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C+C=BFF: A Maverick Science Love Story

A lyric from a 1970s rock song proclaims, “In life one and one don't make two; One and one make one.” Chris and Caitlynn Meek, who met because of a mathematics class at The University of Texas at Arlington, would certainly agree with that equation.

Caitlynn and Chris met in a pre-calculus lab that neither of them originally intended to take, and being acquaintances turned into a platonic friendship and, eventually, into a relationship. They got engaged in October 2019, after dating for two years (“It felt like a few days,” Caitlynn says). They made it official this past summer with a wedding attended by family and a small group of their closest friends.

Who says there’s no romance in mathematics?

Their story began in fall 2017, when Caitlynn Reeves – a microbiology major born and raised in Arlington – enrolled in pre-calculus and its companion lab. She had intended to test out of math requirements but her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and Caitlynn couldn’t devote the necessary time to study. Fortunately, her mother made a full recovery.

“Pre-calculus and calculus were the only two classes I needed for my degree and I tried everything to get them out of the way as soon as possible,” she said. “I even planned on taking them at a community college, but even that fell through. It’s clear we were both meant to be in that class. I think it was kind of a ‘God thing.’ ”

Chris Meek, meanwhile, transferred to UTA after starting college at Texas A&M and then serving in the Army. He started out as a physics major but switched to mathematics when he rediscovered his interest in the subject. At UTA he tested into calculus for mathematics but decided to enroll in pre-calculus instead since he hadn’t taken a math course in a couple of years.

“I had done very poorly in math my last year of high school, but the way it was taught to me my first semester at UTA really made it click,” said Chris, who was born in Stillwater, OK, and moved with his family to Mansfield as a child.

When the lab class began, Caitlynn and Chris were in different groups, but she was late to the lab one day and his group had the only open spot.

“There was a gap between the lecture class and lab, and normally I would just sit and read for the time between,” Chris said. “She kept pestering me so eventually we spent the interim talking about various topics. I hadn’t been anywhere on campus besides Pickard Hall, so sometimes we would walk around and she would show me cool spots on campus.”

Caitlynn says at first, she wasn’t interested in dating. Even as their friendship grew, she remained adamant.

“I really didn’t want to date. I had briefly dated a College of Science graduate student, but our careers and busy schedules got in the way,” she said. “I was fairly convinced by that experience that I was never going to find someone who was willing to put the work in on top of all their studies and demands. But this guy was really interesting and so, so nice! We met a few times at parks off campus and went on long walks where I repeatedly emphasized that I did not want to date.”

Chris agreed, and things stayed platonic -- right up until the day he sent Caitlynn a photo of his dog, Arlo, a Great Pyrenees-Catahoula Leopard Dog mix, and invited her over to meet the pooch and to have dinner.

“That was the evening that I caved and suggested that we become romantic,” Caitlynn said. “He was so excited! Honestly, so was I, but I had yet to admit that to myself.”

Caitlynn was a member of the Honors College, was active in Science Constituency Council, serving as president her junior year, and conducted undergraduate research on antimicrobial compounds in the lab of Frank Foss, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. She was also a member of the Peer Academic Leader (PAL) program – where students are assigned to first-year success courses to assist new students in their transition to college life – for two years. She says it’s the best job she’s ever had.

Chris was also busy, joining the College of Science’s UTeach Arlington program, which enables students to earn a degree along with teaching certification in science or math. Taking a Research Methods class taught by Greg Hale, assistant dean and UTeach Arlington co-director, led Chris to apply for a Noyce summer internship. Through the Noyce program, he presented projects and lessons from various STEM fields to high school students during summer science camps.

Despite lots of demands on their time, the couple made things work. They found ways to stay connected, even if it was just a quick sentiment scribbled on a scrap of paper.

“During spring semester Chris’ and my time on campus overlapped, but sometimes one of us would arrive or leave before the other,” Caitlynn said. “Whoever would leave first would scribble a little note on a scrap of notebook paper and leave it in the other’s car door handle. They were just cute little hello notes, or ‘I’m proud of you’ notes.”

For their wedding, they made a decoupage of the notes, attaching them to a plain pine box to use instead of a ring pillow.

Caitlynn finished her B.S. in Biology at UTA in May 2018 and went on to the University of North Texas Health Science Center for a master’s in epidemiology, which she completed in May 2020. Just prior to their wedding, the couple moved to the Houston area so she could take a job with the Montgomery County Department of Public Health. With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, she has been very busy. Chris took a job with Grand Oaks High School in Conroe ISD running the school’s testing center. He left UTA just a few credits shy of graduating and will return soon to complete his degree.

Both Caitlynn and Chris are grateful that fate intervened and brought them together via a pre-calculus lab. When asked their fondest memories of UTA, they’re also thankful for lots of other experiences they had along the way.

“Meeting my now wife and finding a degree that I enjoy are great takeaways,” Chris said. “A lot of my memories reflect the interesting topics and fields that I have learned about from my professors and others. I learned about exoplanets from Dr. [Zdzislaw] Musielak and his group; I worked on a math research paper with Dr. [Karl] Backs; I learned about teaching methods and research to help students with different learning needs; and more. It has been very interesting being exposed to such a wide variety of fields that I otherwise would not have!”

“Well, meeting and falling in love with my now husband is up there,” Caitlynn said. “But I also met so many other people I love dearly at UTA. I met two of my closest friends through Honors College and another through Science Constituency Council. When I look back on my time at UTA, I get an impressionist painting, a hodgepodge of memories, that tell of hominess and friendship and discovery. It was such a great time in my life!”

The hashtag used for their wedding probably sums up their feelings best: #BlessedAreTheMeeks.