August Faculty Spotlight: Ms. Julie Lewis

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Ms. Lewis joined us in Fall 2017.

Do you have a hobby or collect something?  How did you get into that?

Honestly, there’s not one single thing that I do on a consistent basis other than spend time with my family (which I definitely consider a hobby of mine)!  There are a lot of little things I enjoy doing such as sewing, cooking, decorating, and making soap.  I would consider myself a “Pinterest” person since I’m a little all over the place with my hobbies!  I have talented friends and family, so many times I’ll see something that one of them has done and think, “Oooh! I want to try that!”

Tell us about an adventure you had, or would like to have.

My college roommate and I were always going on road trips back in the day.  It never failed that I ultimately drove us through the bad part of town and on one of these road trips to Louisiana, I drove us right past a convenience store hold-up!  Luckily, that’s as exciting as the story gets (we didn’t stop to buy Juicy Fruit).

What was one of your biggest successes or failures?

Being lucky enough to be married to someone who gets me and my goofy personality because he has one of his own!  (This is my biggest success by the way…I just wanted to be sure to be clear!)

What kind of music, books, movies, sports, games, cars, etc. (pick one or more) do you like?  Is there any particular reason?

I enjoy old books and old movies/TV shows!  Some of my favorite authors include Dorothy Gilman, Louis L’Amour, and Agatha Christie.  They also need to be thin books because when I read, I tend to nod off!  No “War and Peace” for me!  As far as old movies and TV shows are concerned, I am partial to anything starring Andy Griffith, Abbott and Costello, Lucille Ball, or Humphry Bogart.  My husband taught me to enjoy John Wayne movies (I’m pretty sure that “must love John Wayne” was in the marriage agreement somewhere)!

What is the closest you have ever come to dying?

There was this road trip to Louisiana…

What did you do to put yourself through school, or what weird job have you held?

I waited on tables at Casa Ole’ with the added benefit of free chips and hot sauce to take home and free lunch!  Can’t get much better than that!

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?

“You can’t always do your best.  But you can always do your best with the situation you are in at the time.”

The thing that really makes you cool and unique is something that I would never have thought to list here.  What is it?

One thing that I didn’t list as a hobby, but that I really enjoy doing, is playing the banjo!  I haven’t for a very long time, but it makes me happy!  (And now you will have the theme music from “Deliverance” stuck in your head for the rest of the day!  You are welcome.)

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July Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Sarah Stovall

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Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Dr. Stovall joined us in Fall 2000.

Do you have a hobby or collect something? How did you get into that?

I have a pretty nice Hot Wheels collection that I started when my kids were young. I found pretty quickly that I was much more interested in keeping them pristine and unopened than my kids were. My favorite hobby though, is birding. I participate each year in the Pineywoods Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count (all day birding with species count, regardless of weather). The beautiful thing about birding is that I can do it anytime I am outside (or in Walmart, but mostly there are only House Sparrows in the store).

Tell us about an adventure you had, or would like to have.

We went on a family tent-camping trip at Thirty-Mile Campground near Creede, Colorado at the headwaters of the Rio Grande. We caught trout in the Rio Grande Reservoir, cooked them on our campfire and ate them with our hands. Best fish I’ve ever tasted!

What was one of your biggest successes or failures?

I’ll give both. I don’t know if this describes a big failure, but it is one that I have not lived down. I baked a cake when I was about 9 years old, and omitted the eggs. I am reminded of this omission at every family gathering, in spite of the fact that I have now baked several delicious cakes, with eggs.

My biggest success/accomplishment is one that I am still working on, a joint venture with my husband. We are parenting our three kids, and have been delighted to see them turn in to kind, reasonable, curious, interesting, articulate people that are a pleasure to be around.

What kind of music, books, movies, sports, games, cars, etc. (pick one or more) do you like? Is there any particular reason?

