Ever since she was a child, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumna Lori Alvin ’05, of Peoria, Illinois, has loved to look for patterns and play with math problems.
“I’m interested in understanding the big picture of how things relate to each other,” said Alvin, who studies dynamical systems as an assistant professor at Bradley University. “I’m interested in the long-term behavior of a system when you continually apply a function.”
As an undergraduate at UW Oshkosh, Alvin was involved in a variety of activities from jazz band and student hall government to math club and math tutoring for Supplemental Instruction.
She took three math classes and an independent study with UWO math professor and College of Letters and Science Dean John Koker who encouraged her to pursue a doctorate in mathematics, which she did at UW-Milwaukee.
Alvin recently returned to campus to present a colloquium entitled “Dynamical Systems and your Car Odometer.”
She described how a car odometer’s function is simple: for every mile that is driven, the odometer increases by 1. In a base 10 world, when the car has 99,999 miles on it and then travels one more mile, the odometer is said to “roll over” to 100,000.
“It turns out that this action of ‘addition by one with carry’ appears frequently within dynamical systems,” she said. These systems can then be changed if they are sped up by considering “addition by X with carry” when X is allowed to be larger than one, she explained.
Besides her research, Alvin has taught a full range of undergraduate math classes at Bradley, since joining the faculty there in fall 2015. Prior to that, she served as an assistant professor at the University of West Florida and as a postdoctoral lecturer at the University of Denver.
Alvin said she wants undergrads considering majoring in math to know that solving problems is fun.
“Getting something to work is exciting,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and play with a problem.”