Carnegie Mellon University
November 07, 2023

Alumnus Dylan Quintana Applies Engineering to Math Instruction

By Heidi Opdyke

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

In coming to teach at Carnegie Mellon University, Dylan Quintana returned home.

Quintana, who graduated from Carnegie Mellon with his bachelor's degree in mathematical sciences and materials science and engineering in 2015, grew up in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, less than an hour from the Pittsburgh campus. His original goal in going to college close to home was to become an engineer.

"I didn't really get into math until I started taking some heavier math classes at the end of my freshman year," Quintana said. "I always liked math, and then decided I really liked the theoretical aspects of it. For my graduate degree, I pivoted into pure math."

Now a full-time teaching professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, things have come full circle for Quintana. During the fall 2023 semester, he taught 21-254, linear algebra and vector calculus for engineers.

"All of my engineering knowledge is super useful," he said. "I can tell the students the applications of what they are learning and how it will apply for their engineering classes.

Quintana earned his doctorate in mathematics in 2021 at the University of Chicago and was advised by Sasha Razborov and Madhur Tulsiani. While at Chicago, he was a teaching fellow for the Chicago Center for Teaching and helped run classes and workshops for other university instructors. He then taught math at Harvard University as a postdoctoral fellow before returning to Carnegie Mellon.

While he hasn't conducted research since completing his doctoral thesis, Quintana said he hopes to be able to help with undergraduate research in the future. As a rising senior at Carnegie Mellon, he participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates at Rutgers University, and said it helped him decide what he wanted to pursue in graduate school.

"Since I left graduate school, I've mostly been away from conducting research, but it's something I'd like to get back to, either myself on the side or working with undergraduate students on some projects. I think it could be really interesting.

He's won awards for teaching already. At the University of Chicago, he received the Lawrence & Josephine Graves Teaching Prize in 2019 and an award from the Physics Sciences Division. Quintana said he wants students to appreciate how math impacts all aspects of life.

"There's the cliché that are we ever going to use this math in real life? And the answer is always yes," he said. "If you look closely enough at things, we see there's some kind of pattern or something you can describe mathematically. Math really describes a bunch of different things with the same language, and once you learn the language, you can do so many, many different things with it."