The University of Arizona

Alumni Early Career Profiles - Pavla Senkyrikova

Name: Pavla Senkyrikova
Education: B.S., Mathematics, The University of Arizona, 2006
B.S., Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics, The University of Arizona, 2006
Position: DDS Candidate
University of California, San Francisco
Sector: Health Care and Social Assistance


I am currently a second year dental student at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Dentistry, where I am pursuing a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. In addition to my DDS coursework, I have been involved in biomaterials research and active in student professional organizations. Admission to a professional program has definite prerequisites; however, an undergraduate is free to pursue any major. In fact, professional programs are looking for committed, well-rounded individuals with diverse backgrounds. In addition to the academic requirements, research and community involvement are, in today's competitive admission process, essential. Luckily the faculty in both the Math and Biochemistry Departments at The University of Arizona support undergraduate research and encourage students to apply for summer internships.

The first two years of a dental education deal with the basic sciences and practical theory; the last two years are spent in clinic, treating patients. While mathematics is not a tool used daily in this field (unless you are involved in research), the critical thinking skills that one obtains from a mathematics education (e.g., problem solving) are invaluable. Treating and evaluating patient needs is a complex process that requires practitioners to think on their feet and be ready to offer solutions, even when conventional plans fail.

With the accelerating adoption of new technologies in dentistry ranging from digital radiography, 3D models of restorations, laser microsurgery, optical diagnostic tools, to computerized office management programs, a mathematical background aids the practitioner who must make decisions regarding the procurement of these technologies and their subsequent use.

I graduated summa cum laude in 2006 from The University of Arizona, with a double major in Comprehensive Mathematics (Honors) and Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics. I have always loved math, and I wanted to take advantage of a math education, even though I knew I was headed towards a clinical health profession, where I would not use math extensively. I wanted the challenge of the mathematics curriculum and trusted in the adage of Dr. Vélez, "If you can do math, you can do anything."

A mathematics education has the potential to open a lot of doors. Not everyone can pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics, but at the undergraduate level, there is enough support and flexibility for anyone with the desire and commitment to successfully complete a mathematics degree. As a secondary major or degree, mathematics is the perfect complement to any other discipline, as well.

If you are not sure what career path you wish to follow, but have a strong interest in math and are wondering how far you can go in that field, do not hesitate. You will learn in your coursework what interests you the most and where your skills sets lie. You can take additional courses or pick up another major as you see fit. In any case, all other things held equal, having a major in mathematics is a definite way to stand out among the best candidates in whatever field you choose to enter.