New Professor Paulhus Entering Her Prime

New Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Jennifer Paulhus is a self-described nerd. Her dissertation was about the Jacobian varieties of curves, something that few Grinnellian nerds have even heard of.

“They’re just these crazy math objects, and what I studied was how you break them up, kind of like factoring … I study questions about numbers, how they work, and where they come from,” Palhaus said. “I like to be as nerdy as possible. I love math and I love thinking about mathy stuff.”

Despite having a variety of non-mathematical interests, including racquetball and baking, Paulhus tends to steep the rest of her life in math. She recently adopted two cats from the local animal shelter.

“The cats have mathematician names, Cayley and Maschke,” Paulhaus admitted.

Perhaps as an example of her nerdy qualities, these names refer to Arthur Cayley and Heinrich Maschke, two famous scholars who made contributions to mathematical group theory.

Paulhus, who grew up in a small town located in West Virginia not unlike Grinnell, graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1999 with a degree in Mathematics. Not all of Paulhus’ post-college energies have been dedicated towards mathematics—however after college, Paulhus took a year off to join the Americorps program.

“I started grad school and decided I needed a year off,” she said. “I worked in a homeless shelter for most of that time.”

From there, Paulhus attended graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she specialized in Number Theory. After graduating in 2007, Paulhus did a three-year postdoctoral program at Kansas State University and then worked for a year at Villanova University prior to coming to Grinnell.

This semester, Paulhus teaches two sections of Calculus I and a 300-level math class called Foundations of Abstract Algebra. She also hopes to continue her research of number theory during her one-year tenure at Grinnell.

“I like the balance of research and teaching here. I have always liked math, but I didn’t know I liked teaching until I got to grad school,” she said. “[Here at Grinnell,] the students have been great so far. When I visited last year, the students seemed to have a nice collegiality with their professors, and I liked that concept.”

Paulhus’s husband, Joseph Mileti, has been an Assistant Professor of Mathematics here since 2009. Paulhus and Mileti enjoy life in small-town Grinnell.

“I was near Philadelphia last year, and everyone was always in such a rush. It’s nice to have people say hi to me again,” said Paulhus. “The big city was okay, but I really missed the Midwest, so when this position opened up, I thought I’d take it.”

Besides enjoying living in a small town, Paulhus also likes the small size of her math classes. Names are easy to learn, and there’s time for all students to speak up and ask questions.

“Teaching a big class is harder, because you have to deal with lots of students and you can’t personalize it at all—you just go out there and lecture,” she said. “The tradeoff is when it’s a smaller class, I think there are bigger expectations on the professor.”

Luckily for Paulhus, she shouldn’t have to worry about being able to fulfill these expectations. After a warm welcome from the Mathematics & Statistics department and students, Paulhus’ immense knowledge of number theory is sure to count for something.