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Grand Valley's math department welcomes three new faculty members
With his appointment to the faculty at GVSU, Brian Drake has returned home to Michigan. After completing bachelor's degrees in music (in trumpet performance) and mathematics from the University of Michigan, Brian began his graduate studies in Boston where he completed his PhD at Brandeis University. His mathematical research interests lie in the field of enumerative combinatorics; he is also particularly enthusiastic about teaching and looks forward to teaching his way through the GVSU mathematics curriculum. Brian is especially interested in finding different ways to help students visualize mathematical concepts and connections. For example, he is currently incorporating origami into his discrete mathematics course as a way to visualize and explore properties of graphs.
Before joining our faculty, Brian had the opportunity to spend a year in France after completing his degree. While in France, he spent time continuing his research, studying the inversion of generating functions, and learning French. Ironically, while taking conversational French he met other students in the class who were interested in learning and practicing their English; Brian enjoyed his time conversing (in English) and getting to know these classmates. In his spare time, Brian enjoys bicycling and exploring the extensive trail systems in Michigan. He hopes one day to ride across the state.
Firas Hindeleh is a familiar colleague to many; after completing two years as a postdoctoral teaching fellow in our department, Firas was hired into a tenure-track position this fall. As Firas looks back upon his time as a postdoc, he reflects that this experience was inspiring and helped to shape his current teaching methods. He especially enjoyed the mentoring process, the opportunities to observe how various colleagues teach their classes, and time devoted to regularly discussing and reflecting upon teaching. Lately, Firas is interested in helping students become better writers as they communicate their mathematical reasoning and write proofs, and he has focused on ways to provide meaningful feedback students will find helpful.
Firas grew up in Jordan, and after completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Jordan, he taught high school mathematics for a year at one of the international schools there. He then came to the US to pursue graduate studies at the University of Toledo where he completed his PhD in the field of Lie algebras and Lie groups. In addition to his ongoing research in Lie algebras, Firas has recently become interested in exploring mathematical relationships found within Byzantine music, an art form that has existed over 2000 years. Firas collaborated with a student, and they discovered fractal relations emerging within each of the 8 different representative pieces of music they analyzed. Firas is excited to discover additional connections among Byzantine music, history, and mathematics and hopes to continue to find ways to bring history, culture, and mathematics together. Most of Firas's free time is devoted to caring for and enjoying his twins, who at 20 months are a bundle of energy and curiosity. When Firas does have a spare moment and the weather is nice, you may also find him running.
Darren Parker brings many years of teaching experience to our department. Darren earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he studied Hopf algebras and coalgebras. His first teaching job was at Bemidji State University in Minnesota where he grew to love winter and snow. He continued his research in algebra, but while at Bemidji State, a colleague got him interested in graph theory, and he has been hooked ever since. Along with a third colleague from Bemidji State, Darren has collaborated and co-authored a series of papers exploring convexity. Darren continues to explore topics in graph theory, and most recently is interested in different games that can be represented graphically and give rise to exploring different graph properties. He finds these game-context problems accessible and fun, and because of this accessibility, hopes to engage with undergraduates in graph theory research, exploring problems that arise from these game contexts.
After leaving Bemidji State, Darren taught at the University of Dayton for several years, joined the mathematics faculty at GVSU first as visitor, and now two years later, as a tenure-track faculty member. Darren loves teaching, and one thing he really appreciates about teaching at GVSU is its students; he finds the students so enjoyable because they are hard-working, enjoy challenges, and take responsibility for their learning. When Darren isn't teaching or doing research, you will probably find him playing with or reading to his three children who range in age from 21 months to 6 years old. Darren also likes to run; he has run 4 marathons and is running a half marathon this May.