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.

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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)

October Faculty Spotlight: Mr. Chance Bradford

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Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Mr. Bradford joined us in Fall 2018.

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

I collect Funko Pop figures, Pokémon cards, and quarters.

My wife and I watched the entire X-Files series for the first time last year, and my first two Pop figures were Mulder and Scully. I like how they are all uniform yet still unique.

When I was a kid, I collected sports cards (baseball, basketball, some football). A few years ago I became interested in Pokémon because I love the cute and silly artwork. It’s also a fun-for-all-ages game that uses math and encourages social interaction.

I also have a collection of quarters and two dollar bills. When I was taking Real Analysis with Dr. Clark in 2012 there was a bonus question “Who is on the $2 bill?”. When he returned the exams, a $2 bill was paper-clipped to them all. I still have that bill, and have collected many more since. I have a collection of state quarters (I still need Tennessee, Maine, Missouri, Minnesota, Missouri, Alabama, Virginia, DC, American Samoa) and America the Beautiful quarters which are still being released.

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

I served in the Marine Corps for four years and have many stories to tell from that time. One of my go-to stories is the gas chamber. In boot camp and once every three years, Marines must train with their gas masks and sometimes MOPP gear (suits). You enter a brick building with your mask on, they close the door, and light CS gas (tear gas). You take the mask off, put it back on, do exercises like push-ups, jumping jacks, running in place, etc. Finally, you are released and so are the contents of your sinuses.

I also had tons of fun outside of Marine Corps life in Southern California. I lived in the barracks at the foot of a beautiful mountain (aptly named Old Smokey) and about 10 minutes from San Clemente beach, a world-renowned surfing spot. I spent lots of time at the beach but never learned how to surf. I also took advantage of the location by going to so many concerts to see my favorite bands, most of them in smaller venues.

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

Music:
I have to say my favorite band is Ween (1990-current). They are a genre-bending band and truly silly. Some safe-for everyone songs to check out:
Country: I Don’t Wanna Leave You on the Farm, Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain, I’m Holding You, You Were the Fool
Soft Rock: Stay Forever, The Mollusk, I Fell in Love Today, Joppa Road, Your Party

Movies:
My favorite movie is The Big Lebowski. But that’s just like, my opinion, man. So many Cohen brother movies are classics. Oh Brother Where Art Though, No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Raising Arizona, etc.

TV:
Currently watching Brooklyn 99, I can’t recommend it enough. I can’t wait for Game of Thrones to come back. Some older favorites: Office, Parks and Rec, Community, Breaking Bad

Games:
I play Pokémon Go, Stardew Valley, and got a Nintendo Switch this summer. I’ve played Zelda, Mario Kart, and Mario Tennis on that. I’m looking forward to all the great releases this fall.

What is the closest you have ever come to dying?

The time I threw a live grenade in training at SOI. Nothing bad happened, but it was a dangerous situation that most people have probably not been in. There’s a lot of trust in that little mechanism!

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

Serving in the Marine Corps helped me pay my way through school. In junior high and high school, I would work with my grandpa every summer. He was an electrician and working with him taught me about hard work. In fact, it was so hard that I promised myself I would get an education so I wouldn’t have to do it anymore! It doesn’t get much worse than digging ditches in the Texas summer sun or crawling through attics in excess of 130 degrees. Still, I wouldn’t trade those times for anything.

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

I share a birthday with Dr. Alton Birdwell and consequently SFASU!

September Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Brian Beavers

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Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Dr. Beavers joined us in Fall 2006.

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

This child of the ’80s has a considerable Transformers collection. It started in 1984 with the first series of figures and I still collect new ones today. My most interesting piece is Reflector, the special thee-piece camera that was a mail order special; I found it in a random antique shop for a tenth it’s market value! I enjoy fiddling to figure out the transformation and now the toys have quite a nostaglia factor. As a rival collector, Dr. Turner has become my nemesis.

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

My wife and I have had three adventures to Spain now, some with family and friends, and including one trip that was a month long. I’m more than ready to go back! I am fascinated by the intricacies of the Mudéjar style. My profile picture comes from the Hall of Ambassadors in the Alcázar of Seville. One day, I would love to teach a geometry class among all the amazing patterns in Andalusia.

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

Ever since I first got a copy of the Back to The Future II score on cassette and listened to my dad’s copy of the Star Wars soundtrack on vinyl, I’ve been a huge fan of epic movie scores. It’s my “junk food” music, and you can often hear it playing in the background when I work. Plus, I love listening to bold, adventurous themes while driving the many miles it takes to get anywhere in Texas. I read a lot – typically the news and various nonfiction books, with a few classic fiction series thrown in. I used to have a weekly classic movie night at my house. Casablanca Forever! I’ve been a Chicago Cubs fan since childhood and got to see them at Wrigley Field during their world championship 2016 series.

What is the closest you have ever come to dying?

There was a time when I was on Dr. Harris’ pontoon boat on Toledo Bend Reservoir when it started sinking…

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

In college, I graded math homework for the LA Tech math department and I ran network cable and fixed computer systems for the College of Engineering and Science at LA Tech; if you look at what I do now, you would see that not much has changed. One year in elementary school I picked tomatoes three days a week in my grandfather’s garden – if you could call a patch that generated dozens of bushels per week a “garden.” My grandfather never did anything small; I learned a lot from him about working hard to help others and following my creative instincts to find new and interesting projects.

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

I have the rarest Myers-Briggs personality type, INFJ, which is also the rarest type among men. I also have an Erdös number of 3. One of my goals in life is to appear in a movie so that I can have a defined Erdös-Bacon number.