I like many types of music, but some favorite artists are Robert Earl Keen, Jimmy Buffet, Merle Haggard, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and a new artist with old-soul style, Kacey Musgraves. The Dixie Chicks write the best music for driving with the car windows rolled down and scream-singing. I like most of the country artists because they remind me of growing up with my sister’s choice of music on the radio (we shared a room), and the classic rock reminds me of truck music playing when I was tagging along with my brothers.

My favorite car is the Mini-Cooper, and one day, I *will* have one.

What do you study? How did you get into that? Are there any real-world applications of your area of study?

After my master’s work at UT on elliptic curves, my thesis advisor there suggested that I work with Dr. Peter Stiller at A&M on some work he had done with elliptic surfaces for my doctoral work. I enjoyed tackling the problem, even though I don’t know of any real-world applications for it. I’m not saying there aren’t any though! It took more than 350 years for Fermat’s Little Theorem to be used as the basis for RSA encryption, an early version of encryption that keeps your credit card number and other information secure in online transactions.

What projects (academic or otherwise) are you currently working on?

Dr. Roy Joe Harris and I have been working on an extension of Dr. Harris’s thesis work in complex analysis for the past couple of years. Graduate student Chad Huckaby developed some very interesting pieces in his master’s thesis last year for which he just received the William R. Johnson Outstanding Thesis Award.

What is the closest you have ever come to dying?

I don’t think I was actually very close to dying at all, but I thought I was. My brothers made a zip-line over a ditch (it seemed so deep when I was 5) at my childhood home. On my first try, I got scared mid-zip and let go, falling at the highest part. The fall knocked the wind out of me, and being unfamiliar with the sensation, I was convinced that I was going to die. I didn’t. My brothers have never let me live that one down, either.

What did you do to put yourself through school, or what weird job have you held?

I might reclassify this job as unique instead of weird. I registered cattle for the International Braford Association. The work was very interesting because I learned about selective breeding and other very practical concerns of cattle ranchers.

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?

It is better to be more than you appear to be than less than you say you are.

The thing that really makes you cool and unique is something that I would never have thought to list here. What is it?

I’ve met Andrew Wiles, the mathematician that proved Fermat’s Last Theorem. He said that his goal is to “learn new mathematics at a rate greater than that at which I forget it.” That’s something that I think all of us in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics strive for.

June Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Ryan Jensen

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Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Dr. Jensen joined us in Fall 2017.

Do you have a hobby or collect something?

I’m not sure it qualifies as a hobby, but when I’m not at work I enjoy playing with kids. Anna and I have three kids, and they seem to keep us both very busy.

What kind of music, books, movies, sports, games, cars, etc. (pick one or more) do you like? Is there any particular reason?

I really enjoy reading. I don’t think I have a favorite kind of book, but I do have some favorite authors. I enjoy reading anything by Charles Dickens, I particularly like his characters. He seems to exaggerate them enough to make them funny, while keeping them real enough that readers are sure they know someone just like them. I also like CS Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Victor Hugo, when he doesn’t get too far off from his story. Lately I’ve been reading some of Lloyd Alexander and the Spirit Animals series with my oldest son, and we have enjoyed those as well.

What do you study?

Recently I have been interested in computation homology – I try to describe the “shape” of things. We can visualize things in one, two, and three dimensions, but homology really gets interesting in higher dimensions where people cannot visualize the objects in question. Until quite recently there have not been too many real-world (unless you consider pure math to be real-world) applications of homology. Lately however, it has been used to differentiate two different types of cancer, once thought to be the same, and is finding many uses in data analysis.

What projects (academic or otherwise) are you currently working on?

Right now I am having fun writing a computer program to compute the barcode (a plot showing the homology of a sequence of spaces) of an image. I plan to use the program to give a barcode to each image in the “Coloring Book of Complex Function Representations” by Julie Barnes.

What did you do to put yourself through school, or what weird job have you held?

