Weis, Jonathan

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Mathematics Department Chair

BA (Liberal Arts) St. John's College
BS (Physics) University of Massachusetts, Amherst
MS (Mechanical Engineering) University of Massachusetts, Amherst 

I grew up on the campus of Massachusetts boarding school, where my father taught math. This has had a strong effect on my feelings about both profession and lifestyle. For high school I went away to boarding school, an experience that has, I hope, helped me to be aware of the challenges that face young people away from home. Four years of studying the liberal arts led to a nine year stint as a bicycle mechanic. During this time I did some coaching, my first work with adolescents. This inclined me towards teaching; so I determined to gain qualification in a field that would be likely to offer a steady possibility of employment in schools. Despite having not had math beyond basic algebra and little science, I decided, at age 28, that physics might be an interesting field. A few years of part time study proved to me that this was true. However, a few years of teaching in a small public school soured me on the profession. Back to UMass again, I took an MS in engineering, with a thesis on noise reduction in ducts. I should have paid more attention to the fact that my favorite aspect of the job was teaching undergraduates. Instead I took an engineering position. Four years of this convinced me to try teaching again, this time in the friendlier confines of Dublin. I've been here and happy ever since.

What book has made you think the most? Actually, two books: Physics (3rd edition) David Halliday and Robert Resnick and Calculus by Howard Anton. At the age of 28 I returned to college to study Physics. Up to that point I had studied no formal math beyond high school Algebra II and no science beyond high school Chemistry. Encountering these two textbooks after a ten year break from the disciplines was the most demanding project I ever took on. If I could do it under those conditions, I figure anybody can handle Physics and Calculus.

What teacher has had the greatest impact on you? Why were they special? That would be professor G. A. Russell, my graduate advisor in mechanical engineering. He had a collection of teaching excellence awards and a big file of formal complaints about his teaching, too. My best memory of him is my first. He went through a list of the prerequisites for taking the course that I was to be his lab TA for. It was a long list and I had taken none of the courses myself, as I had not been an engineering undergraduate. I nervously admitted that I had not passed the prerequisites myself, figuring that he would find out sooner or later and that there was no sense in hiding the fact. When I said this he almost exploded. "You don't need to know any of that stuff. You're teaching the course, not taking it."

How would your friends describe you in three words? They would not

What is your favorite place on campus and why? Eagle Rock, a place that is quiet and has fine views

If I had a free afternoon I would... not spend it filling out forms.