B.A. Math and History ’08
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Fun Fact: Is a big fan of carpentry and home remodeling
From a C in calculus to a Ph.D. in math, Anchorage native Tom Haydock’s story is one of persistent effort and sweeping results. With the help of “the outstanding teaching” of professors at UAA, the Dimond High School graduate started as a history major and finished as a double major in history and math as well as a minor in physics. He worked as a tutor and research assistant and went on to the U.S. Army National Guard with his bachelor’s degree in hand.
“Attending Basic Combat Training with a bachelor’s degree was exceptionally helpful,” says Tom, who was able to enter at a higher pay grade and have an opportunity to serve as a platoon leader because of his higher education. His tutoring and research experience at UAA also translated to better chances for additional teaching practice. After officer candidate school in the summer of 2009, Tom entered graduate school at Washington State University and earned his master’s and doctorate in math in only two years.
“I credit much of my success with the work ethic that I learned from my parents and the outstanding math education I received at UAA, especially from Dr. Debbie Narang (among others). Dr. Narang’s passion for math and drive to provide outstanding teaching set her apart from my previous math teachers and ultimately set me on the path to earning a Ph.D. in math,” he says. “Additionally, the teaching experience I gained at UAA, both through tutoring and serving as a lab instructor, set me ahead in the classes I taught at grad school.”
During grad school, Tom also served as an infantry platoon leader for the Washington Army National Guard. That role “has been the most rewarding and demanding job that I’ve had to date,” he says, highly recommending the Army, and infantry in particular, to others. “Dealing with the demands of a double major and minor at UAA, coupled with tutoring, staying in shape and holding a side job as a finish carpenter as an undergrad prepared me for challenges of leading my platoon, staying proficient as a infantry soldier, taking classes, teaching and doing research in grad school.”
Tom has packed a lot in, in a short amount of time. And has learned a lot of lessons along the way as a result. To find success in grad school, he recommends making the most of the undergraduate years, seeking out tutoring and teaching opportunities, asking professors to provide classes on topics that interest you that might not be regularly offered and picking a research subject that won’t require years of studying before you can start your own research.
Having moved back to Alaska this summer, working for Siemens Building Technologies and recently promoted to executive officer with hopes of becoming captain for his remaining two years committed to the National Guard, Tom isn’t ready to quit expanding his horizons just yet. In fact, he’s looking beyond the horizon. He plans to take additional physics classes at UAA and possibly earn a private pilot’s license. Last January he also applied with NASA to become an astronaut. It sounds like it’s that easy—just turn in an application. But it’s clear from Tom’s background that it takes pretty exceptional work experience and education to vie for a spot in the astronaut candidate pool.
“UAA was a great experience for me and prepared me immensely for both grad school and the rigors of being an infantry platoon leader,” he says, a testament to the hard work as an undergraduate that will hopefully pay astronomical dividends. (Pun intended.)