April Faculty Spotlight: Ms. Cheryl Janusa

Ms. Janusa and her family
Editor’s Note: This is the thirteenth in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Ms. Janusa joined us as an instructor in FaLL 2018.

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

I enjoy sewing although I have not spent much time sewing lately. In particular, I like creating things that I cannot purchase. I made my children’s Halloween costumes when they were young. My grandmother made me clothes when I was in elementary school, and my mom made all my dance costumes. My interest in sewing arises from my admiration of their creativity and wanting to make things like they did.

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

While in college, I participated in a program of college students living with families in D’Havré Belgium. I could barely speak or understand the French language so it was an interesting month for the family and myself. I have many fond memories of my experience like the day the mother told me that she was cooking endive. I wanted to tell her that I had never eaten endive. Her face looked panicked because what I really said was “I do not eat endive”. The Belgians only had fresh food in the home so there was nothing else for her to prepare if I did not eat endive. Endive ended up being one of my favorite meals in Europe that summer.

What was one of your biggest successes or failures?

My greatest blessing is my family – both growing-up and as an adult. Michael and I have been married for 30 years and have 3 children Michael, Katherine and Christopher. I’ve enjoyed every phase of our marriage.

As I reflect to the past, my biggest success was earning my Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. I have 5 older brothers, but I was the first person in my family to attend college. During my early years in grammar school, I was behind in math. However, over time I was able to overcome this and eventually excelled in math and physics. When I started college, I did not realize that the odds were against me being successful since I was a first generation, female student. This task was even more difficult because throughout my college career, my mother battled and eventually passed away leaving a void in my life.

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

I do not watch many movies, but my favorites are older movies with Cary Grant. In particular, my favorite is “An Affair to Remember”.

Most cars that I’ve owned only served for transporting the family; however, my favorite car is the one I owned in college – a red and white ’73 Mustang Coupe with a 351 Cleveland engine. It was beautiful and fast.

I enjoy listening to music that reminds me of special moments. For instance, I recall our family vacations when I listen to my father’s favorite singer Charlie Pride or my mother’s favorite song, “Tears of a Clown” sung by Smokey Robinson. I recall singing with my youngest son, ‘This is gonna be the best day of my life, I’m going to make a hundred and five’ as we would drive to school on exam days, and he would get that 105.

What is the closest you have ever come to dying?

I believe the scariest event in my life was when I was a child. My older brother placed me on his shoulders and jumped on his bike to ride me through the neighborhood. The more I cried and screamed, the more he enjoyed the event.

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

I served cocktails in a lounge while I was in college. My best tip while working was not in money, but instead in meeting my husband, Michael.

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

I grew up in a small town down river of New Orleans called Chalmette. My favorite foods are from the area – fresh creole tomatoes, boiled (gulf) shrimp, gumbo, beignets, po-boys (on New Orleans French bread), and many more Cajun delicacies.

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March Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Roy Joe Harris

Editor’s Note: This is the twelfth in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Dr. Harris joined us in Summer 1997.

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

As a child, I collected everything.  Star Wars toys, Transformers, comic books – you name it, I probably collected it.  Some of my first memories are of looking through comics that my grandfather had. He loved to collect things and he actually gave me my first monthly subscription to a comic series.

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

Sometimes the best adventures are close to home.  In my recent past I decided to sign up for Ancestry.com to find out more about my lineage.  Come to find out, there is a cemetery within ten miles of my house named the Harris-Cooper Cemetery where many of my kinfolk (deep East Texas word) are buried.  I asked my dad if he knew of this cemetery and, if so, did he know of any of our relatives buried there.  He knew of the burial site but not that we had so many close kin buried there.  By the way, the first Harris of our line that we know of that came to Texas was named Theophilus Harris.  Got to get me a cool name like that.

What was one of your biggest successes or failures?

I can trace either directly or indirectly the best of the best times of my life to one event – the day almost thirty years ago my girlfriend accepted my proposal of marriage. When you marry above yourself it sure makes what follows much better. By the way, when one marries up the other does not…

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

I LOVE rock and roll music.  Favorite bands include AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd (pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), Halestorm, and Black Stone Cherry. Seems like music from these bands are always playing in the background of my life.  This music brings back great memories of great times.

