From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice

Faculty Feature: Dr. Katie Evans

Aug 12, 2013 | Faculty Feature

KatieEvansPortraitFor Dr. Katie Evans, a highly successful mathematics professor, one + one = three.  She admittedly calls herself an “odd duck” mathematician.  And we are fortunate to have her teaching her brand of mathematics to our students.

After growing up in the northeastern corner of Kentucky on the Ohio River where Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio meet, Katie obtained her BS in Mathematics at Morehead State. She became the first member of her family to complete a four-year degree. She then traveled east to Virginia Tech where she earned the MS and PhD in Mathematics.  After a postdoc stint in mechanical engineering at Oregon State, Katie found her way to Louisiana Tech. So what attracted her to Tech?  It was her interdisciplinary background in both teaching and research.  When looking for tenure track positions nine years ago, she knew that she would not be happy in a department where mathematicians did not engage with the rest of the campus community.  Katie acknowledged, “I was specifically drawn to Louisiana Tech because the mathematicians and engineers ‘play nicely together’ by being housed in the same college, where the concepts of interdisciplinary teaching and research are embraced in name and practice.” Katie’s graduate research was in the modeling and control of physical systems whose dynamics are described by partial differential equations. This is a very applied mathematics research area where there is a strong blend of computation, simulation, and theoretical analysis. While completing her graduate work and attending controls conferences, Katie became interested in unmanned aerial vehicles which led her to pursue a mechanical engineering postdoctoral position. This was her first opportunity to teach engineering courses. Katie noted “It involved a considerable amount of preparation because I approached the contact hours differently than I had in teaching previous mathematics courses, but I had a blast!” At Tech, Katie has had the opportunity to teach a wide variety of courses ranging from calculus through graduate-level mathematics, the freshman ‘Living With the Lab’ engineering sequence, sophomore dynamics for civil and mechanical engineers, and computational methods for engineering graduate students. Katie said “One of the greatest feelings I have is when I can go into a mathematics classroom and connect the topic of the day to something applicable in engineering or vice versa AND then see students’ faces light up like they ‘get it’. What a rewarding feeling!” By staying actively engaged in research, Katie believes that she gains knowledge that she can carry into the classroom to share with students about how mathematics and engineering are used to impact society. She has received NSF funding to support both undergraduate and graduate students who work on her research projects. Katie also recently received a large NSF grant entitled “OPES (Open-source Problems in Engineering Studies): Making the WeB WorK”  to expand the use of WeBWorK to three core engineering courses – statics, circuits, and thermodynamics.  It will also create an open repository of homework problems for these courses to be used by faculty from other universities. An educational research component is included in this project where she will study the effects of online engineering homework on student learning. Katie also serves as PI on the NSF project “Mathematical Modeling of Biological and Biomedical Engineering Processes” in which she works with biomedical engineers.  One project with Dr. Mark DeCoster concerns the mathematical modeling of neuronal calcium dynamics while the other project with Dr. Patrick O’Neal pertains to the pharmacokinetic modeling of nanoparticle delivery to tumor sites.

Katie with Nanosystems Engineering graduate and National Grand Challenge Scholar Kate Elfer

It is easy to see that Katie is having broad impacts across a number of disciplines.  She is also having impacts at the K-12 level and is serving as a great role model and mentor for women engineering students through programs such as the Society of Women Engineers and the National Grand Challenge Scholars. Katie has even taken her interdisciplinary efforts to a new level when she married Tech electrical engineering professor Davis Harbour.  She and Davis significantly expanded their family last spring when they started fostering three children. As Katie says, “Yes, we went from zero to three children in our home with about one hour notice!” There is no question that those children will be enriched through their new foster parents.  And there is no question that our students and faculty are enriched through the special brand of mathematics that Katie Evans brings to Louisiana Tech.