Department of Mathematics and Statistics
College of Arts and Sciences
Learn more about Integrated Scholar Brock Williams, in this question-and-answer session.
What are your research objectives and interests?
I am interested in applications of discrete conformal geometry to problems in biology and Teichmüller theory.
How do you feel your research impacts the globe?
My work lies at the intersection of several different fields such as complex analysis, geometry, probability and discrete mathematics and has connections to applications in disease modeling and biomedical imaging. As a result, I've been able to interact with researchers with a wide range of interests from around the world. I've been able to travel to discuss my work in Germany, Finland,Russia, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, India, Mexico and Canada.
What types of service projects have you been involved with?
For the last few years, I have served as chairman of the Math Department's scholarship committee. It has been very gratifying to help bright students continue their education at Texas Tech by employing the resources of the department's scholarship endowments as well as funding from several National Science Foundation grants.
I have also enjoyed serving on the department's Helen I. Medley Award Committee. This award was created by Roger W. Barnard, one of the premier researchers in our department, now retired, to recognize outstanding middle and high school teachers. Every spring we visit several schools across West Texas to interview teachers and their students. Many of the relationships that have grown out of these visits have led to opportunities to recruit students to Texas Tech, including some teachers returning to Texas Tech to earn master's degrees in math.
What are you currently working on?
Most of my energy is currently invested in the LAZARUS project. Our new Lab for the Analysis of Zombie Activity and Research into Undead Simulations (LAZARUS) uses high performance GPU computing to simulate disease outbreaks. The inclusion of the zombie virus as a disease we study has been a great tool
for convincing K-12 students that math can be cool and convincing high school seniors that Texas Tech is the college for them.
Moreover, there are also many deep theoretical questions connecting to my interests in conformal geometry, probability and discrete math. For example, our simulation allows us to include geographic features in our disease model and analyze them using the geometric techniques I've studied for years.
Where do you find your inspiration?
To be completely honest, I believe my research is a journey of discovery hand-in-hand with God. The greatest joy in my work comes when I am most consciously connected to His goals for my life and when I lean most completely on Him. I don't mean praying for the answer to a problem (though there is some of that), but that in the beauty of mathematics, I can see the work of God. In my teaching, I try to serve others using Jesus as my model. This is my calling.
What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research, and service—in their careers?
Look for opportunities to use service to share what excites you about your research. Be the best teacher you can be so that your students will naturally want to hear about your research and join you in service.
I grew up on a dairy farm in extremely rural Mississippi, which turned out to be a great motivation for studying mathematics. I earned my B.S. in mathematics from Mississippi State University in 1993 and my Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee in 1999. I have taught at Texas Tech since 1999. My wife, also a lecturer in the TTU math department, and I have been married since 1994. We have 3 kids, George, Kate, and Nathaniel.