Anna Haensch is one of two mathematicians selected for the prestigious Mass Media Fellowship this year.
When Anna Haensch tells new acquaintances that she’s a mathematician, many people immediately recoil.
“There’s this repellent nature to math,” she said. “There’s this big wall up around it—people find it terrifying or uninteresting.”
That’s exactly why Haensch, a Ph.D. student who just successfully defended her dissertation, wants to learn how to communicate better to the general public about math. She is the recipient of a Mass Media Fellowship, administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Haensch’s fellowship is sponsored by the American Mathematical Society (AMS). The 10-week summer program, which starts June 3, places graduate and post-graduate level science, engineering and mathematics students at media organizations around the country, where they develop skills to translate their work to the public. Haensch will be stationed at the NPR Science Desk in Washington, D.C.
She was one of two mathematicians selected for the prestigious fellowship this year. Thirteen fellowship recipients in other scientific fields will be stationed at media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, NOVA, Scientific American, and WIRED.
Haensch, who earned her undergraduate degree at the State University of New York at New Paltz, has been at Wesleyan for the past six years, working on number theory under Professor of Mathematics Wai Kui Chan.
“I plug integers into polynomials and see what integers I get out,” she explained. “This is a question that’s really easy to ask, but it’s very hard to get our hands on the solution. Over the last several hundred years, this has been a question people have been very interested in.”
After passing her qualifying exams at Wesleyan, Haensch began teaching courses in pre-calculus
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