1. What made you decide to pursue mathematics? What led you to becoming a mathematics professor?

Somewhere toward the end of my Junior year as a physics major, I realized that the physics wasn’t as captivating to me as the math. I loved the underlying mathematics, but didn’t get as excited about the physics. I changed my major to math right away. I still liked the applications, though, so I took a job in the aerospace industry for a while before coming to graduate school. Being a math professor is by far the best job I’ve ever had, though.

2. What are some of the rewarding things about being a mathematician?

There is a terrific balance to this job between creating/discovering/understanding new mathematical ideas and helping others discover mathematical concepts for themselves. It’s a mix of feeling the wonder of complete confusion when doing research and being the instructor who shows others how to persist in the face of that confusion. You never feel too smart, or too stupid, in this job. It’s a wonderful place to be.

3. What are your other interests besides mathematics? Favorite band? Snickers or M&Ms?

Interests: Playing with my geriatric dogs, gardening, cooking, being outside when the weather permits, very amateur salsa dancing. Band: the subdudes Candy: Both, of course! In the freezer.

4. Who is your favorite mathematician and why?

I know many would pick someone long past that everyone recognizes — Hilbert or Noether or Bernoulli or Gauss. My favorite, though, is my advisor, Dr. Larry Baggett. You should check out his book In the Dark on the Sunny Side: A Memoir of an Out-of-Sight Mathematician. His work in abstract harmonic analysis is elegant and precise. He calls it the perfect blend of analysis, topology, and algebra. More recently, he made his mark in the theory of wavelets and frames, introducing generalized

multiresolution analyses. He is just an amazing mathematician, person, and friend. I wouldn’t be the mathematician I am today without his guidance and support.

5. Discuss some of the challenges students face in graduate school and your suggestions to overcome them.

The answers to almost every challenge in graduate school are a) find a network of fellow students to support you through the tough times and b) keep putting one foot in front of the other. Everyone gets to a point when the mathematics gets really really hard, is coming very fast, and a big test or talk is looming. No one is born knowing this stuff, everyone has to learn it. You have to trust that time, hard thinking, working loads of problems, trying examples, drawing pictures, and discussing problems (math and otherwise) with your network will lead you to know more than you did before.

Your path will be different from everyone else’s, by the way. Don’t worry about that. Just keep walking on your path.

6. You have been very active in increasing participation of women and minorities in the STEM disciplines. What more should we do or what should we do more of? What is your advice to someone from an underrepresented group pursuing mathematics?

Oh boy, that’s a question. If I had these answers, I’d get a grant and just fix it. I don’t know the answers, though, so what we should do is keep thinking about it and trying stuff.

My advice to all students, but especially to students who look around their science, engineering, or math classroom and don’t feel like they have had the same experiences as the others, is sort of the same as I gave to graduate students.

Find a network/study group and work together. Help each other learn the material, and quiz each other to be sure everyone’s got it. It takes a little while to figure out good people to study with, so don’t be frustrated if your first attempt at forming a group isn’t perfect.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Persistence is by far the biggest indicator of success. Einstein’s claim about 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration absolutely holds true in your courses. Do the homework, but also quiz yourself often, and mix up the problems. That will deepen your learning.

Maybe one more tip…use the resources. Go to office hours, use the Math Center, ask questions in class even though it’s scary, look for videos online, work extra problems from the book.

7. Describe “a day in the life of a mathematician” as it applies to you.

My days vary a lot. Some are mostly focused on teaching, getting ready to teach, making class activities and material, and meeting with students. I try to do a little research most days, but some days are my true research days where that’s my main focus. Then there are days where I help my colleagues on the projects that keep this awesome math department going and contribute to making it better and better.

8. Tell us, if possible, a little of what is your research area and what you are currently working on.

My research is in harmonic analysis. This often entails representing objects in terms of an agreed upon set of building blocks. The blocks depend on the setting: Fourier transforms use sine and cosine functions as building blocks; wavelets involve picking a fixed function and then doing shifts (translations) and stretch operations (dilations) to make all the building blocks. I work on frames, which are sets of building blocks that have some redundancy, so you can build the same object in more than one way. Like your friend loaning you some blocks from their set to combine with yours.

Once you pick a set of building blocks, you must figure out what to build. Sampling theory involves a set of instructions with your blocks that tells you how many of various kinds of blocks to use, but not what you are building. Thats what you have to figure out. I’m working on a problem finding general solutions for certain kinds of samples right now.