Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WonderTeam. WonderTeam Wonders, “Who is Fern Hunt?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WonderTeam!
If you’ve been WONDERing with us for a while, you may already know that math can influence art. But did you know math is also connected to other content areas? For example, it’s often used to learn about science and living things. Don’t believe us? Just ask Dr. Fern Hunt!
Who is Fern Hunt? She was born in New York City on January 14, 1948. Her mother was a typist, and her father was a mail handler. Hunt’s grandparents had moved to the United States from Jamaica before World War I.
When she was nine, Hunt received a chemistry set for Christmas. She quickly found that she enjoyed doing experiments and learning about science. In middle school, she met a science teacher who had a major impact on her. His name was Charles Wilson, and he was the only Black scientist Hunt met until she was in graduate school.
Wilson encouraged Hunt’s interest in science and math. Hunt’s parents also supported her studies. Throughout high school, she read many books that kept her love for math alive. When Hunt entered Bryn Mawr College, she chose to major in mathematics.
After graduating from Bryn Mawr, Hunt continued her studies at New York University (NYU). There, she received a fellowship to study math. However, Hunt lost this fellowship during school and started teaching part-time to cover expenses. She was also awarded a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship that helped pay for her studies.
In 1978, Hunt completed her Ph.D. in Mathematics at NYU. She then became a professor at Howard University. In 1981, Dr. Hunt also began working in the field of biomathematics. During this time, she worked at the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Dr. Hunt left Brown University in 1993. She then joined the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Since then, she has worked in NIST’s computing and applied mathematics lab.
What does Dr. Hunt do at NIST? She researches complex topics in mathematics. A great deal of her work concerns probability and dynamical systems. She also continues to study biomathematics. Dr. Hunt has worked to better understand the patterns of genetic variation in bacteria.
Looking back, Dr. Hunt says she takes a lot of satisfaction from her educational achievements. She points to support from her parents and teacher Charles Wilson as factors that helped shape her life. She was also deeply impacted by the Birmingham Children’s March and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Are you interested in math and science? There are many careers out there for people in these fields. Perhaps you’ll even work alongside Dr. Fern Hunt one day!
Standards: CCRA.R.10 CCRA.R.2 CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.W.1, CCRA.L.2