December Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Greg Miller

Editor's Note: This is the tenth in a series of spotlights on mathematics and statistics faculty. Dr. Miller joined us in Fall 1997.

Do you have a hobby or collect something? How did you get into that?

Most of my hobbies involve baseball. I have collected baseball cards since I was 7 and helped run memorabilia tables at card shows in the DFW area while in graduate school. I focus primarily on building complicated sets. Right now, I am working on building a 420 card set made up of 18 subsets where the cards in each subset are of different levels of rarity to find. I buy and sell with others online from all over the country. Typically, I send or receive mail associated with cards multiple times a week.

Tell us about an adventure you had, or would like to have.

I'll stick with the same sports theme. My brother and I regularly attend Spring Training in March and that is ALWAYS an adventure. Our typical day in Arizona is to get up before sunrise and wait for players to arrive at practice facilities seeking autographs. We'll then attend a practice and early afternoon game continuing to seek autographs as players move about and are taken out of games. We will eat in the late afternoon and then go through the process again at a night game. Afterwards, we'll head back to our hotel and go straight to bed. The entire day is usually a 15 to 16 hour routine that gets repeated for up to one week straight. Many call it insane. We absolutely love it and are looking forward to being there again in 2019.

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

Music: My favorite band of my youth (and overall) is Rush. A little later in time, the band Queensryche was near the top of the list along with Dream Theater. All of those bands play in the genre known as progressive metal, which is my preferred style. It is probably a shortcoming, but I actually have a very narrow interest in forms of music. Most people don't like the music I listen too because the time signatures change repeatedly and often the songs are dysrhythmic.

Books: Another one my shortcomings is that I am not an avid reader (except scripture, math books and baseball websites) • Movies: Same deal. I'm not a movie guy… at all. Yeah, I know – this spotlight just got boring. My wife likes science fiction movies. I watch them so I can hang out with her – not so much for the actual film.

Sports: Baseball and Volleyball. I played basketball literally every day of my life from the time I was 5 until I graduated high school. A played a little on rec teams in college and grad school, but basketball doesn't catch my interest hardly at all anymore and I've always thought football was a very flawed game. The ball isn't even round.

Games: I like an occasional board game, but I am one of the 2% of the population that actually doesn't enjoy playing video games. I've never owned a video gaming system as an adult.

Cars: Has someone made one yet that protects you against speeding tickets? If so, let me kn…Oops, I got off topic.

What do you study? How did you get into that? Are there any real-world applications of your area of study?

The central theme for me is always probability, which I find to be the most beautiful and enchanting discipline in mathematics by a large measure. Had a mathematician mentored me as an undergraduate and informed me that I could study probability in graduate programs in mathematics, then I probably would have gone to get a PhD in Math. But, many of my undergraduate mentors were statisticians. So, I wound up going to grad school in statistics.

Originally, I worked in an area called stochastic processes. "Stochastic" means 'random", and so the area is rich with probability problems. Specifically, my dissertation was in renewal and queueing theory. Later, I began to drift more traditionally toward statistical inference problems that applied statistical theory to probability models. I still love little distribution theory, quirky and non-standard problems and managed to work on things of that ilk for a good while after coming to SFA.

During the middle of my career, two big things have happened though. First, I've been involved in many more statistical consulting problems. So, I finally began practicing applied statistics. For about the first seven or eight years of my career, I'd just say I was an applied probabilist and leave the word "statistics" completely out of it even though my PhD was from a statistics department. That changed when I began working on a lot of health care related applied research.

Second, simultaneously I've felt called back to my mathematical roots. I used to think that if I had gone to graduate school in mathematics I would have studied real analysis. Lately, I've come to realize I enjoy discrete problems a lot, so I probably would have been a discrete mathematician. So, I've decided to see if I can become one – or maybe just get close. About 8 years ago, I just started reading combinatorics books to teach myself various things. I've really enjoyed that and have had a chance to lead three masters' theses in combinatorics and teach a graduate combinatorics class last year.

What is the closest you have ever come to dying?

ecently, I asked a colleague to proctor an exam for me while I was away and he accidentally forgot. The students got whipped into a frenzy and no one could locate me because I was driving for an athletic trip – having left earlier than normal to avoid bad weather. Since I didn't show for the test and others didn't know the exam was to be covered by a colleague, many people in the department thought I had gone missing. Dr. Beverly thought I was in a ditch somewhere. That's probably the closest I've come to dying even though I was perfectly fine.

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

think it is cool that I get to work for ESPN as a play-by-play announcer for collegiate volleyball. It is fairly unique as well since there are only about 50 universities that have contracts to broadcast volleyball on ESPN3 or ESPN+. This is my fourth year to do play-by-play for SFA Volleyball on ESPN and the Southland Conference Digital Network.

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.