Math before dessert

Lawrence Seminario holds up his diploma at UNL graduation.

Math before dessert. It’s a childhood rule Lawrence Seminario’s parents arranged that started his journey to becoming a mathematician.

Growing up in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, Seminario had to read math books and do practice problems under his parents’ supervision to help sharpen his math skills before he could have any pie for dessert. Seminario didn’t mind it, though, because through that time he spent studying, he realized mathematics was far more than just “problem solving.”

“I got to see that mathematics is a precise language that allows us to logically navigate through the mind, which must always be coupled with reality,” Seminario said.

His decision to pursue a degree in mathematics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was highly influenced by the trip he made with his high school for the annual Math Day competition, hosted by the Department of Mathematics. Seminario went on to graduate from Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in May 2018 and was accepted into the Ph.D. program at UNL in applied mathematics.

As an undergrad at Nebraska, Seminario was president of the UNL Math Club (Pi Mu Epsilon) and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the National Society of Leader and Success. He also participated in research studies through the UCARE program and tutored students in the Math Resource Center.

“I chose UNL because it has exactly what I’m looking for from a knowledge perspective, and because of its outstanding, supportive math professors,” Seminario said. “Besides, I am a Cornhusker deep in mind, body and soul, and I can never forget my great Husker pride.”

Seminario also was accepted to a math Research Experience for Undergraduate students at the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics located at UCLA. He spent nine weeks working on an industry-based math project sponsored by the Aerospace Corporation with three other students from other universities.

“This was my first experience doing applied mathematical research on a specific industrial problem, and it was one that I enjoyed enormously because I got a systematic understanding of what it means to do work and research in applied mathematics geared towards industry,” Seminario said.

Beyond the dinner table, his father’s experience as an engineer and university professor and his mother’s involvement in her family’s business showed Seminario that mathematical skills could benefit any career.

As the son of Peruvian immigrants, Seminario, who is fluent in Spanish, enjoys spending his summer breaks visiting family in Peru.

“I have always had a strong admiration of the ancient Peruvian culture, and I like to go visit some of the archeological sites and Inca ruins down there - most notably, Machu Picchu,” he added.

When he is not focusing on his studies, Seminario said he loves to spend time at the Campus Recreation Center, where he enjoys lifting weights, running on the treadmill, swimming and playing ball. He also enjoys strategy and skill games such as chess, billiards and bowling, and he even does some drawing. Some of his newest hobbies include playing the harmonica and writing poetry.

Seminario said he knows he still has a lot to learn about life, but he does appreciate that a college education opens up challenging doors with well-paid opportunities.

“College will add market value to your person, and it will make you more competitive in the job place,” Seminario said. “Don’t forget that knowledge is power and enthusiastic persistence is the way to go.”

--Alli Davis, Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education