Enthusiasm Goes Viral
To sum up the satisfaction of teaching at Valpo, Daniel Maxin points to a moment in his Gellersen Hall classroom during a course in differential equations.
“Differential equations can be used to model pretty much anything that moves — anything that depends on time. Students are fascinated to learn how mathematics can be used to solve real-life problems. In this one class, they were all so absorbed in the material that I had to remind them that the class was over and it was time to go,” Professor Maxin recalls.
“Although we have all kinds of students, I find that Valpo students overall have a strong sense of vocation,” Professor Maxin observes. Because mathematics is so widely applicable, his classrooms are full of eager students with diverse interests — majoring not only in math and statistics, but also in engineering, business, and fields from the entire range of arts-and-sciences disciplines.
Professor Maxin’s own research specialty is mathematical biology, using differential equations to build and analyze models for epidemiology and population dynamics.
His primary research partner is a theoretical ecologist who works in the Czech Republic, but Professor Maxin hardly keeps his enthusiasm for applied math under quarantine: he loves introducing undergraduates to the rewarding world of mathematical research.
Through the mathematics and statistics department’s undergraduate research program, Professor Maxin generally supervises at least one undergraduate research team per year.
“These projects usually result in conference presentations. One team, which worked out a model of disease transmission from mother to newborn, actually ended up co-publishing a paper in a journal with me.”
Conducting his own research — he’s currently on sabbatical pursuing a project in mathematical modeling of biological systems — is important to his teaching as well: it renews his sense of excitement about the potential of math to find new answers, an enthusiasm he shares with his students.
His freedom to pursue the projects that interest him, along with the collegial atmosphere of his department, make Valpo a very pleasant place to work, Professor Maxin says.
“Ultimately, that benefits the students,” Professor Maxin says. “I’ve never felt that my energy was diverted to unimportant things, and that makes it easy to focus on teaching and enjoy my work.”