Monday, May 2, 2022

Nyah Davis

Hometown: Des Moines, IA
Degree Program: Mathematics, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Graduate Program: PhD in Mathematics at Rice University

What was the focus of your research at Iowa?

I believe that math is a powerful lens through which we can view and understand the world. My current research interests are algebra and combinatorics, but I also intend to explore topology and number theory. I am specifically intrigued by the layered connections between different mathematical structures.

I completed my honors thesis about General Representations of Finite-Dimensional Algebras with mentor Prof. Ryan Kinser.

What drew you to those questions?

After taking significant coursework across algebra, analysis, and topology, expanding my knowledge base through classes in complex analysis and algebraic topology, faculty-led research, and the revision of papers. As my theoretical knowledge progressed along with my practical skills, I developed a more comprehensive familiarity with math through these many points of connection. I have come to understand that using different structures containing the same information often leads to a shift in my perspective and sheds light onto any problem I am working through, allowing me to explore new math whenever my curiosity is piqued. This gave me the confidence and traction to fully engage in conversations about mathematics with both peers and professors.

I see algebraic combinatorics as my path of discovery. As I observe and experiment with the relationships between seemingly unrelated concepts, math feels like a complex web of interconnected knowledge, some of which can be seen and some that remain out of reach. I want to keep exploring to establish new connections, to raise our collective understanding of the discipline. What “collective” means to me is something more expansive than the norm of working inside the field.  I want to work towards a new standard of collaboration between math specialties and other discipline. I believe by working collaboratively to understand the language of math, we can better relate to the world around us and solve some of the world’s most difficult challenges. To revolutionize the way math is both taught and understood, I need the time and training that come with doctoral study.

What advice do you have for undergrads looking to apply for the NSF GRFP?

Take the opportunity for self-reflection to get really clear on why you are applying and then express that as authentically as you can.

To learn more about the NSF GRFP and this year's recipients from the University of Iowa, go to