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

My general field of study is Complex Analysis.  In particular, I work on different types of convexity in the complex plane.  Other than helping me land a job at SFA, I do not know of any real world applications of what I study but since a trip to Mars seems to be looming there may still be a chance.

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

Currently, I am working with Dr. Sarah Stovall and Mr. Chad Huckaby on extending some results from his thesis.  Also, I am in the process of getting trotlines ready for spring fishing. 

What is the closest you have ever come to dying?

When I was very young, I ratted my older brother out to my dad for chewing tobacco.  After my brother received his punishment from my dad, I received my punishment from my brother.

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

I don’t know how weird it is but I grew up on a poultry farm.  One story that I remember involved an event involving me and a machine that we used to clean out the poultry houses.  This machine was old and wore out and, as usual, suffered a mechanical breakdown while I was using it.  I worked and worked to get it up and running but to no avail. I then decided to let my frustration get the best of me and I started throwing tools and adult insults at the machine.  What I then realized was that my father had witnessed most of what had just transpired.  I said, “Lord, Dad, I didn’t know you were there.” He calmly responded, “Lord…huh… I believe I would call on somebody I know.”

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

Take life seriously but not yourself.

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

I shook Brian Johnson’s hand!!!  Just in case you don’t remember, I am a huge AC/DC fan.  At one of their concerts, Brian Johnson reached down to shake hands with folks in the audience and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Also, for you fellow rockers, I recently shook the hand of David Draiman at a concert.

February Faculty Spotlight: Ms. Brooke Busbee

Editor’s Note: This is the eleventh in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Ms. Busbee joined us in Fall 2018.

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

Collecting may not be the right word for what I do, but I am extremely sentimental. I “collect” cards, letters and notes I have been given over the years. These are some of my favorite reminders that life is meant to be lived by loving others.

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

I really love to travel and see all of the beautiful places that exist in the world! I’ve visited Peru twice on mission trips and each time left with a deeper understanding and appreciation for life outside of the US. While in Peru, I was able to travel through the mountains to elevation so high I couldn’t even whistle, ride far enough into the sand dunes so that all I could see around me was sand, and spend time with some of the most loving and genuine people I’ve ever met. It is a beautiful place with wonderful people, who I am thankful to have met!

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

Even before I could read on my own, reading was one of my favorite pastimes. I am old-school and definitely prefer to have a hard copy book, but I have recently branched out into audiobooks. I enjoy reading both fiction and non-fiction. Lately, I have been into “thrillers” but also love reading biographies and books on Christian living.

The books I am reading right now are: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware and Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung. Also, in 2019, I will be re-reading the devotional New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp.

I listen to a wide variety of music; I enjoy the hits of the 2000’s and today, contemporary Christian, classic country, and alternative and folksy bands, but 90’s country music will always hold a special place in my heart. I grew up singing along with the great men and women of 90’s country, and those songs have stood the test of time for me! I still LOVE to sing, and on any given day, you can find me singing along, whether I’m driving to work or cooking dinner, with anyone from Shania Twain to Johnnyswim, Lauren Daigle to Khalid, Phil Collins to Dolly Parton. If it’s fun to sing and makes me happy, I’m about it!

Speaking of Dolly, if I could have dinner with one famous person, it would, without a doubt, be Dolly Parton. We would sing “Jolene,” quote Steel Magnolias (my favorite movie), and have a terrific time!

Lastly, I prefer TV shows over movies and really just re-watch The Office, Gilmore Girls, Friends, The Golden Girls, Parks and Recreation and Law and Order: SVU over and over.

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

It seems weird to some people, but my first semester of college, I ended back up at my high school for a visit and left with a job! Throughout all of my undergraduate years, I worked as a tutor for the AVID program at the high school and middle school I had attended. This job helped me realize my love for students and taught me a lot about empowering them and helping them grow!

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

Work hard and be kind to people. Also, Proverbs 3:5-6.

