportive. She’s there for her students and tries to get them where they want to be.”
Along with support from everyone within the math department, various scholarships Peraza has received has made it possible for her to begin realizing her dream at the University of Findlay.
“I wouldn’t be a student here or any other college if I didn’t get scholarships,” Peraza said. “I come from a family that doesn’t have a lot so I’m in charge of paying for my tuition. Thanks to all of my scholarships, nearly my entire bill is covered.”
Peraza is grateful for her opportunities and wants those who donate to Findlay to know just what their efforts are doing to help her, and other students like her.
“I think that it is important for donors to see just how the money they give to UF helps students like me be on this campus and learn from these professors,” Peraza said. “I want to be the mathematician that puts people into space. Their support is helping me do that. I hope they know that every little bit helps. I am so grateful for all of it.”
Working for NASA is a huge goal, but Peraza is undaunted, an outlook that comes from simply staying determined and not settling for anything less than what she wants.
“Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t (do something),” Peraza said. “I think a lot of the time we have a dream, the one thing that we absolutely want to do, and then we just automatically default to a fallback because we’re like, ‘that’s too out of my reach’ or ‘people are telling me that’s not really an achievable goal.’ But I think if you put everything in perspective, and take all the steps you need to towards that goal, there’s really no reason why you can’t do it.”