I have had many jobs to put myself through school. In high school I worked for a farmer during the summer months. During my undergraduate years I usually had at least one part time job. Some of these included: a private math tutor, working the math lab, early morning custodian (4-8 am, and yes I cleaned lots of bathrooms), offering computer technical support, video editor/special effects for a hunting tv series. Once I got to graduate school I was able to teach some math classes.

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Work will win when wishy-washy wishing won’t.

The thing that really makes you cool and unique is something that I would never have thought to list here. What is it?

I speak Portuguese. After graduating high school, I spent two years in Brazil serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I met lots of wonderful people there and had many great experiences.

 

May Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Bill Clark

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Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Dr. Clark is our Coordinator of Graduate Studies. He joined us in Fall 1966.

Do you have a hobby or collect something?

I like to visit or participate in Archeology digs and I also raise a few cattle.

Tell us about an adventure you had, or would like to have.

Camped in and traveled to 49 of the 50 US states. I couldn’t pull my camper to Hawaii. An adventure I would like is to travel to Madagascar.

What was one of your biggest successes or failures?

Biggest Success – Being selected by the Texas Section of the MAA as the recipient of the Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics award in 2002. Biggest Failure- Rodeo Bull Rider.

What kind of music, books, movies, sports, games, cars, etc. (pick one or more) do you like? Is there any particular reason?

Classical country first and most genres second. For example, I love “Für Elise” by Beethoven. Books- Historical Novels and/or Historical Adventure. Sports-Collegiate Football and Basketball.

What do you study?

Mathematical Analysis. Right now I am reading about current Integral Transforms. I also study the Bible.

What projects (academic or otherwise) are you currently working on?

Learning to fly a drone.

What is the closest you have ever come to dying?

Three times. As a 6 year old, falling off a cliff while climbing on Mount Rainer. As a Jr. high student being run over by a car. As an adult barely escaping with my life from a burning Oil Field Rig fire. The highly dangerous escaping gas caught on fire when a deck worker tried to light cigarette. Flames roared up into the upper rig and I was working the derrick job. My coat caught on fire but I shucked it and was lucky enough to get untied from my safety harness and ride the T-Bar escape trolley to the ground. The deck worker lost both hands.

What did you do to put yourself through school, or what weird job have you held?

I had all kind of jobs putting myself through college. Seismogrph crew member, oil field Roughneck, soda jerk, newspaper deliveryman, truck driver for Railway Express, selling firewood, working the wheat harvest in the summers, working hay fields , and a lot of other side jobs to make ends meet. I can’t leave out the fact that my wife also worked hard at several jobs while helping to put me through college.

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?

“Put things back where you got ‘em.” Best of all, “Trust in God.”

The thing that really makes you cool and unique is something that I would never have thought to list here. What is it?

I was President of the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America in the 1980’s.

April Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Jacob Turner

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Editor’s Note: This is the third in a new series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Dr. Turner joined us in Fall 2017.

Do you have a hobby or collect something? How did you get into that?

Bowling (yes I’m the guy who has in own shoes and ball) and the occasional video game. I like collecting Funko POP! figures as well as Transformers. Just swing by the office and you will see! [Editor’s Note: Shortly after this was posted, Dr. Beavers’ Transformers collection staged a pre-emptive strike on Dr. Turner’s Transformers collection. The battle rages on.]

Tell us about an adventure you had, or would like to have.

I really want to go to Japan and Sri Lanka. I have many friends from these two countries and I would love to visit some of the local places that they talked about during our conversation over the years.

What was one of your biggest successes or failures?

Besides marrying my beautiful wife and having kids, my biggest success was successfully defending my dissertation just two weeks after my first son was born.

What kind of music, books, movies, sports, games, cars, etc. (pick one or more) do you like? Is there any particular reason?

I really like Country and dabble in other genres as well. There is a special place in my heart for Imagine Dragons. Their concerts are a lot of fun and I relate to a lot of their songs.

What do you study? How did you get into that? Are there any real-world applications of your area of study?