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

I am a fourth generation SFA Lumberjack! Both my parents, three of my grandparents and one of my great-grandparents attended SFASU!

December Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Greg Miller

Editor’s Note: This is the tenth in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Dr. Miller joined us in Fall 1997.

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

Most of my hobbies involve baseball. I have collected baseball cards since I was 7 and helped run memorabilia tables at card shows in the DFW area while in graduate school. I focus primarily on building complicated sets. Right now, I am working on building a 420 card set made up of 18 subsets where the cards in each subset are of different levels of rarity to find. I buy and sell with others online from all over the country. Typically, I send or receive mail associated with cards multiple times a week.

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

I’ll stick with the same sports theme. My brother and I regularly attend Spring Training in March and that is ALWAYS an adventure. Our typical day in Arizona is to get up before sunrise and wait for players to arrive at practice facilities seeking autographs. We’ll then attend a practice and early afternoon game continuing to seek autographs as players move about and are taken out of games. We will eat in the late afternoon and then go through the process again at a night game. Afterwards, we’ll head back to our hotel and go straight to bed. The entire day is usually a 15 to 16 hour routine that gets repeated for up to one week straight. Many call it insane. We absolutely love it and are looking forward to being there again in 2019.

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

Music: My favorite band of my youth (and overall) is Rush. A little later in time, the band Queensryche was near the top of the list along with Dream Theater. All of those bands play in the genre known as progressive metal, which is my preferred style. It is probably a shortcoming, but I actually have a very narrow interest in forms of music. Most people don’t like the music I listen too because the time signatures change repeatedly and often the songs are dysrhythmic.

Books: Another one my shortcomings is that I am not an avid reader (except scripture, math books and baseball websites) • Movies: Same deal. I’m not a movie guy… at all. Yeah, I know – this spotlight just got boring. My wife likes science fiction movies. I watch them so I can hang out with her – not so much for the actual film.

Sports: Baseball and Volleyball. I played basketball literally every day of my life from the time I was 5 until I graduated high school. A played a little on rec teams in college and grad school, but basketball doesn’t catch my interest hardly at all anymore and I’ve always thought football was a very flawed game. The ball isn’t even round.

Games: I like an occasional board game, but I am one of the 2% of the population that actually doesn’t enjoy playing video games. I’ve never owned a video gaming system as an adult.

Cars: Has someone made one yet that protects you against speeding tickets? If so, let me kn…Oops, I got off topic.

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

The central theme for me is always probability, which I find to be the most beautiful and enchanting discipline in mathematics by a large measure. Had a mathematician mentored me as an undergraduate and informed me that I could study probability in graduate programs in mathematics, then I probably would have gone to get a PhD in Math. But, many of my undergraduate mentors were statisticians. So, I wound up going to grad school in statistics.

Originally, I worked in an area called stochastic processes. “Stochastic” means ‘random”, and so the area is rich with probability problems. Specifically, my dissertation was in renewal and queueing theory. Later, I began to drift more traditionally toward statistical inference problems that applied statistical theory to probability models. I still love little distribution theory, quirky and non-standard problems and managed to work on things of that ilk for a good while after coming to SFA.

During the middle of my career, two big things have happened though. First, I’ve been involved in many more statistical consulting problems. So, I finally began practicing applied statistics. For about the first seven or eight years of my career, I’d just say I was an applied probabilist and leave the word “statistics” completely out of it even though my PhD was from a statistics department. That changed when I began working on a lot of health care related applied research.

Second, simultaneously I’ve felt called back to my mathematical roots. I used to think that if I had gone to graduate school in mathematics I would have studied real analysis. Lately, I’ve come to realize I enjoy discrete problems a lot, so I probably would have been a discrete mathematician. So, I’ve decided to see if I can become one – or maybe just get close. About 8 years ago, I just started reading combinatorics books to teach myself various things. I’ve really enjoyed that and have had a chance to lead three masters’ theses in combinatorics and teach a graduate combinatorics class last year.

What is the closest you have ever come to dying?

