In every person’s educational journey, they will surely have studied mathematics at some point in time. Be it learning about fractions and percentages, or more complex topics like calculus, there’s no denying the importance of these subjects in our daily lives. DigiPen (Singapore)’s Department of Mathematics and Physics is headed by Dr. Wu Yilin. Together with her team, they develop a variety of courses in theoretical and applied segments of both fields in order to cultivate the logical and analytical thinking that’s required of students.
Yilin has always been passionate about the subject and pursued it into higher education with a Ph.D. in mathematics from Temple University in Philadelphia. “I’m a firm believer in the power of mathematics,” she says. “It provides a foundation for all sciences, and I see it as a key that can unlock the mysteries of the universe.” She adds that what she loves most about the field is how mathematical principles can be applied to a multitude of real-world problems to find solutions that can benefit society. They can be used to reveal patterns and connections that might otherwise go unnoticed.
While pursuing her postgraduate studies at Temple University, Yilin also had her first taste of instructing as a teaching assistant. She taught courses in statistics, probability, calculus, and differential equations, and she relished the opportunity to share about her love for mathematics with her classes. In 2018, Yilin also had the opportunity to spend six months teaching at the Temple University campus in Tokyo. This gave her a unique perspective on the diverse needs of students in different cultural contexts. “The opportunity to experience new countries and cultures while sharing knowledge with students is truly rewarding,” Yilin says.
After almost six years of teaching at Temple University, Yilin accepted a position as an assistant professor at DigiPen in 2019. She taught at the Redmond campus for over three years. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, an opportunity to transfer to DigiPen (Singapore) came up and Yilin gladly accepted it. As someone born and raised in an Asian culture, Yilin shares that she feels right at home in Singapore. “The local food and warm climate have been especially enjoyable, and I’m grateful for the chance to live and work in such a vibrant place,” she says.
At DigiPen (Singapore), Yilin currently teaches courses in probability and statistics. She finds these topics particularly interesting as they are related to big data — an area with myriad applications and relevance in today’s interconnected world. Yilin explains that mathematics and physics play a central role in multiple computer science fields and applications. This holds especially true at DigiPen (Singapore), where such modules make up a large part of the curriculum.
While working on interactive simulations and games as part of their projects, students have to deploy many mathematical models. For example, programmers will have to calculate and implement physics models in a game in order to make it seem realistic when objects fall or collide. In a similar fashion, they also have to make use of probability and statistics to understand the possible effects of randomness in their games. As such, it is essential that Yilin’s department finds a way to make these mathematical subjects engaging and relevant for the students.
In order to do so, Yilin and her team have developed a dynamic and multidisciplinary approach to teaching these topics in order to emphasize their practical, real-world applications. Each of the faculty members bring a wealth of experience to the classroom and are able to prepare interactive lectures, hands-on projects, and problem-solving exercises. “By demonstrating the connections between mathematics, physics, and computer science, we are able to help students see the broader picture and gain a deeper appreciation for the underlying concepts that drive the field forward,” Yilin says.
All in all, Yilin enjoys engaging her students in open and thought-provoking conversations through fostering an inclusive learning environment. In the same way, she is also constantly motivated and inspired by them and the fresh perspectives that they bring to the table. By sharing her knowledge and providing a solid grounding in mathematics, Yilin hopes to inspire the next generation of problem solvers to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.