“My family is made up of huge Michigan State fans, so I always grew up cheering for the Spartans and going to games in the Breslin Center. Once I realized that Michigan State had an incredible track record in world-class research to go along with their amazing campus and student body, I knew that MSU was the best place for me.” THOMAS GRUBB Mathematics and Economics ’17 College of Natural Science 2016-17 Dean’s Research Scholar THOMAS GRUBB Mathematics and Economics ’17 Haslett, MI A conversation with Thomas . . . What is the societal impact of your research: Results in coding theory have led to several real-world applications that increase the effciency and robustness of digital communication. Have you ever scratched the surface of a CD or DVD and still had it play? You can thank coding theory for that. How has your undergraduate experience been impacted by this research opportunity: Doing research has taught me how to problem solve. There is no answer key to fall back on when you’re stuck during your research, so you have to think outside of the box and remain persistent in the face of failure. Developing these qualities has helped me, not only as a mathmetician, but as a person. What is something you never expected at MSU: I never expected that on a campus of roughly 50,000 students I would find such a close-knit group of friends and mentors to work with. If your little brother/sister was coming to MSU, what is one piece of advice you would give them: Everything is better in moderation (especially Brody cafe). “My current research deals with a field of math called coding theory, which studies how data can be effciently encoded and transmitted through various channels.” Coolest gadget: I don’t have too many cutting-edge gadgets, but I can program my coffee maker to brew a pot of coffee at the start of each day which is always a nice way to wake up. Best invention: Is it cheating to say modern medicine? Antibiotics and vaccines have done wonders to extend life expectancy rates and who knows where I would be without my glasses. Worst invention: Turkey bacon. It makes eating healthy almost not worth it. Person you’d most like to meet, living or dead: Definitely Paul Erdos. He was an incredibly prolific mathematician and led a very eccentric lifestyle. I would have loved to have been able to collaborate with him on a problem. On a Saturday afternoon, we’ll likely find you: Watching Netflix and trying to learn how to cook. Major research breakthrough of the next decade: I think artificial intelligence is going to see a huge surge in the next decade or two. We have already recently seen huge breakthroughs in subfields, such as machine learning, and it will definitely be exciting to see what happens next. What are some of your favorite MSU memories: During my freshman and sophomore years, MSU witnessed two very intense winters. I did not appreciate the wind chill, but walking along the Red Cedar while it was covered in so much fresh snow is not something I will soon forget.
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