UTPB student going straight for a doctorate

University of Texas of the Permian Basin senior Cordell Hammon has always loved math, so much that he wants to go straight from his bachelor’s degree to a PhD and ultimately teach at the collegiate level.

Hammon is one of 583 students expected to graduate from UTPB May 5. The spring ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, 1310 N. Farm to Market Road 1788 in Midland.

He will commence with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but said it is a double major in math and computer science.

He plans to start at Baylor University in Waco in the fall.

“My true love is mathematics,” Hammon said. “If I open my notebook, you’ll just see a random scribbling of mathematics. During church what I do is I take math notes try and reason through different situations in my head, especially because I’m doing actually research this year. It’s computer science research. …”

Throughout his life, Hammon said he’s been consistently good at math, getting the best grades on the test in elementary school. In junior high and high school, his friends would ask for advice on how to do math. He also likes puzzles.

“I’ve always really liked teaching and whenever friends would come to me for help on a test, I always relished the thought of being able to teach people because there’s something about seeing the spark in someone’s eye when they suddenly understand something that just really lightens the heart and makes you really happy and I want to continue to do that for everyone,” Hammon said.

But he’s not closing the door on research.

For graduate school, he said he applied to about 10 universities.

“I ended up getting some pretty good offers, but ultimately Baylor University had the best offer for me,” Hammon said.

One place he didn’t gain acceptance to was Harvard.

“Every college requires a personal statement. It’s pretty much the same at every university. You can pretty much cut and paste. I was going through that process on my personal statement to Harvard and I messed up. … It said, ‘Why Michigan and not some other university?’” Hammon said.

Baylor seemed like a good fit for him because he loves the university, the campus, the city of Waco and had wanted to go there for his bachelor’s degree, but he said it’s very expensive.

“For a PhD, you get full tuition remission. I’m getting a pretty generous stipend,” he said.

Another benefit, he said, is that graduate students at other universities are mainly teaching assistants. At Baylor, he will spend his first year as a TA and help in the mathematics lab as a tutor.

The second year, he will become the official teacher of the course.

At UTPB, Hammon is vice president of the Student Senate. His girlfriend is Senate President Ayra Cirilo, who he said is expected to graduate in spring 2019.

His father, Gregg Hammon, teaches criminology at UTPB, so he was introduced to the faculty early. Through the years, he has come to love the university and has gotten to know a lot of faculty and administration members.

“When I first came, I absolutely did not want to be here. I wanted to get out of the Permian Basin. … I ended up coming here just because it was the cheapest option. I have thrived here more than I ever thought I would,” Hammon said. “I think the size of the university has given me a unique opportunity to be a good-sized fish in a small pond. … It’s just been awesome. I would recommend this university to anyone, not just in the Permian Basin, but in the United States, or the world if you’re an international student.”

Paul Feit, chair of math and computer science, said he’s biased toward Hammon because he sent Feit a puzzle in statistics that he has yet to solve.

“He has an interest in questions that arise from any source. These frequently require techniques beyond the standard calculus; they require clever changes of perspective and a ruthless readiness to exploit any quirk or chink in the challenge. He regards new methods as stuff to play with rather than gimmicks which he ‘must’ learn,” Feit said in an email.

Quan Yuan, assistant professor, head of the computer science graduate program and head of the cyber security certification program in the department of math and computer science, said Hammon is a very smart, hard-working student who likes reading actual books even in an age of digital media.

Yuan added that Hammon enrolling in a doctoral program means he is clear on what he wants to do with his future.

“… I talked with him after he got the offer from Baylor and asked him what he wants to do after his PhD. What surprises me is that he already has a plan where to go after five years PhD life. He thinks (things) over and always makes plan in advance. He is quite self-motivated and self-disciplined. As a young man, this is already a success, and this success will bring him bigger one in future,” Yuan said in an email.

If You Go
  • What: The University of Texas of the Permian Basin 2018 Spring Commencement.
  • When: 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. May 5.
  • Where: The Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center, 1310 N. Farm-to-Market Road 1788 in Midland.
  • All parking areas will be available for open parking. Car pooling and early arrival is recommended. Following each commencement, a reception will be held in the lobby.
More Information