By Zoe Lance

Mayra Sahagun

When Mayra Sahagun is driving to the CI campus, she pays special attention to the road. She notices which freeway entrances have ramp meters and where lanes merge. She glances at the clock when traffic seems particularly heavy or light, and makes a mental note of where the bottlenecks are.

While Sahagun knows traffic as well as any Southern Californian, she has a vested interest in traffic flow. For her master’s thesis in mathematics, Sahagun is using applied principles to research traffic control in her own backyard. Using Caltrans data, she’s figuring out where traffic controls would alleviate congestion on Highway 101 from Woodland Hills to Hollywood.

Sahagun finds her thesis’s real-world connection exciting. “People use freeways, especially if you live in Los Angeles,” she said. “If we could find something to monitor traffic so there wouldn’t be as much or make it smoother, people in the area would be really happy about it. It’s important for not just my project, but other people that enjoy math and want to find something to apply math to.”

“I like how there’s math in anything. You get to apply it to your everyday life.”
–Mayra Sahagun

For as long as she can remember, Sahagun has loved math and wanted to be a teacher. As an undergraduate math student at CI, she had her sights set on a teaching career. She also started teaching remedial math classes at the university in 2014, her first year as a graduate student. But her thesis, with the help of her advisor Cynthia Flores, brought up the idea of using math outside of the classroom.

“Dr. Flores said, ‘You can do these other things with math.’ I didn’t think about it because I’ve always had my mind set on ‘I want to be a teacher,’” Sahagun said. “She’s opening my mind with other career opportunities.”

The faculty support has empowered Sahagun throughout her academic career. As a first-generation college student from Oxnard, she’s appreciated the encouragement to explore her love for math.

“The grad program has definitely been a good influence,” she said. “The Math program definitely prepares you for any scenario in the real world. Any job, you’ll be prepared for that.”

Sahagun is exploring a career in traffic modeling and analysis. But teaching isn’t off the table  —  when she graduates in June, she plans to return to CI for her credential and teach at local community colleges. But wherever she goes, she knows she’ll be using her math degrees.

“I like how there’s math in anything. You get to apply it to your everyday life,” she said. “If you’re buying a home, if you’re thinking about getting a car or investing in something important, you always need your math.”

© Spring 2016 / Volume 20 / Number 01 / Bi-annual