Recently, I asked a colleague to proctor an exam for me while I was away and he accidentally forgot. The students got whipped into a frenzy and no one could locate me because I was driving for an athletic trip – having left earlier than normal to avoid bad weather. Since I didn’t show for the test and others didn’t know the exam was to be covered by a colleague, many people in the department thought I had gone missing. Dr. Beverly thought I was in a ditch somewhere. That’s probably the closest I’ve come to dying even though I was perfectly fine.

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

think it is cool that I get to work for ESPN as a play-by-play announcer for collegiate volleyball. It is fairly unique as well since there are only about 50 universities that have contracts to broadcast volleyball on ESPN3 or ESPN+. This is my fourth year to do play-by-play for SFA Volleyball on ESPN and the Southland Conference Digital Network.

Colloquium 11/12: Dr. Ryan Jensen on “Barcodes for Coloring Book Images”

Today, Monday November 12, at 3:30 pm in Math Building 357, Dr. Ryan Jensen will be talking about Barcodes for Coloring Book Images. This talk should be interesting and accessible for many undergraduates, so please encourage your students to attend.

Abstract: Julie Barns, William Kreahling, and Beth Schaubroeckpublished several images generated by inverse images of complex valuedfunctions. Their work is available for purchase from the MAA Press under thetitle of Coloring Book of Complex Function Representations. Most itemsavailable for purchase need a “barcode” for a (somewhat) unique identifier. This talk will discuss generating barcodes for the images in Barns’s book usinglarge scale geometry and persistent homology. In particular, I will show howlarge scale geometry induces a filtration of complexes for an image  usingstarring and cubical homology. While there will be advanced math, there will besome ideas suitable for undergraduates. (flyer in PDF form)

Colloquium 10/22: Dr. Bob Henderson on Bounded Bootstrap Estimation and Simulation of Primary Factors Utilized in Retirement Planning

On Monday, October 22, at 3:30 in Math Building 357, Dr. Bob Henderson will be talking about Bounded Bootstrap Estimation and Simulation of Primary Factors Utilized in Retirement Planning.

Abstract: In previous work, a bounded approach to simulating four of the primary variables utilized in retirement planning – annual return rates on equity, fixed income, and cash investments, as well as the annual inflation rate – was proposed and shown to provide much more realistic distributions of possible outcomes for simulations of up to 65 years into the future. The bounded simulation approach used in that work assumed normal (or log normal) distributions for the error distributions after fitting appropriate time series models to the historical data for each variable. While examination of model residuals suggested that this assumption was reasonable for three of the four variables (equity, cash returns, and inflation); there was one extreme result for the variable (fixed income returns) that suggested perhaps heavier tailed error distributions might be more appropriate for at least this variable. In order to investigate the impact (if any) distributional assumptions for the model errors on simulation efforts, simulations for the same four variables were conducted with no distributional assumption being made by simulating potential future model errors using a bootstrap approach (Efron, 1979 or Efron and Tibshirani, 1993) rather than drawing random deviates from any assumed distribution. Perhaps unsurprising is that an unbounded bootstrap simulation generated extremely unrealistic future distributions for these variables, similar to those observed in the 2013 work using unbounded simulations from specified distributions. However, a bounded bootstrap simulation approach produced results similar to those obtained with the bounded distributional simulations completed in 2013. However, specific issues that arise in the bootstrap simulation of future model errors do not occur when simulations use specific error distributions. Simulation results will be used in example cases to evaluate investment strategies for those nearing retirement, someone just entering retirement, and someone just entering the work force. (flyer in PDF form)

Colloquium 10/9: Dr. Sarah Cobb on Finiteness Properties by Way of Geometry

On Tuesday, October 9, at 3:30 PM in Math Building 357, Dr. Sarah Cobb from Midwestern State University will be talking about Finiteness Properties by Way of Geometry. This talk should be accessible to most undergrad students and will be driven by examining a few pictures and examples.

Astract: There are many ways to give a notion of size to infinite groups. Some of the most common are the finiteness properties F_n and FP_n, which have close ties to the homology of groups. We will examine these finiteness properties from a geometric perspective and apply them to particular linear groups. This talk will be grounded in pictures and examples and should be accessible to anyone familiar with matrix operations. (flyer in PDF form)