Charles Petersen

Charles Petersen

Dean's Scholar

College of Science


Why did you choose your major?

I was accepted to San Jose State as a mechanical engineering major, but during the time between applying and actually attending I became hooked on mathematics. I was drawn to the abstraction, logic and generality. Though most of all it is a lot of fun to work on and solve problems.


What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

It is nice to be recognized for all of the hard work I have put into my studies here at San Jose State. Not just for me, but for my friends and family who have been by my side throughout.


Who has been influential in your life and/or who has contributed to your academic success?

My friends and family have always supported me in any endeavor and pushed me to aim high. In particular my mother has been a great source of inspiration and support throughout my life. I cannot express how influential my girlfriend, Abbey, has been over the years. Since we met she has a been a driving force in my life and has been my biggest advocate. As a student I have had a few mentors over the years, but none as influential as my advisor here at San Jose State, Dr. Tim Hsu. He has guided and pushed me to reach my potential. When we first met I told Dr. Hsu that I wanted to get my PhD in mathematics. He immediately put me on the right course; giving me the best chance to achieve my goals. He has been a great mentor and friend since I’ve been at San Jose State.


Did you overcome any hardships or adversities in your life that have helped shape who you are today?  And if so, could you please briefly elaborate?

After high school I never planned to go to college. I never imagined being where I am now in my academic career. I worked full time and eventually entered community college when I was 22. Because I started so late I had to play catch up with my coursework. Working in construction, I was an on and off student before coming to San Jose State. Once here I buckled down and focused on my studies; only working part time while taking classes and doing research. At San Jose State I have seized every opportunity and worked hard to put myself in a position to achieve my goals. Though, without the support and inspiration from my friends and family and mentorship from my professors I would never be where I am now.


What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?

If you are inspired, follow your passion! Figure out what you need to realize your goals. Then do it! Take every opportunity given to you, put in the hard work and let everything unfold.


How do you envision yourself in 5-10 years?

I hope to have my PhD in mathematics and be a professor at a university. This will allow me to perform research and give me the opportunity to inspire students the way I have been inspired.


A few words from his nominating professor:

Charles is the best all-around student in math, either undergrad or grad, and has done outstanding research (under my supervision)...he came back to school after years working in construction and later as a music producer."

- Professor Tim Hsu