My name is Miguel Vaquero and I was born and raised in Ourense, Galicia. From an early age, I was intrigued by topics related to science and technology, and decided to pursue a career related to research. Although I started out studying physics, after a year, I decided to switch to mathematics as I was fascinated by abstract reasoning and the versatility of math. Mathematics provides a solid foundation for almost everything, and paves the way to study other disciplines. After completing my bachelor’s and master’s, I was committed to obtaining my PhD—in the middle of the pandemic. This goal brought me to the exciting city of Madrid, where I began what would become a new passion of mine: teaching.
A lifelong passion for mathematics
Miguel Vaquero is one of the lucky ones—he has always known what he’s passionate about. Throughout a bachelor’s, master’s, and a PhD, he has profoundly explored the world of science and mathematics. But finishing his doctorate is far from the end of his research career: Miguel plans to spend his entire life both learning and teaching.
He first moved to Madrid to work at ICMAT (the Institute of Mathematical Science), one of the top research centers in Spain. There, he found himself in the perfect environment: one that stimulated him and put him in contact with renowned scientists, giving him the necessary tools to succeed as a researcher. He also had the opportunity to visit other incredible institutions, like the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences in Vancouver or the University of Urbana-Champaign in Illinois.
It was during this time of academic exploration that he was offered to teach at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid—an experience that would introduce him to the world of teaching.
Once he started teaching, Miguel didn’t stop. He was given a role at the prestigious University of California, San Diego, where he spent three years both teaching and participating in a research group. He covered exciting topics such as control theory and optimization, as well as the connection between mathematics and engineering, combining pure and applied research. He also became a student advisor.
After three years in California, which Miguel recalls as “unforgettable,” he became a full-time professor at IE University—right in the thick of a global pandemic. He was ecstatic about the prospect of both continuing with his research agenda and transmitting his knowledge to a bunch of students who were eager to learn.
What Miguel loves about IE University is the interaction between theory and application—exactly what he has been studying throughout his career. He also admires the diversity of the classroom, with students coming from different backgrounds and with different aspirations. The interdisciplinarity at IE University allows Miguel to both tailor mathematical models to solve real-world problems, and also to put forth new mathematical challenges motivated by applications. He says it’s crucial that he teaches his students critical thinking and abstract reasoning through the understanding of mathematics and its constructions, as it complements their skills and prepares them for the future.
While math and research is Miguel’s lifelong passion, he does make room for other hobbies. Outside the classroom, Miguel enjoys running, hiking and spending time with friends. He’s also an avid reader and a seasoned traveler, a pastime that academia has afforded him throughout the years.
Miguel’s key to success? “You must commit to something you really love, otherwise you won’t be able to put in the effort and persevere. Stay open to any possible solution to the problems that will arise throughout your career. Finally, look for an environment that suits your goals and provides you with the necessary tools and opportunities to succeed.”