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Vik Shirvaikar

Photo of Vik Shirvaikar
Math and Economics
Scientific Computation
Graduation Year:
Spring 2019
"Guiding students to figure out questions or concepts is nice, but the most rewarding part is seeing how they evolve as problem-solvers over the course of a semester."

What has been the most surprising aspect of your job?
I’m always surprised by how helpful it can be to just hear different people explain the same thing. Often when students find something confusing, they know everything they need to know – they just need to hear it all put together differently. In that case, I try to have other students explain it, or find an angle myself that may not have been presented in class, and this almost never fails.

What has been the most rewarding part about working at the Sanger Center?
Guiding students to figure out questions or concepts is nice, but the most rewarding part is seeing how they evolve as problem-solvers over the course of a semester. In my role as a PLUS Peer Coordinator, I work with students in GOV 341M, Decision Theory. It’s a course in game theory and applied math intended for government students, who usually haven’t taken any recent mathematical coursework. I really like watching how their initial discomfort with the material turns into assurance and creative curiosity as the semester progresses.

Tell us about a time you worked with a student (or group of students) and were particularly proud of the outcome. What happened? Why was it special?
I had a student in the Fall 2017 semester who came to every PLUS session for the entire semester, showing up early to prepare and staying late to ask questions. He was a nontraditional student in his final semester, having returned to college to finish his degree after some time away from academics. It was inspiring to see how, despite having gone through so much, he kept a sustained interest in the course material, and worked extremely hard to finish strong.

What do you think is the biggest myth about learning/studying in college?
I often hear people say “I’m not a math person” or “I’m not a literature person” to justify staying away from a given subject or set of material. I totally disagree with the notion that certain people just aren’t cut out for certain fields. We all have the ability to thrive anywhere if we just apply ourselves – overcoming this false psychological barrier is half the battle.

Tell us about an academic challenge you encountered when you got to UT. How did you handle it? What advice would you give to someone in that same situation?
When I first got to UT, I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the transition between high school classes, where you can ask a question at almost any time, and college courses, where this can often feel awkward or uncomfortable. The key insight for me was realizing through discussions with friends that, in almost every case, someone else has the same question you do. Even if you’re worried your question might be silly, speak up and ask it – I can guarantee you that other students have similar sources of confusion, and will be thankful to you for clearing it up.