Jessica Tomasko, a mathematics graduate, shares her experiences at Penn State Altoona and with the Schreyer Honors program.
The Schreyer Honors College is Penn State’s University-wide honors program. It comprises a broad set of opportunities for study, research, travel, and scholarly exploration in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The program’s hallmark is an honors thesis that allows students to showcase their diverse intellectual interests in the form of a substantial, independently inspired research or creative project.
Seven Penn State Altoona students graduated this spring from the Schreyer Honors College, including Jessica Tomasko. We caught up with Tomasko to ask a few questions about her experiences.
What made you choose Penn State Altoona?
My family is full of Penn State alumni. My older sister also went to Penn State Altoona, and the campus has many opportunities in the different areas of study I was interested in. After deciding to major in mathematics, the math faculty, small classes, and academic opportunities are what influenced me to stay.
Why did you become involved in the Honors College?
I thought it would be a good way to challenge myself and expand my academic experiences at Penn State Altoona.
What were the advantages of being a Schreyer Honors College student while at Penn State Altoona?
One of the biggest advantages of being a Schreyer scholar at Penn State Altoona is the access to faculty. When deciding on honors options and a thesis topic, it was extremely easy to find professors to ask for advice and assistance.
What did you learn about yourself and your abilities from being a Schreyer Scholar?
Being a Schreyer scholar confirmed my interest in research and allowed me to gain experience in conducting math research and writing a thesis.
Overall, how was your experience, and do you feel prepared for the next steps in your education/career?
The Honors College and being a Schreyer scholar allowed me to gain experience for graduate school, especially in terms of research and navigating challenging classes.
What is your advice for others considering combining Penn State Altoona and Schreyer Honors College?
While there are many professors and other faculty who will advise and help you, the motivation to make the most of these opportunities is up to you. You must be dedicated, passionate, and able to push yourself to pursue these experiences on your own.
Tomasko’s honors thesis “Odd Grassmannian Permutations Avoiding Patterns of Size Three” was completed under the direction of Dr. Juan Gil. Her thesis uses combinatorial arguments to count the restricted, odd Grassmannian permutations and describe connections between them and other objects.
“Jessica is a talented and exceptionally disciplined student with an impeccable work ethic and maturity to work independently,” states Gil. “Our first small research project together grew into a fruitful collaboration. As an ASURF (Altoona Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) recipient in the summer of 2021, Jessica was able to immerse herself in a more advanced research project, and I was very impressed with her work ethic and the level of intensity she displayed during that time. It truly felt like working with one of my professional collaborators. Jessica has made substantial and meaningful contributions to all of our projects, resulting in two publications, poster and conference presentations, and an ongoing project that we expect to complete this summer. Overall, I am very happy to have been part of Jessica's undergraduate education. I have no doubt that she will be successful in her pursuit of a graduate degree in mathematics, and I look forward to watching her grow into a professional mathematician.”
Tomasko plans to attend graduate school.
More than 4,000 of the Schreyer Honors College medallions have been presented to Penn State graduates over the years. They are inscribed with “scholarly achievement, integrity of purpose, and intellectual curiosity.” These medals are tangible symbols of the outstanding accomplishments and dedication of these students.