June Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Ryan Jensen

Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Dr. Jensen joined us in Fall 2017.

Do you have a hobby or collect something?

I'm not sure it qualifies as a hobby, but when I'm not at work I enjoy playing with kids. Anna and I have three kids, and they seem to keep us both very busy.

What kind of music, books, movies, sports, games, cars, etc. (pick one or more) do you like? Is there any particular reason?

I really enjoy reading. I don't think I have a favorite kind of book, but I do have some favorite authors. I enjoy reading anything by Charles Dickens, I particularly like his characters. He seems to exaggerate them enough to make them funny, while keeping them real enough that readers are sure they know someone just like them. I also like CS Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Victor Hugo, when he doesn't get too far off from his story. Lately I've been reading some of Lloyd Alexander and the Spirit Animals series with my oldest son, and we have enjoyed those as well.

What do you study?

Recently I have been interested in computation homology – I try to describe the "shape" of things. We can visualize things in one, two, and three dimensions, but homology really gets interesting in higher dimensions where people cannot visualize the objects in question. Until quite recently there have not been too many real-world (unless you consider pure math to be real-world) applications of homology. Lately however, it has been used to differentiate two different types of cancer, once thought to be the same, and is finding many uses in data analysis.

What projects (academic or otherwise) are you currently working on?

Right now I am having fun writing a computer program to compute the barcode (a plot showing the homology of a sequence of spaces) of an image. I plan to use the program to give a barcode to each image in the "Coloring Book of Complex Function Representations" by Julie Barnes.

What did you do to put yourself through school, or what weird job have you held?

I have had many jobs to put myself through school. In high school I worked for a farmer during the summer months. During my undergraduate years I usually had at least one part time job. Some of these included: a private math tutor, working the math lab, early morning custodian (4-8 am, and yes I cleaned lots of bathrooms), offering computer technical support, video editor/special effects for a hunting tv series. Once I got to graduate school I was able to teach some math classes.

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Work will win when wishy-washy wishing won't.

The thing that really makes you cool and unique is something that I would never have thought to list here. What is it?

I speak Portuguese. After graduating high school, I spent two years in Brazil serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I met lots of wonderful people there and had many great experiences.

Why Study Math at SFA?

Math&Stats Graduate Student Chance Bradford on "Why I Study Math at SFA"

About Us

The Department of Mathematics and Statistics is a friendly and supportive place for our students. Our faculty are committed to excellence and continual improvement in teaching and advising students through our challenging curriculum:

Our math clubs are very active in hosting math talks and participating in conferences, fundraisers, and social activities.

We offer one of the leading certification programs in the state in mathematics teaching. The department proudly produces qualified teachers at all levels.

We offer dual-credit courses to local and rural schools and make visits to speak about mathematics and statistics.

Why study mathematics?

Mathematics is perhaps the most intellectually challenging and practical major you can choose. Some major in math for the enjoyment and beauty of the subject. Others major in math for its practicality and applicability to the sciences, engineering, finance, and even the social sciences. Mathematics develops rigorous analytical thinking skills that are prized in all fields of human endeavor.

Programs offered at SFA

  • Bachelor of Science in Mathematics
  • Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with Secondary Teacher Certification
  • Minor in Mathematics
  • Minor in Applied Statistics
  • Master of Science in Mathematical Sciences with focus in
    • Mathematics
    • Statistics
  • Master of Science in School Mathematics Teaching with focus in
    • Middle-Level Teaching
    • Secondary Teaching

Mission Statement

The purpose of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics is to attract and retain the best available scholars who actively pursue knowledge of mathematics, statistics, and/or mathematics education and who skillfully communicate their knowledge of the subject to their students, colleagues, and the community as a whole.

Specific roles of the Department are:

  1. To provide a sound curriculum for students who wish to pursue a career in mathematics or statistics in business and industry;
  2. To provide service courses for students who are majoring in some other department, but who need mathematics or statistics as a tool or to satisfy general degree requirements;
  3. To offer preparation to those who are planning to pursue a graduate degree;
  4. To prepare teachers for positions in colleges, universities, and public or private schools.