Student Highlight: Daniel Keliher ’17


Hey guys! I’m Eimi (pronounced ‘Amy’) and I’m your correspondent for Student Highlight this year, a column dedicated to highlighting the scholars who attend this institution. While I’ve deduced that there’s no ‘typical’ Brown student, I hope to share a small glimpse into the wonderful and diverse individuals of this community.

For reasons I won’t dive into, Daniel has always been ‘Kels’ to me, a nickname short for ‘Kelsey’ that I’ve called him by since freshman year (his contact info in my phone is actually under Kels). It’s super strange having to refer to him by his real name here.

At Brown, freshmen are encouraged to keep their room door open for the first couple of weeks so those living nearby can stop by to say hi and get to know each other. Daniel lived right across the hall from me and is still one of my closest friends, but it certainly took a while to be that way. Although the exact details of how we first became friends are fuzzy, I distinctly remember coming back to my room from class, Daniel staring right back at me from his room without saying hi (his desk was right next to the door), and me always thinking it was strange. This continued for about 2 weeks until one day I decided that I had had enough of this tomfoolery and walked right into his room instead of going back to mine, and of course the rest is history.

Daniel and I share similar senses of dry, sassy humor and our friendship is one that’s strangely characterized by orange juice, Rice Krispies, unsolicited napping, and long walks in Boston. To our friend group, he’s the grandpa with the R-rated mouth who speaks before he thinks (and trust me, he’s good at playing the part) but to me Kels will always be the shy kid from Maine who’s actually a teddy bear deep down. His passion for the things he likes (aka math) is evident, and it’s nice to know that one of my first friends at college will always be someone I can count on.

Name: Daniel Keliher

Hometown: Yarmouth, ME

Concentration: Mathematics

What classes are you taking this semester? Data Science (CSCI 1951A), The Development of the Group Concept (GISP 0007), Functions of Several Variables (MATH 1140), Graduate Algebra II (MATH 2520)

Favorite class thus far? Number Theory (MATH 1560) with Professor Jeff Hoffstein. As people will probably know by the end of this interview, I really like math. I learned an outrageous amount of new math during the course and it ended up being a topics course rather than a course following a standard curriculum. It’s what got me into analytic number theory, which is something I might want to study in graduate school. Professor Hoffstein is an analytic number theorist (and incidentally a very good cryptographer) so he really enjoyed every lecture himself, which was nice.

What do you do on or off campus? I co-coordinate the Math DUG; this past week, I helped to organize the undergraduate math conference (SUMS) and I also organize undergraduate math seminars throughout the year. I’m also a counselor for Brown’s chapter of Camp Kesem, which is a national organization that holds summer camp for kids who have parent(s) affected by cancer. I’m currently a grader for Abstract Algebra (MATH 1530), and I’ve also been a TA and grader for Advanced Placement Calculus for Physics/Engineering (MATH 0190), Introduction to Number Theory (MATH 0420), and Cryptography (MATH 1580). I’ve been an undergraduate researcher at the Broad Institute and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute for the past 2 summers in Boston/ Cambridge; I look at cancer genetics from a computational perspective, which entails looking at people’s sequenced tumor samples from their personal cancer genome and figuring out how we can clean that data up.

Favorite place/ study spot? Kassar (home to the math department) or the basement of SciLi; they have comfortable chairs. Also my own suite because it’s got a nice array of whiteboards and I use them to figure out a lot of the nitty gritty work I do in math.

Favorite Brown memory or experience? My suitemates and I were all very tired after a very busy week. It was 2 am and one of us claimed that you can’t break a strand of spaghetti into exactly 2 pieces (that it always ends up being 3 or more) so we sat around for an hour breaking strands of spaghetti and taking slow motion videos to figure out the physics of it. I also remember this one weekend it hit sub-zero temperatures and we took boiling water and just tossed it into the air to see how quickly it would congeal… cool stuff, but they were very much so the interesting byproducts of exhaustion.

Why Brown? The Open Curriculum is incredibly appealing. It works for both people who have no clue what they want to do and also for people who know exactly what they want to do, and I fell into the latter category because I knew coming in that I wanted to definitely study math. Brown was also the first place I visited when I started looking at colleges in high school and no place really measured up after that; the environment here was much more welcoming than those of anywhere else I went. I enjoy the size of the math department because classes are small and you get to know your professors really well, which is conducive to a nice sense of community among people who study math.

Pick something to concentrate in other than math. History, which was my favorite subject in high school before I decided on math in college. I’ve taken 2 history courses during my time here, and they’ve both been very good.

Know someone who should be featured or want to get in touch with a highlighted student? Send me an email at!


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