Outstanding in its field – UT News

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“When I had a conversation with someone, I was so much better at convincing them of my way of thinking. Everything has changed, and I credit it to math. I was able to solve problems for the first time in my life. Of course, there is great value in the things mathematicians do, but the greatest value of mathematics to society is how it changes the way people think about everyday problems, from raising children to work on cars through work with horses.

The fact that he was older when this happened gives him a “growth mindset.” “It’s not settled. We can just improve ourselves in the way we think. I am living proof ! In addition, it informs its philosophy of life and its teaching philosophy. “If David Logan hadn’t believed in me, my life would have been a little different. But he believed I could get better and be successful. Besides, there was nothing in it for David. He was a full professor. He didn’t need to help anyone, but he did. I try to give that back to my students. I’ll go out with them, and if I see one that worries me a bit, I’ll start talking to them. Sometimes all it takes is letting someone know that you care about them, that you don’t care.

Having obtained a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and, in 2002, a doctorate. from the University of Nebraska, he worked at small colleges near the farm, including a women’s college for 17 years and a liberal arts college. But he was sick of academia. His brother lived in the Austin area and persuaded him to move to Austin and start a beef jerky business with him. After two years, he got bored of the situation, needed a new job and, loving Austin, applied to UT.

“I tell my students that doing your best at every stage of your life is so important. Even when I was in these little colleges, I did research. For a small college professor, I had a lot of publications, so when I sent my resume here, even though I hadn’t been in academia for two years, they still thought, “Oh, that guy. could be fine! “”

After clarifying for the hiring committee how a doctorate in mathematics. ended up making beef jerky, Wolesensky started in Texas in the fall of 2012, teaching a wide range of undergraduate courses, including teaching math in a team with UT legend Michael Starbird.

But his love of teaching goes hand in hand with strong research interests, and virtually all of his publications have focused on mathematical biology. “For 35 years of my life, I sat on my tractor. This gave me a good overview of insects and spiders as they are a big part of agriculture.

One example he gives from mathematical biology concerns climate change. Moose populations in New Hampshire are in decline because ticks, which in relatively large numbers can kill moose, thrive due to shorter winters. One of his research groups has created models of how the date of a first snowfall can affect the moose population. The “stochastic” model introduces the element of randomness to simulate the variability of the first snowfall each year.

Another research group examines the vigilance level of prey and mathematically models how fear of a predator affects survival.

Of the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, he says: “I was very surprised to win it, but what was more meaningful to me was what the students wrote in the letters of recommendation. One wrote: “He seemed to care more about my success than I did. The most meaningful reading of all.

“I’m very truthful in everything I say,” Wolesensky proclaims with Midwestern frankness as a preface to what follows: “My students here are by far my favorite students anywhere I’ve ever taught. They’re not just brilliant – I’ve taught brilliant students before. They are really kind and honest human beings. I’ve never taught in a place where I had better students, not just because they’re smart, but because they’re so decent. It is almost without exception. They are wonderful human beings. They are nice people who care about the world. If you’re wondering why I didn’t go and go back to Nebraska or wherever, it’s hard for me to leave when I have students like that.


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