By Shannon Boklaschuk
University of Saskatchewan (USask) student Jacob Taylor has always enjoyed mathematics and the satisfaction of solving math problems.
“There is a certain feeling you get when you finally solve a math problem, or come to a realization about something you have been thinking about for a while, that I have really only felt while doing math,” he said. “That feeling is probably the main reason I chose math over any other major.”
This spring, Taylor will graduate with a four-year Bachelor of Science (honours) degree from USask’s College of Arts and Science. The Department of Mathematics and Statistics has named him the Most Outstanding Graduate in Mathematics.
“I am very happy to receive this honour,” he said. “I have worked hard the past four years, and have had a lot of support from friends, family and professors along the way that has no doubt helped me tremendously.”
Taylor, who was born and raised in Saskatoon, has had many successes during his time at USask. He has received numerous scholarships, “and those have helped a great deal with tuition and other costs,” he said. This summer Taylor will embark on four months of undergraduate research through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
“This is the second summer I have been able to do this, which has been an amazing opportunity for me,” he said.
Taylor has also been committed to growing interest in mathematics and statistics throughout his undergraduate studies. During the 2019-20 academic year, for example, he was part of the executive of the Mathematics and Statistics Students Society. On several occasions, Taylor has also taken part in the highly challenging William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, which has been described by the Mathematical Association of America as “the leading university-level mathematics examination in the world.”
Taylor performed particularly well in the competition in 2017, putting him in the top 13 per cent of all contestants that year.
“The Putnam competition was a very fun experience. I have written the contest three years in a row, and the problems are always very difficult and very rewarding to think about,” he said. “My favourite part of the competition has always been the social aspect of it. We usually meet several times before the contest to do practice problems and eat pizza—and since nobody expects to do well anyway, these are always very fun, relaxed evenings.”
In the fall, Taylor will start a one-year master’s degree at the University of Toronto, with conditional acceptance into the PhD program after that. Since he is interested in a number of fields, he is hoping to narrow down a suitable PhD project during his first year of graduate studies.
While Taylor is moving on to the next stage of his academic journey, he will look back with fondness on his time at USask.
“Everyone at the university that I have met has always been very kind and helpful, and the environment here has always been welcoming,” he said. “Many professors here go above and beyond when it comes to helping students and making sure that everyone gets the opportunity to learn and grow.”