Southeast McNair Scholar Shares Research Experiences with Board of Regents

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The McNair Scholars Program has offered Mary Ramey the opportunity to participate in mathematics research.

Southeast Missouri State University senior Mary Ramey told the University’s Board of Regents today that Southeast’s faculty and programs have given her professional experiences and a solid foundation for launching her future career.

Ramey, a senior applied mathematics and cybersecurity double major from Sikeston, Missouri, transferred to Southeast as a sophomore after several of her high school friends told her about the personal and academic support they have received from the faculty and staff.

“Southeast is more of a close-knit family,” Ramey said. “You have your friends in multiple classes with you, and your professors talk with you outside of class and are willing to do whatever it takes to help you succeed.”

Soon after transferring, Ramey was invited to become a McNair Scholar.

The McNair Scholars Program encourages, supports and assists academically promising students who have been historically underrepresented in various fields to pursue education through the doctoral level. At Southeast, students are provided academic support, enhancement workshops, faculty mentoring, summer research experience, and preparation for graduate school during their junior and senior years of their undergraduate degree.

For Ramey, one of the highlights of the program has been the opportunity to conduct research with her McNair Scholar advisor Dr. Daniel Daly, associate professor and interim chair of Southeast’s Department of Mathematics.

Mary Ramey hopes to pursue a career in cybersecurity in this region.

As part of the research, Ramey is studying mathematical structures known as lattice paths. Ramey analyzes the structure of these paths and counts the number of paths of a given length satisfying certain restrictions. Lattice paths can have applications in statistics and theoretical computer science.

“There’s not much research on it, so that’s been pretty exciting to work on something that hasn’t quite yet been done,” she said.

The research has been difficult, but worth it, added Ramey. Daly’s support and guidance in and out of the classroom has allowed her to overcome each difficult task.

“He would never give me any slack, and I’m thankful for that,” she said. “Dr. Daly has always had confidence in me to complete any task he set before me, which is what I needed at times because some problems seemed nearly impossible to solve.”

Ramey is also working with Daly to publish their results.

“Having the opportunity to publish a paper in an undergraduate research journal or professional mathematics journal makes me so much more valuable for any industry or career because of the professional experience I’ve gained,” Ramey said. “I don’t think I would have had this type of opportunity if it wasn’t for the McNair Scholar program.”

The confidence and support she found as a McNair Scholar also encouraged Ramey to explore other academic interests. Cybersecurity was a field she had never considered for herself, but Southeast’s program and the opportunities it provides for students in and out of the classroom piqued her interest, Ramey said.

“I fell in love with programming and learning how to protect computer systems,” Ramey said.

Southeast’s cybersecurity program also guided her to turn her passion into a new career opportunity.

“There are so many opportunities and different types of jobs within cybersecurity even in the Cape Girardeau area that I didn’t really know about before,” Ramey said. “I knew I didn’t want to go into a profession where you only have one thing to do. But with cybersecurity, I have those options and can look for the (type of) jobs I actually want to do and even grow in.”

Ramey plans to graduate from Southeast in May with a Bachelor of Science with majors in mathematics and cybersecurity and hopes to continue her education in both disciplines.  She also hopes to land a job in the cybersecurity field in the southeast Missouri region.

Her experiences at Southeast have had a lasting impact on her personal growth and future, she added.

“I’ve gone from being a shy, college student to someone who has a sense of direction and purpose,” Ramey said. “I have the confidence to be successful in my chosen career. The faculty and programs at Southeast have had a positive impact on my future, and I firmly believe I would not have gotten this type of experience and education and become the person I am from anywhere else.”

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