Mathematics Major Receives Top Graduate Student Award

 Jake Reschke

Nathan O. Freedman Award winner Jake Reschke. Photo by Lee Choo.

When Jake Reschke was in high school, he didn’t even like math. The first-generation college student from the northeast San Fernando Valley community of Sunland-Tujunga — now a graduate student at California State University, Northridge — was a “decent” student but unfocused.

“I didn’t even know what I wanted to do,” Reschke said. “I was not a great student but I did like physics.”

This month, Reschke ’14 (Physics) will graduate with a master’s degree in mathematics and be recognized during Honors Convocation on Friday, May 20, as this year’s Nathan O. Freedman Outstanding Graduate Student, the highest honor presented to a CSUN graduate student who shows the best record of distinguished scholarship — thanks to the support and guidance he has received from CSUN faculty. To qualify for the honor, candidates must maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.5. The 25-year-old Reschke has a 4.0 GPA.

“This award is a reflection of the hard work of my professors,” Reschke said. “It’s really gratifying to be recognized as the best after all my hard work.”

Reschke enrolled at CSUN as an undergraduate in 2009, majoring in geological sciences, at the suggestion of a family friend.

“Nobody in my family had attended college, and my dad’s friend was a geologist with a state job that looked pretty comfortable,” Reschke recalled. “I figured a geology major didn’t have to do much math.”

In high school, he found math “dry and pointless,” Reschke said. He said his goal was to avoid it. However, in 2011, he changed his major to physics with a minor in mathematics. He graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in physics.

“Physics made sense to me,” Reschke said. “It came very naturally.”

During his senior year, Reschke enrolled in Department of Mathematics professor David Klein’s course in general relativity. He credits Klein with helping to change his career path.

“Professor Klein’s course was the first experience I had in applying pure mathematics to physical problems,  ” Reschke said. “The clarity that the pure mathematical approach afforded to the study of gravity convinced me to change directions and study mathematics, rather than physics in graduate school.”

“My intention when I started college was to just get a degree and go to work, but I realized I wanted to do research and it was possible to make that a career,” Reschke added.

At CSUN, Reschke has worked as a teaching assistant in the Department of Mathematics, as a physics tutor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and he was awarded a summer research grant to work with physics professor Ana Cadavid. He is president of One Struggle, a student club focused on the science of climate change and the political and economic forces around that issue. He also co-authored a paper with Klein in 2015 that was published in the Journal of Mathematical Physics.

As a result of his hard work, Reschke has been accepted into a doctoral program in mathematics at the University of California at Davis.