### Mathematical Modeller: Brenda Hanley

Wake up and go for the coffee. The first decision of the day is which mug to use. Choice 1: a mug celebrating math. Choice 2: a mug making good-natured fun of math.

If we have a meeting at work, I sign onto Zoom and am often the first to arrive. [I don't know if it's a 'me thing' or a 'math profession thing' but being even one minute late to a meeting seems Earth-shattering. So better to be nine minutes early!]. Chat with whoever else came early, often about our hobbies or about what we did over the weekend. I've made the best job friends this way!

I work remotely, so these meetings are often the only human interaction I have all day. But that's not only a function of being remote - it's also a function of the nature of my work. The actual 'doing of the thing' - the math work itself - is often a solo sport. In fact, I did the math homework to earn my BS using a headlamp in a tent in the wilderness; to earn my MS on the tailgate of my truck in the woods while playing fetch with my dogs; and to earn my PhD from my backyard hammock. Given that the 'lab equipment' needed for math is often simply your brain, a pencil, and a piece of paper, it makes for incredible geographical flexibility. I especially love that I can be outside in nature and still make mathematical breakthroughs!

Being alone so much might sound boring - and, as an extrovert, some days it can be. But 99% of the days, the math is intensely interesting, so it is easy to forget that you are alone. The reason math is so interesting is that the problems are about finding patterns. Patterns emerge from natural phenomena in unique, curious, and brilliant ways. These patterns are often so beautiful that they engender wonder. For example, what does the math of an eagle population look like? How about the math of deer? How do these equations differ from the math of owls? These are all incredibly interesting inquiries into - what I call - the skeletal structure of nature itself.

Some math can be done while listening to audio with words, such as stand-up comedy. Other math requires wordless music. But for me, the hardest math problems require silence. In the latter case, it is good practice for me to set an alarm, so I don't blow through lunch, an afternoon meeting, or even through the close of business that day! The intense focus required of the most challenging math can cause time to melt away.

So, there you have it, a day in the life of a mathematical modeler! We chase the patterns that emerge from nature in an attempt to understand the natural world around us.

And of course, after a day of work, I close my computer and take my doggies out into nature to think more about what I learned!