Nathan L. Gibson, BS

Gallatin, TN

Degree earned at WPI:
BS, Mathematical Sciences

What he does:
As an assistant professor of mathematics at Oregon State University, Nathan teaches applied mathematics and numerical analysis courses to undergraduate and graduate students. Approximately half of his time is spent doing research and advising students in research in these areas. He has also advised the Math Club and student chapters of Pi Mu Epsilon, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the Association for Women in Mathematics. Previously Nathan was a postdoctoral researcher at NASA Langley, working on nondestructive evaluation of space shuttle foam during the aftermath of the Columbia disaster.

Math on the job:
It should not be surprising that Nathan uses math on a daily basis, but the broad applications in research are worth mentioning. His current projects include modeling and simulation of:

  • methane hydrate production,
  • optimal control of dams and river networks,
  • interface conditions for fluid flow in porous media and population dispersal in nature,
  • cancer detection using terahertz interrogation, and
  • viscoelastic deformation of articular cartilage.

While the primary underlying theme in these applications is use of partial differential equations, other important concepts come from ordinary differential equations, linear algebra, probability, and calculus.

It goes without saying that a strong interest in physics, biology, and/or chemistry is helpful in applied mathematics. Additionally, Nathan draws on programming skills developed as part of a computer science minor from WPI.

Nathan’s background:
Nathan attended high school in Gallatin, TN, before entering WPI as a math major. Some of the many activities that enhanced his experience at WPI were participating in Math Club, Pi Mu Epsilon, and club soccer, as well as competing in the Putnam Exam and the COMAP Mathematical Contest in modeling. Highlights certainly include attending several regional and national mathematics conferences such as Hudson River and MathFest, as well as his MQP, entitled “Molecular Computation and Graph Theory,” which was interdisciplinary and included computer science and biology majors on the research team.

Nathan graduated with distinction from WPI with a BS in mathematical sciences, a concentration in computational and applied analysis, and a minor in computer science in 1998. He was awarded the Senior Math Major Award.

Upon leaving WPI, Nathan earned an MS in mathematics from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and a PhD in computational and applied mathematics from North Carolina State University under a NASA GSRP fellowship.

He says, “I always knew I wanted to teach math, but I never just wanted to teach. Being a professor allows me to choose research projects that interest me. Having the interdisciplinary background provided by WPI greatly expanded these options.”

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