Stellar Student: Kelly Buch

In her short time at SIUE, Kelly Buch has excelled in advanced math and biology courses.

Kelly Buch, a double major in math and Spanish, stands in front of the Alhambra, a palace and fortress built in the 14th century in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Buch)

Now, Buch’s search for new ways to challenge herself academically has taken her overseas.

This semester, Buch has traveled to the University of Granada in southern Spain to study Spanish. Buch said her semester at Granada’s University Modern Languages Centre, is another way to test herself.

“To me studying Spanish is like the ultimate mental challenge,” said Buch, a native of nearby O’Fallon. “I have to think about so much all at once when I’m speaking Spanish. I have to think about vocab from years ago and from last week, grammar rules, and colloquial expressions all at the same time. You never know what’s going to come up. With math, I don’t get to do that as much. For the most part, you only have to use the math specific to that class or maybe the previous class. Speaking Spanish makes me think.”

Her zest to meet challenges has translated into success. Buch maintains a 4.0 GPA and earned the SIUE College of Arts and Sciences’ Stellar Student award. Her academic interests centers on three subjects, math, biology and Spanish. Buch plans to pursue a double major in Spanish to add to her mathematics major.

Buch said would like to work as a researcher in biomathematics, but will not be able to use advanced math as a high school math teacher as she had originally planned. The sophomore has amassed enough credit hours to be a senior.

“She’s a hardworking student,” SIUE Math and Statistics Professor Cindy Traub said. “She has a lot of natural talent, but she’s humble about it. She asks a lot of questions. She’s sort of restless until she figures things out.”

While Buch remains open to teaching math one day, she says her immediate plans have changed.  Instead, she would like to pursue a career in Biomathematics.

Buch has been invited to attend Arizona State University’s Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute’s research experience for undergraduates. SIUE does not offer biomathematics as a major, so Buch said she will minor in Biology and take courses that will prepare her for graduate study.

“I’m just constantly amazed by how the world has changed and how we got here and how systems in the body work,” Buch said. “It’s so intricate, and it’s mind-blowing that all of this came from mutations in DNA over billions of years. So I’ll be using math to try to explain how all of these intricacies work.”

Last semester she served as class leader for Traub and tutored other students.

“I could see my students’ performance improve in my class after having attended tutoring with Kelly,” Traub said. “She’s very conscientious and detailed in how she prepares to teach and it reflects in her teaching.”

Buch learned she had a talent for math early in life. As a student at O’Fallon High School, she competed in the Excellence in Mathematics contest at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park and also earned the SIUE’s prestigious Meridian Scholarship, awarded to outstanding high school students who rank at the top of their class.

“I’ve loved math as long as I can remember,” Buch said. “It’s always come easy to me. High school was when I realized just how much I enjoyed it. But there was never really a time that I decided that I wanted to study math. It was always obvious for me.”

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