Missouri State University
Helena Bel

Helena Bel

Calculating her career trajectory

Math and physics aren't always about having all the answers. To Helena Bel, they are helping her unlock a world of possibilities.

Most of us know two plus two equals four.

Solving complex equations, however, takes an ambitious pursuit of knowledge.

Cue Helena Bel, a double major in mathematics and physics.

With a zest for learning, Bel looked at universities that would allow her to explore both subjects.

Opportunities started adding up and began directing her toward Missouri State.

Right on par

Since she was nine years old, Bel has been a dedicated golfer.

Her proficiency on the golf course rewarded her with a scholarship from Missouri State and motivated her to join the women's golf team.

After high school, Bel took a chance and uprooted her big-city life in Zaragoza, Spain to get an education in the United States.

"I knew I wanted to come to the U.S. to play golf in college," she said.

She enrolled as an international student at Missouri State, where her scholarships would help cover her tuition.

Upon moving to Springfield, she was welcomed by friends who helped her transition to college life in the U.S.

Together, Bel and her friends share household responsibilities and serve as an emotional support system for each other.

"I know I'm going to remember all the memories that we have and everything that we've done in this house for the rest of my life. It's so fun," Bel said.

Summing up her interests

Throughout her studies at Missouri State, Bel developed valuable personal and professional skills.

"I really enjoy the (mathematics) major and the classes that I'm taking. I think it's really helped me learn to think and be very analytical."

Recognizing her knack for numbers, she found herself drawn toward the mathematics program.

"Growing up in school, I've always been really good with math," Bel said. "I also have a good memory, so I was good in history, remembering dates and stuff."

Going hand-in-hand with her mathematics interests, she also decided to study physics in college.

"My last year in high school, I took a physics class, and I really, really enjoyed it too," she said.

Bel's fascination with math and physics was inspired by her aunt's career choice: engineering.

Ever since Bel was a child, she has been impressed by her aunt's intelligence. Bel's admiration for her aunt also served as an incentive, leading her to acquire the knowledge that would allow her to closely follow in her aunt's footsteps.

"She was so smart, probably one of the smartest people I know," Bel said. "I was always like, 'I want to be like her.'"

Finding strength in numbers

Bel's educational journey was guided by supportive mentors who challenged and encouraged her to grow in her interests.

Getting out of her comfort zone, Bel has improved her research and presentation skills under the supervision of Dr. Ridwan Sakidja, a professor in the physics, astronomy and physical sciences department.

"Dr. Sakidja is awesome. I really like how he teaches, and he's very helpful with me," Bel said.

She recalls one of her favorite classes was PHY 291: Introduction to Computational Physics taught by Dr. David Cornelison.

"It was a fun class, and I really, really like how (Dr. Cornelison) taught the class. I also got to do a project with him. He was really understanding," Bel said. "He was awesome. He was probably one of my favorite teachers that I've had so far."

Bel plans to graduate in fall 2024 with her mathematics degree and in spring 2025 with her physics degree.

After graduation, she plans to pursue her master's degree in data science.

Dr. William Bray, the mathematics department head, has been supportive of her goals by assisting her search for graduate schools with a data science program.

"In the math department, my advisor, William Bray, he is also really, really good," she said. "He makes my life so much easier. He's a really good advisor."

Although Bel is still figuring out her place in the professional sphere, she continues to prove that she is anything but average in her academic pursuits.