«FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER A Message from the Chair Departmental Happenings Greetings to all of our 1200+ math alumni! I hope that this message finds each ...»
Sepanski even taught in my place one class period when my wife and I were called to San Antonio for a Permanent Resident Visa interview. Also, getting to know other people who actually enjoy graduate level mathematics has propelled my desire for and enhanced my satisfaction in working in that area. I stumbled through and survived my first year here, and delight in math has been growing in me ever since. What a great place to work! I get to learn extraordinary math with people I (usually) enjoy. Not only that, but I get to explore my favorite area of math, which turns out to be representation theory. I‟ve begun research under Dr. Markus Hunziker, who first introduced rep theory to me as “beautiful math”, and I‟m enjoying it a lot. It reminds me of the time I used to spend “exploring” out in the woods with my best friend as a kid. It seems like there are so many new things waiting to be found.
Hopefully upon graduating I‟ll be able to land a job at a university where I can continue to research and teach. However, I know there are many other solid opportunities for people with a PhD in math, and I‟m confident that I‟ll be happy with whatever is given to me. I‟m particularly interested in working in Japan, as my wife is Japanese and our desire is to spend a significant amount of time there.
Kelly Fouts: When I was younger, I remember everyone asking what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer was always the same: I wanted to be a teacher. When I was around seven years old, I wanted to teach Kindergarten. Around ten, I liked the idea of becoming a junior high school teacher. By the time I was twelve years old I had firmly decided that I wanted to be a college professor. Since then that desire has only become stronger.
As you can imagine, knowing what you want to do at the age of twelve makes it much easier to choose a college and decide what classes to take. I also knew I wanted to push my education all the way through to a PhD. I ended up being blessed with the opportunity to get my BA at The Master‟s College, while working two jobs to pay the bills. While pursuing my MS at California State University, Northridge, I substituted for junior high and high school teachers throughout the local school district. I also taught junior high kids in a summer mathematics program. Once I completed my MS, I took a year off from school to build a teaching resume while I searched for the right PhD program. I was able to get great experience teaching everything from College Algebra to upper division Probability at various colleges.
Currently, I am entering my fourth year as a graduate student at Baylor and enjoying every moment. I have the privilege of working with Dr. Manfred Dugas as I work to complete my dissertation in the field of Algebra. More than anything I look forward to telling my Dad, with a smile, “You were right. Hard work did pay off.” For I now enjoy every day that I get to walk into my classroom and lecture about the beauty of mathematics.
Alumni Profiles Christina Tripp graduated last May from Baylor with her B.S. degree – and a 4.0 GPA - in Mathematics.
She is now a Ph.D. student in BioStatistics at Vanderbilt University.
Christina Tripp: I am from Houston, Texas and came to Baylor with the intention of going to Physical Therapy school after graduation. After finishing my freshman year and enduring one too many dissections in Biology lab, I decided to reconsider my major. I believe it was through God‟s provision that I suddenly had the bright idea to major in math. I loved my math classes in high school, but I honestly didn‟t know being a math major was an option. Did that mean you just solved word problems all day?
Little did I know mathematics is one of the most unique and indescribable subjects. The next three years of math classes were the most challenging I‟ve experienced yet, but Christina Tripp also the most rewarding and enlightening. I loved sharing academic pursuits with wonderful professors and kind peers. From Calculus 2 through my final class in
Algebra, I learned so much about our world, both what is known and what remains unknown… and what has been proven unknowable!
Through my classes in the mathematics department, I grew as an individual and a group member. I have always preferred independent study, but studying such a vast subject made it apparent that reaching out for help is both necessary and beneficial. I will always be thankful for the kind willingness of Baylor‟s professors to lend their time and resources to help me forge my way through the number jungle (as Dr.
Burger would say). I especially appreciate the time given by Dr. Henderson, Dr. Burger, Dr. Beauregard, Dr. Morgan, and Dr. Sepanski in the mathematics department, and Dr. Jeanne Hill in the statistics department. I made countless visits during office hours, and their patient guidance will remain greatly valued in my memory!
Statistics courses piqued my interest in applying mathematical principles to an endless variety of research questions. Since I have always been particularly curious about the human body, I applied to Biostatistics graduate programs. I am one of four students accepted into the PhD program at Vanderbilt University. I‟m blessed to have the opportunity to continue my education and learn from researchers in other disciplines.
I hope to become a statistician who unearths valuable information about human health, and a professor who contributes her knowledge to future students.
In my free time, I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, exercising outdoors, and traveling. Some of my loftier life goals include opening a bakery, working as a yoga instructor, and trekking to Machu Picchu!
Curtis Kunkel graduated with his Ph.D. degree in mathematics in 2007 under the direction of Dr. Johnny Henderson. Curtis accepted a position at the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2007. This past spring, Curtis was promoted to Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics at UTM. Congrats, Curtis!
It really wasn‟t a question of whether or not I was going to college, it was more a question of where. My parents weren‟t 4-year college graduates, so there wasn‟t much of a college following in our house growing up. We had to get a lot of advice from friends, counselors, etc. in choosing where to go, but ultimately my choice to attend the University of Minnesota at Morris came down to how good the campus felt to me. UMM is a liberal arts school and I ended up graduating as a scholar of the college with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Computer Science. Now, what I had planned to do with that degree was another story entirely. My original intention upon entering college was to teach high school computer science. Therefore, I took many of the introductory education courses and about the time I was ready to take the entrance exam into the education program, I had decided there was no way I would survive in High School. This led me to think about teaching college and what that would entail. Enter the dreaded GRE. Being not the best student of my English and Composition classes, I had a tough time preparing for this exam, but I achieved good enough marks to apply to graduate schools, or so I thought.
