Jessalyn Bolkema

PhD Candidate
Department of Mathematics
University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Learn more

About Me

I have been a graduate student at the University of Nebraska since the fall of 2012. I am an applied algebraist, specializing in algebraic coding theory and graph theory. My advisor is Judy Walker, and I have collaborated extensively with my de facto co-advisor Katie Morrison at the University of Northern Colorado. I earned a BA in Math from Hope College in 2012 and an MS in Math from UNL in 2014.

Click here for my curriculum vitae (October 2017).



My current research activities are in coding theory - the mathematics of reliable communication. In particular, I'm working on a graph-theoretic framework for understanding polar codes, but in general, I'm excited about the interplay of graph theory, algebraic objects, and combinatorics, especially in the context of communication or information. I'm also interested in studying (and implementing!) best practices in undergraduate math education.

  • Hunting Rabbits on the Hypercube is on the Arxiv [1701.08726]!
  • Diagnostic Effects of an Early Mastery Activity in College Algebra and Precalculus accepted for publication!
  • Variations on the McEliece Cryptosystem is on the Arxiv [1612.05085]!
  • Past Events
    do math - see the world


    Courses taught as principal instructor:
  • Geometry Matters (Math 301)
  • Functions for High School Teachers (Math 811T)
  • Applied Calculus (Math 104)
  • Analytic Geometry and Calculus I (Math 106)
  • College Algebra (Math 101)

  • Curriculum and coordination experience:
  • Associate Convener for College Algebra (Math 101)
  • Course development, including lesson plans, worksheets, and assessments, for College Algebra (Math 101)

  • Courses taught as teaching assistant:
  • Nebraska Math: Primarily Math (Math 800P)
  • Math Excel Recitation for Analytic Geometry and Calculus II (Math 107)
  • Recitations for Analytic Geometry and Calculus II (Math 107)

  • Publications and Talks:
  • Holistic Course Redesign - A Study from the Trenches (with A. Donsig) (UNL Fall Symposium, November 2015)
  • N. Wakefield, J. Champion, J. Bolkema*, D. Dailey. Diagnostic Effects of an Early Mastery Activity in College Algebra and Precalculus (Submitted, September 2015)

  • Additional information:
  • Primarily Math is one of many really excellent and non-standard opportunities offered at UNL. It's a NebraskaMath program, part of a statewide partnership that exists to support and train in-service teachers of mathematics at all levels.
  • Here is a press release about Brace Labs, the building that is now home to most of UNL's pre-calculus level courses. This building was redesigned and remodeled over the summer of 2014 to facilitate active learning.
  • Projects

  • Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics (NCUWM) is my all-time, bar-none, favorite conference ever, both as a participant and as an organizer. Registration always fills up early, so check it out now!
  • I served as the math department representative on UNL's Graduate Student Association.
  • I really like teaching college algebra. There is a department-wide initiative happening to transform pre-calc at UNL, and it has made my job so much cooler and more interesting. I got to write lesson plans and mentor new instructors and watch students engage with mathematics in really exciting ways.
  • Once upon a time, I got to be an expert in the history of cryptography. The Great Plains National Security Education Consortium is a really neat program for college students/future members of the intelligence community that I worked with one summer.
  • I'm on the web development team for, an exciting new platform funded by the NSF for connecting women to opportunities, resources, and the rest of this amazing community.
  • Odds and ends:

    Math Club presentation on cryptography, coding theory, and code-based cryptography is here.

    My not-strictly-mathematical interests include knitting, bread making, reading, running, houseplant nurturing, film photography, speaking french, and playing cello. I like hanging out in airports and hiking through the mountains. As of mid 2017, I've completed five half-marathons.
    The ultimate honor of my life: there was a SET tournament at NASIT in 2014, and I emerged victorious.
    My advisor won a fancy award, and someone made this nice video. (Look for me and enjoy our very photogenic research meetings!)