Carnegie Mellon University
December 12, 2022

Alissa Crans Mentors Mathematicians

By Kirsten Heuring

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

After almost 20 years of teaching mathematics at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, California, Alissa Crans is spending this year at Carnegie Mellon University after she earned the Shelley Distinguished Professorship.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity," Crans said. "I can talk to people outside of my own department, engage in everything that the department has to offer in terms of seminars, colloquia and graduate students."

The Shelley Distinguished Professorship is an opportunity for experienced mathematics professors to teach at CMU for an academic year.

Crans has done extensive research in quantum algebra and geometric topology, and she said she hopes to inspire students to be as passionate about math as she is.

This fall semester, Crans taught Linear Algebra, an elective for junior and senior mathematical sciences majors, and she assisted with EUREKA!, a core curriculum class for all first-year students in the Mellon College of Science.

"The students are incredibly dedicated to their education, and as an instructor, it's very rewarding to know that the students are motivated, curious, interested and hard working," Crans said. "That leads to really great conversations in the classroom."

Crans also has been mentoring three teaching postdoctoral fellows  a new program for the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Crans meets with the postdoctoral researchers regularly to offer advice on teaching and applying for tenure-track positions.

"We are thrilled with everything Alissa is bringing to the Shelley fellow position within such a short period of time, clearly setting a high bar for the future," said Prasad Tetali, the Alexander M. Knaster Professor of Mathematical Sciences and department head. "Delivering effective instruction in mathematics to the CMU students has always been a top priority of our department; the creation of the new teaching postdoctoral fellowship positions, along with providing appropriate support and eventual placement of the fellows, is our effort to contribute to the national workforce in high-quality mathematics instruction."

Outside of the classroom, Crans strives to make sure that mathematics is a welcoming place for students from all backgrounds. A member of the Association for Women in Mathematics, she has reached out to the students in the CMU chapter and has participated in lunches and teas, making sure that women in mathematical sciences know the resources available to them.

"Thanks to the AWM, I got involved in various activities as an undergraduate," Crans said. "I was supported as a graduate student as a pre-tenured faculty member. Giving back to that community is something that I've worked very hard at over the course of my career."