Educator, Researcher, Mentor – Grethe Hystad Connects Students and Math
Grethe Hystad uses her passion for problem-solving to create an engaging learning environment for students.
December 3, 2021
An Active Educator
“I try to make my classes very active,” says Hystad. “I really enjoy showing students the many possibilities in the fields of math and statistics.”
Hystad makes a point to connect the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to real world applications. “Using real world problems for students to work on in class gives them an understanding of the practical applications of statistics. I like to show students how many cool things you can do in math and statisics,” she explains. In addition to the real world examples, she frequently brings in data from her own research studies to demonstrate the connection between theory and application.
Student engagement is a priority for Hystad and she uses group exercises to make her classes more interactive. She also uses a midterm survey as an innovative way to determine if the students are connected, engaged and interested in the lessons being presented. The survey also provides actionable insights about what is working and suggestions for what can be changed in a particular class.
Technology plays an important role in Hystad’s statistics classes. Introducing students to different types of software, like the statistical software package R and Jupyter Notebook, familiarizes them with the technology being used within the industry.
A Recognized Researcher
Hystad’s area of research focuses on applying statistical analysis to the fields of mineral evolution and mineral ecology, in particular to deep time events that relate to the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere. Her research earned her the 2021 Felix Chayes Prize for Excellence in Research in Mathematical Petrology from the International Association for Mathematical Geosciences. The award recognizes exceptional potential, proven research ability and outstanding contributions to statistical petrology or related applications of mathematics or informatics.
She is also part of a research team that received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The grant allows her to hire PNW students to work on the project and provides students an invaluable experience with investigating research problems and presenting findings.
A Model Mentor
“I really enjoy mentoring students,” says Hystad. “I like to give them guidance; but, I also let them try to figure things out themselves. This gives them some actual research experience.”
Her mentoring success can be seen in her students. Some of the students she’s mentored over the years have presented at the Geological Society of America, submitted and presented research projects and findings at PNW’s Days of Discovery and four of her undergraduate students worked on research projects funded with a grant from The Robert and Margaret Hazen Foundation.
“Doing research has made me a better educator,” says Hystad. “Teaching and doing research is a combination I really enjoy. It helps me connect with students and show them all the possibilities in the fields of math and statistics.”
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