We asked Dickman to share a bit more about her journey as a Sun Devil.

Question: What do you like most about mathematics, and your area of mathematical oncology?

Answer: I love the wide applications of mathematics. I love how mathematics can be used to make a difference in the world! Any phenomenon we take for granted, mathematics can be used to describe and better understand. In my area of mathematical oncology, mathematics can help understand what mechanisms cause treatments to fail, which allows for designing treatments that can better succeed.

Q: What is something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I learned the truth of Einstein’s famous words: “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” Even in my specialization of mathematical oncology, there are a vast number of areas to explore. At first it seemed daunting how much there remains to learn, but I now view it as an exciting quest to be a lifelong student.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: To enter industry, continuing a goal of using mathematics to improve health care. I will join HSAG (Health Services Advisory Group) as a senior data analyst, but my role will involve analyzing data to make informed decisions on how to improve quality of care. In doing this, I will use a mixture of mathematical skills, including statistics and logic-based reasoning, to make a measurable difference in helping patients get the treatment needed. I mainly wanted to find a job that would allow me to help lessen the painful experiences people undergo as a result of health problems while using some form of mathematics, and this job will allow me to do that.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: My adviser Dr. Yang Kuang taught me the most important lesson, that there is something to be learned even when things do not work out. Often much of the growth comes in the early stages of a project, when you have to try and fail multiple times.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to those still in school?

A: To take advantage of all the opportunities afforded you. Attend the seminars, conferences and luncheons. Talk to different professors and students. You are constantly surrounded by unbelievably bright minds, and you can learn something through each interaction. Also, do not forget the importance of taking a break every now and then. Sometimes the most productive move is to step away from your work and get outside for a while.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus is the courtyard of the Social Sciences building. It is unique, peaceful and gives you the feel of being in nature while in the middle of a college campus. When walking around the school, I often go out of my way to pass through the courtyard.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time for fun?

A: I love to be active. I love to hike, rock climb and play sports — sand volleyball, ultimate frisbee, basketball, pickleball, you name it. When I’m not outside, I also enjoy solving any form of puzzle — jigsaw, sudoku, crossword, etc. — and reading.

Q: What do you think is most misunderstood about math by the general public?

A: Math is often misunderstood to be boring and lacking in creativity. From determining what types of questions to ask and what tools to use in tackling those questions, mathematics is entirely an exercise in creativity. Mathematics is far more than rote learning. It is a beautiful, creative language to describe the world.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I am a believer in the power of education, as it can open doors and instill confidence. While it would take more than $40 million, I would therefore tackle illiteracy. It is a problem that is at the root of countless global issues.

Rhonda Olson
Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences