Congratulations to Our 2022 PhD Graduates!

May 14, 2022

Congratulations to our 2021 PhD graduates, Larry Allen, Chian Chua, Henry Ickes, Alan Mullenix, Mads Reynolds, and Jonathan Stanfill. Continue reading to hear more about their time at Baylor and their plans for the future. You may click on any of the names below to jump to the new graduate of your choice.

Larry Allen

Larry AllenI first heard of Baylor University while at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland. After switching majors from secondary education to pure mathematics in my senior year, I was searching for graduate schools when I saw a poster advertising the mathematics graduate program at Baylor. I did some research on the school and the surrounding area and decided to apply.

One of the major contributing factors to my decision to attend Baylor was the campus visit for prospective graduate students. While on the visit, I was impressed by the supportive and nurturing community I observed in the mathematics department. I saw how the faculty developed the students as researchers and teachers, and I also saw how the graduate students cared for each other as friends and fellow mathematicians. This allayed much of my uncertainty about attending graduate school and ultimately cemented my choice to pursue a degree at Baylor.

During my time at Baylor, I conducted research with Dr. Kirby on problems in approximation theory and numerical analysis related to Bernstein polynomials. In particular, our work focused on approximating and interpolating smooth functions with Bernstein polynomials. By making use of the structure of the corresponding matrices, we were able to provide fast, stable algorithms for solving these problems.

While at Baylor, I was also given the privilege of teaching many first-year undergraduate courses such as Precalculus and Business Calculus. Teaching and interacting with students enhanced my experience as a mathematician and a researcher and allowed me to consider different perspectives on familiar topics. Although I have decided not to stay in academia, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to teach and share the beauty of mathematics.

After graduation, I will be using the knowledge and experience I gained at Baylor in my job as an applied research mathematician. I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to study at Baylor, and I look forward to what the future holds!

- Larry Allen

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Chian Chua

Chian's advisor is Tao Mei. Chian has accepted a postdoctoral position at Ohio State University.

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Henry Ickes

Henry's adviser is Johnny Henderson

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Alan Mullenix

Alan MullenixMy path to Baylor and a PhD began with anything but success, and I would encourage anyone considering this journey to not think it is too late. The context of what the people at Baylor meant and those on the road to PhD altogether starts quite a bit before my arrival in Texas: I dropped out of high school in 2006 due to poor performance and eventually meandered my way to a GED, followed by promptly failing out of community college. I’d resigned myself to find stability in whatever odd jobs I could find, but in the middle of the 2008 recession they were just about non-existent without qualifications.

With prospects looking grim on the job market, I returned to Shelton State Community College in around 2012, declared academic bankruptcy, and began as a 23 year old freshman. The plan was simply to get Associate Degree in Science to have something on that resume. On the course checklist was trigonometry and much to my surprise, it went well and sparked an interest. I began speaking with the instructor after lectures, and he introduced me to the rest of the mathematics faculty who quickly became dear friends. They nurtured my interest, generously invested time, loaded me up with hand-me-down advanced textbooks, found me work at the tutoring center, introduced me to faculty at the local state university, and gave me the confidence to change my course to a four-year degree. Transferring to the University of Alabama, I eventually declared my major as Mathematics, graduating, to my disbelief, with honors. I was urged to consider graduate school, but was concerned the social and supportive elements I’d come to value would be hard to find at such a level.

I happened to get a pamphlet from Baylor and was drawn to both the generous material benefits offered, and the departmental culture described. It seemed important to them to foster a collaborative and friendly place where students and faculty communicated freely. Since this was vitally important to what I had come to love about academia, I drove out to take the tour and it confirmed everything they had claimed; there was no doubt it was the offer I wanted to accept. My six years at Baylor and in Waco have given me a PhD, yes, but also ten semesters of teaching, invaluable friends, relationships, and colleagues. I wasn’t sure what research direction I wanted to go in, but my interest in optimization led me to nonlinear partial differential equations, specifically the study of Mean Field Games, models of high population competitions between rational agents. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor in Dr. Jameson Graber. His insights, breadth of expertise, time spent, and constant aid were instrumental in both my success and exemplify what Baylor Mathematics can offer students. I’ve felt unwaveringly supported by this department, and though I’m excited to enter the next chapter, I’ll always look back on my time at Baylor with nothing but fondness.

- Alan Mullenix

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Mads Reynolds

Mads ReynoldsWhen my wife and I were first considering me entering a PhD program for mathematics, we looked at several universities around places that had cool to moderate temperature. As such, Baylor was not a school we thought about. Then we heard mention of Baylor while watching an episode of “Fixer Upper.” We started investigating to see if Baylor could be a possibility and shortly later applied for admission.

Needless to say, I was accepted and offered a tour of the campus. When my wife and I flew out, we were immediately impressed with the people in Waco. Everyone we met was friendly. As part of my visit to campus, I was able to sit in on a few lectures, and I was again impressed with the faculty here a Baylor. Not only were they experts in their fields, but they also knew how to teach as well. My opinion of the professors continued to grow as I got to work with many of them through the classes they taught. I then took a class by Dr. Jonathan Meddaugh and enjoyed his approach to topology. After the class I started collaborating with him as my advisor. For the last few years, we have been delving into a new topic, that of shifts of hereditarily finite type.

Before coming to Baylor, I taught math at the secondary level. I have always enjoyed teaching and Baylor has given me plenty of opportunities to continue developing and refining my teaching abilities. One of my biggest rewards as an instructor of mathematics is for a student who, in their own words “is not good at math,” to come to an appreciation of the subject and realize that math is something they can do.

After graduation, I will be staying at Baylor for a post doctorial teaching fellowship. Although I do not know exactly what the future will bring beyond this year, I will say that my wife and I liked the area and the campus so much that she is also pursuing a doctorate here a Baylor.

- Mads Reynolds

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Jonathan Stanfill

Jonathan's adviser is Fritz Gesztesy. Jonathan has accepted a named postdoctoral position at Ohio State University.

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