Lloyd, Christopher

Tell us about your education and/or career path since graduating from UMW. What is your current role?
After graduating from the University of Mary Washington in 2016 with a major in mathematics and a minor in computer science, I entered the University of Virginia’s mathematics Ph.D. program. Under the careful guidance of my advisor Dr. Nicholas J. Kuhn I successfully proved a new result, bundled my 165-page thesis together, and graduated with my Ph.D. in the Spring of 2021.
After graduating I began work as a mathematician for the Federal Aviation Administration. In this role I work on improving the efficiency of the National Airspace System. I have had the opportunity to travel internationally to conferences and present papers.

Tell us about your involvement in undergraduate research with math faculty. How did you initiate that experience?
During my final year, Dr. Helmstutler approached me about the prospect of working on an undergraduate honors thesis. This opportunity gives the student a tiny taste of what writing a Ph.D. might be like. The research problem was in the area of non-commutative cryptography. Most modern cryptography relies on the key fact that you can multiply two numbers and b as either ab or ba and get the same thing. This area of research tries to figure out how to make cryptography work using a’s and b’s where ab is not equal to ba. The hope would be that this might yield a stronger form of encryption.
The key takeaway from my experience doing undergraduate research is perseverance. Most problems (in math and life) do not have solutions, and for those that do, you have to work hard.

What advice do you have for a current or prospective student?
University of Mary Washington is an excellent place to be exposed to lots of different subjects. Even if you think you know what you want to study, it is still worth taking subjects out of your comfort zone. My biggest regret in my undergraduate career was not taking enough statistics courses.

How did your time at UMW prepare you for your career?
I am of the opinion that a degree in mathematics teaches you how to think clearly and articulate yourself. This skill is completely transferable to any domain. A mathematician is constantly asking themselves questions like “are these assumptions true?”, “do I need all of these assumptions?”, “what happens if I remove this constraint?” This is why math majors are very hirable.

What non-math skill did you acquire at UMW that has been helpful in your life after UMW?
Collaboration and communication skills. At its core, math is about communicating ideas effectively and clearly. You may have come up with the best idea ever, but if no one can understand it, then it is of no use. Studying math can be a lot of fun, especially if you form a group of math major friends to study together with. It will really help your communication skills.