I study statistics. I took a few statistics course during my undergraduate Math major and was hooked. Never really looked back. My areas of research currently hover around developing methods and analyzing large data sets derived from gene expression studies as well as clinical trials.

What projects (academic or otherwise) are you currently working on?

I will be working on this summer with a student to further develop my own research. My other project is getting my oldest son ready for school and baseball.

What is the closest you have ever come to dying?

Floating the Comal River in New Braunfels, Tx during my college years. Inner tube+”Soda”+Rough waters = a shakey situation.

What did you do to put yourself through school, or what weird job have you held?

I was a projectionist at the Cinemark movie theater in College Station. Worked late hours splicing the movie reels together and screening movies before they came out. Thursday nights were rough as we would stay up getting ready for Friday releases until about 3am. I would have 8am math classes sometimes that were rough. I don’t recommend it.

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Think before you speak.

Colloquium 03/26: Dr. Timothy Trujillo on “Topological Ramsey Theory”

As part of the R. W. Yeagy Colloquium series, on Monday, March 26, at 3:30 PM in Math Building 357, Dr. Timothy Trujillo from Sam Houston State University will be talking about Topological Ramsey Theory. This talk should be interesting and accessible for students of all levels.

Abstract: The two-dimensional Ramsey theorem states that if the edges of a complete graph with countably infinitely many vertices are colored with two colors then there is a complete subgraph with countably infinitely many vertices all whose edges are monochromatic. The theorem can be extended to all finite dimensions. However, the naive infinite-dimensional Ramsey conjecture is false in ZFC. Nonetheless the collection of all sets that satisfy the conclusion of the infinite-dimensional Ramsey theorem form a sigma-algebra of sets. The Ellentuck theorem characterizes this sigma-algebra as the sigma-algebra of sets with the Baire property (that is, a symmetric difference of an open set and a meager set) with respect to a topology that extends the natural metric topology on the collection of infinite subsets of the natural numbers. We will discuss the historical development of the Ellentuck theorem and use it to motivate and introduce topological Ramsey theory and the abstract Ellentuck theorem. Time permitting, we will discuss some new examples of topological Ramsey spaces and their applications. (flyer in PDF form)

March Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Lesa Beverly

 

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Editor’s Note: This is the second in a new series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Dr. Beverly joined us in Fall 2004 and currently serves as the chair of the department.

Do you have a hobby or collect something?  How did you get into that?

I love ORCHIDS!  My office is full of them, and I love showing them off, so come by and ask me about them.

What is the closest you have ever come to dying?

I am not sure that I was close to dying, but I thought I was.  I was flying to a job interview in Paducah, Kentucky.  When it came time to land, we noticed the plane was circling the airport really close to the ground, but we were not landing, and there was a stranger buzzer sound that kept going off in the cockpit.  (It was a small plane!)  There was quite a bit of chatter in the plane.  Finally, the pilot came on the intercom and explained that there was a problem.  A warning light in the cockpit was indicating that the landing gear was not locked into place.  Our landing gear looked like it was in the correct position (according to the observer on the ground who was watching us circle), but there was no way to tell if it was truly locked.  We had to land though because we were out of fuel, so there was nothing to do but give it a whirl.  The airport sprayed the ground with foam that is supposed to lessen flammability. We were told to put our heads in our laps, use our arms to cover our heads, and pray, if you were the praying kind.  I am.  I did.  All was well!  Needless to say, that was the strangest start to a job interview that I ever had.  Two days later, I had to get back on a similar plane and fly back home.  It was truly an adventure I hope never to repeat!

What did you do to put yourself through school, or what weird job have you held?

While I was in graduate school, I worked one summer as a telemarketer, selling headache balls for cranes and hoists.  A headache ball is a type of crane hook that is composed of a hook and a ball that connects to the crane’s cable.  I didn’t know that such a thing existed but now, whenever I see a crane, I always look to see if it has a headache ball.  Can you guess why it earned its name?