The picture above was taken by Chapin Bassi in my Multivariable Calculus class in the winter of 2018. I was teaching about vector fields and gradient fields and having a pretty good time.
As you can see, I’m a Professor of Mathematics at Washington and Lee University. I’ve been at W&L since 2013. Before that, I was at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA for 6 years and before that, I spent one year at Amherst College. I received my Ph.D. in 2006 from the University of South Carolina (under George Androulakis).
I grew up as an Army brat in a family of five that moved every two to four years all around the country (we lived in Alabama, Grafenwoehr (Germany), Ft. Bragg (NC), West Point (NY), Hawaii, and Ft. Meade (MD)). When I was 14, my family was stationed in Ft. Meade, MD where I finished up high school at Meade Senior High School. I graduated in 1998 and started college at a fantastic public liberal arts college in southern Maryland called St. Mary’s College of Maryland. St. Mary’s is not very well-known, but it’s a gem. I still go back almost every year to see old friends, play frisbee golf, and hang out by the water.
I had no intention of majoring in math when I started college. In fact, in my first semester, I took Calculus I and was set on pursing a biology major. My plans changed during the middle of my second semester when I took James Tanton’s Calculus II class (at 8 am). It was my first time seeing a math professor who loved and was excited about what he was showing us and brought the subject to life.
Initially, my goal was to major in math in order to become a high school teacher. It wasn’t until my senior year that I was convinced (mostly because of encouragement from Ivan Sterling and David Kung) to pursue a Ph.D. At the time, I didn’t have a real understanding of what a Ph.D. in math required, but when they told me about the tuition waivers and stipends you get as a graduate student, I thought I could at least afford to give it a shot. Also, James, Dave, and Ivan made being a math professor look like a pretty great job.
I ended up enrolling in the Ph.D. program at the University of South Carolina. My plan was to study number theory like Carrie Finch who is my current colleague but who, at the time, was a USC graduate student. I realized in short order that I wasn’t cut out for number theory and ended up working in infinite dimensional Banach space theory, where my Functional Analysis professor, and future advisor, George Androulakis, worked.
Banach space theory is still my primary research area. I’m very lucky to have had many opportunities to work with great mathematicians and mentors. George was an exceptional advisor. Within three years of working with him, I coauthored my first two papers in Banach space theory and started to think about myself as a research mathematician.
Since then, I have continued my work in Banach spaces and expanded in many different directions and have had the privilege of collaborating with many great mathematicians (find the list on my research page). In the spring of 2011, I traveled to Athens, Greece on a Fulbright Research Grant where I worked with Spiros Argyros at the National Technical University of Athens. At the time, Spiros and Richard Haydon had just solved one of the most important outstanding problems in Banach space theory, the scalar-plus-compact problem, and I was extremely fortunate to be able to collaborate with Spiros’ team at this critical time. In my relatively short career, I have also been able to travel and collaborate in the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Brazil, Spain and all around the US. Having the opportunity to travel to do mathematics is an unexpected and incredible part of the job. I didn’t see any of that coming when I applied to Ph.D. programs back in 2001.
My other favorite part of this job has been mentoring students and watching them develop in their careers. In the decade-plus that I’ve been a professor, I’ve had many students go on to Ph.D. programs in mathematics and get great jobs in all types of industries. My future colleague, Cory Colbert, was a student and advisee of mine at VCU before he went off to the University of Texas-Austin for a Ph.D. in algebra and post-doc at Williams College. W&L is very lucky to have Cory on the faculty and it brings me immense joy to follow his career.
During this whole time, I kept adding to my family through adoption. While I was in graduate school, in 2005, my wife Rachel and I adopted our son Gabriel from Guatemala. I’m now the father of a teenage boy! In 2010 we adopted Clementine (Tsehaynesh) from Ethiopia and Florence Claire came to us from Florida in 2013. Here is a cute picture of the three of them and Rachel from a few years back.