Again, my limited college experiences had shown through and I applied to places that I can clearly say now were well beyond my abilities and background. It wasn‟t until I was presenting my undergraduate research project at the joint meetings in Baltimore (back in 2003) and met some of the Baylor folks, that I again stumbled onto a group of people that seemed to fit. They encouraged me to apply to Baylor as soon as I got back to Minnesota, which I did, and I was then accepted into the young graduate program.
I couldn‟t be happier with my choice to move to Texas and pursue my graduate degree at Baylor. Not only did I get the chance to work with some exceptional faculty, I was also able to meet my wife in the process. I worked hard and was able to finish my doctorate in 4 years (earning a masters along the way).
Now was the time to begin applying for real jobs. There was no question that I wanted a teaching position. I had come to really enjoy helping students in the drop-in labs I worked at both in my undergraduate experience and at Baylor. Research was enjoyable too, but living in a “publish or perish” situation would not suit me. I ended up applying at well over 70 universities, received interviews at the joint meetings with nearly 20 of those, and landed on-campus interviews at 6 universities. Of course, as had been my habit up to this point, I went by feel. I met a math department that was honest, humble, and full of teachers who excel at research. My visit to the University of Tennessee at Martin (third on the lineup of interview dates) was a perfect fit. There was no reason to look further, so I decided then and there that UTM was where I wanted to be (lucky they liked me too).
For the last 5 years I have been enjoying every moment of my decision to move to TN and become a professor at UTM. I have taught a wide variety of courses (college algebra, calculus, differential equations, complex variables, and math modeling just to name a few). I‟ve had the pleasure of working on some grants (see stem.utm.edu/cats to view our College Algebra Tutorials website) and working on some committees (both at the department level and the university level). I have advised 2 undergraduate students in research related to difference equations. I have also given many different presentations and published multiple articles in a variety of journals. Last year I was given an early promotion and now hold the title of Associate Professor. I know that none of this could be possible without the guidance I received from the Baylor math faculty. They prepared me to lead, follow, and listen. I feel successful in my chosen career.
Rachel Wilkerson is a 2011 graduate of Baylor‟s University Scholar program with a concentration in physics and mathematics. Rachel won a Barry M Goldwater Scholarship in 2010 and is currently working on her Master‟s degree at Warwick University.
I came to math accidentally, by way of physics. Someone told me once that Rachel Wilkerson burgeoning young physicists often exhibit one of two tendencies: either a predilection for large scale explosions or an irresistible urge to disassemble microwaves. Growing up, I contented myself with professional firework displays, and generally toasters were safe from my prying fingers. Instead I spent my free time painting watercolors, crocheting doilies, and reading voraciously. I learned that I liked patterns of threads, patterns in art, patterns in words. And so, ultimately, I came to study math for the love of patterns.
Math has taken me to Budapest Semesters in Mathematics, where I learned to love cimbalom music, dobos torta, and hypergraph theory. It took me to McDonald Observatory, where I spent summer nights navigating the world's fourth largest telescope across the West Texas skies. It took me to Amsterdam to study graphical causal models at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. Perhaps best of all, it took me to Baylor University, where I made life long friends writing proofs on the white boards in Sid Rich late at night.
Coming from a Baylor family, I resisted the seemingly inevitable green and gold. But when I found myself with unsatisfactory answers regarding my questions about the math coursework at another nameless inferior university, I came to my senses and enrolled at Baylor. Baylor's faculty truly sets it apart from the rest. I never had a course at Baylor that I could not recommend wholeheartedly. Dr. Mathis's illustration of a potato in Calculus III left a lasting impression, as have Dr. Henderson's stories about his favorite number (52) and Dr. Littlejohn's careful lecture on the heat equation in partial differential equations.
Now I find math has taken me to the countryside of England. I'm currently using graph theory and percolation theory to understand and predict patterns in human mobility. The aim of my project is to predict the spread of epidemics using cell phone data. After finishing my Master's this fall, I plan to return to the States for further adventures in math (or maths, as the British insist).
Math Movie Maker Dano Johnson and Brown University Tom Banchoff Visit Baylor On September 20-21, the Department of Mathematics sponsored an exciting student/faculty event with Brown University mathematician Tom Banchoff and movie maker Dano Johnson. The event was co-sponsored with BURST (Baylor Undergraduate Research in Science and Technology) and MÖBIUS, Baylor‟s new math club.
Dr. Banchoff gave his second lecture on Friday, September 21; the title was Folds, Intersections, and Inflections for Smooth and Polyhedral Surfaces: Distinguishing Cylinders from Möbius Bands.
Dr. Banchoff has won several professional and national teaching awards throughout his 45 year distinguished academic career, including the Lester R. Ford Award for excellence in expository writing in 1978, the MAA National Award for Distinguished University Teaching of Mathematics in 1996, and the NSF Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholar in 2004. He has been recognized as both a Pew Scholar and a Carnegie Fellow from the Carnegie Foundation. Dr. Banchoff was President of the Mathematical Association of America from 1999-2000.
Dano has won an Emmy award as well as many honors at music and film festivals throughout the world. Dano was the director and animator of the acclaimed 2007 film “Flatland: the Movie”, based on the 1884 novel by Edwin A. Abbott.
His new movie “Flatland :
Sphereland” is the much-awaited sequel, based on the 1964 novel by Dutch mathematician Dionys Burger.
Official Movie Poster for Flatland 2: Sphereland Sam Vandervelde to visit Department this Fall Dr. Sam Vandervelde, Associate Professor of Mathematics at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, visited the Department of Mathematics from October 10-13. Sam works in problems related to number theory, graph theory, combinatorics, and Euclidean geometry. The title of his colloquium lecture, on October 11, was “Where is the Middle of a Fibonacci Sequence?”.