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Fran Herr awarded A&S Dean’s Medal in the Natural Sciences

Submitted by Rose Choi on July 11, 2022 - 3:43pm
Fran Herr
Excerpt from PERSPECTIVES | Article courtesy of Nancy Joseph

Each year, the Dean’s Medal honors one graduating senior from each of the College’s four divisions — Arts, Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences — based on academic performance and nominations from faculty.


Fran Herr is passionate about mathematics and dance. She pursued both at the UW and found ways to creatively connect the seemingly disparate interests.

Herr’s immersion in mathematics included five research projects, including participation in the Department of Mathematics’ Washington Experimental Math Lab and a summer project at Texas State University through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.

“Fran comes up with great, original ideas that demonstrate a deep understanding of what she is thinking about,” says Gaku Liu, assistant professor of mathematics, who served as mentor for Herr’s senior thesis project. “She not only has the intellectual ability to be a great researcher, but also the social skills and passion to be a leader in mathematical outreach and education.”

Herr’s interest in outreach led her to create a personal YouTube channel that uses pictoral explanations to present math concepts to a broader audience. After posting videos, she gathers feedback from friends outside the math community to hone her abilities as a math communicator. That skill will be much needed this fall, when Herr begins a year-long Exponent Fellowship at the National Museum of Mathematics, engaging visitors by answering questions and leading tours.

And then there’s Herr’s love of dance. In her UW dance courses, “Fran’s joy in learning is a gift to those around her, elevating discussions and prompting deeper thinking,” says Rachael Lincoln, associate professor of dance. Herr participated in three Department of Dance performances on film during COVID, and choreographed a work for the 2022 Dance Majors Concert using mathematics — specifically a solution to the Tower of Hanoi puzzle — as her inspiration. The result, says Lincoln, was “a layered and metaphor-rich dance."

During her time at the UW, Herr received a Barbara Sando Scholarship in Mathematics. After a year at the National Museum of Mathematics, she plans to pursue a PhD in mathematics.