Featured Alum: Jason Sass, Mathematics 1999

My name is Jason Sass and I am a graduate of the class of 1999 with a degree in mathematics.

I recall my experience at CBU. During my undergraduate years at CBU I worked in the Math Center on campus. I have always loved to help others and tutoring math seemed to be a perfect fit. At the Math Center I helped other students wrestle with mathematical ideas and guide them, but never did all of the work for them. Instead I would help them see for themselves why something must be true or help them with a particular computational technique. It was quite fun and enjoyable to see them make progress and experience that ‘now i get it understanding’. It helped me to better understand as well, so this was a good experience for me.

I had initially majored in chemical engineering, but later switched over to math. I just couldn’t give up my passion for mathematical thinking and learning and sharing ideas. I would often stay in Plough Library on campus for hours and hours reading the many books and studying just for fun. Often I would be one of the last students to leave each night when the library closed. I would also hang out in the computer lab and chat with other students. It was always fun to learn new computer programs and write some programs of my own in the computer lab.

I took this curiosity about computers to the next level when I started working as a part time contractor for FedEx. There I provided computer technical support to gain some practical experience, all while still a student at CBU. It was a balancing act to manage both school and work, but quite doable, especially if you are determined and focused. So, I continued working there for about a year until I was offered a full time position at FedEx. I thought FedEx was a good company, so I decided to accept. In 1999 I completed my studies at CBU and was working full time for FedEx.

Initially I worked in the Customer Technology Services department at FedEx for a few years and provided technical support. Thereafter, I began working in the software development area in the Information Technology Division, focusing my energies on mission critical projects in the Retail sector at FedEx. I continued to learn new computer technologies and software development techniques. I believe my background in math has helped me to rapidly learn these new technologies. It was quite an enjoyable and fast paced environment. The environment is quite dynamic and there’s always new business objectives to meet. I’ve found it useful to reason carefully and critically when dealing with conflicting and even contradictory requirements and goals. Mathematical training has helped in this regard. I’ve held various positions throughout the years and currently I am a programmer advisor. In this capacity I work with a team that provides web services solutions for global customers. Specifically, we provide a web services interface for customers integrating with FedEx by providing functionality to ship with FedEx. So, we allow customers to perform business transactions with FedEx over the Internet no matter where they are. I enjoy working with the many folks at FedEx. I’m on my 13th year with FedEx and have received many awards for excellence, including several hall of fame awards and most valuable player award at FedEx.

It was during alumni weekend that I visited the updated CBU campus and toured the new sciences building. I was impressed with the open and bright rooms and whiteboards. I remember when I was a tutor on campus the Math Center was in a room with old wooden floors that creaked wherever you walked. But, now the Math Center is modernized and bright and there’s no more creaking floors. How lucky the current students are today! I saw the offices of my old professors, such as Dr. Becker and Cathy Carter Grilli and the various science classrooms. It’s nice that the math department had ‘moved up’ and is no longer in the basement.

In my spare time I’ve revived my interest in music. I used to play violin in the Memphis Youth Symphony many years ago and the piano. Now, I currently play my piano just for fun whether it’s Mozart or the London Symphony in D Major by Haydn or a modern rock song. In addition I like to tutor math and have done so for some time now. I always like to learn new things and I believe my CBU education has helped to encourage me to never stop learning.

Featured Alum: Mohammad Khoshnevisan, Ph.D., Mathematics, 1992

First we give information about Dr. Khoshnevisan, then we give his remembrances of his time at CBU.

Dr. Mohammad Khoshnevisan has completed his B.A in Mathematics from Christian Brothers University. Dr Khoshnevisan has obtained his Ph.D from the Department of Computer Sciences and Software Engineering from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Dr Mohammad Khoshnevisan is one of the world leaders in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Fuzzy Control Systems and he has applied this field in Financial Engineering and Medical Engineering and he has taught in Australia and he has been invited as visiting Scholar at Harvard University and University of California-Berkeley. Dr Khoshnevisan has published over 30 papers and 3 books in the United States and in international Journals mainly dealing with the Applications of Fuzzy Systems and Artificial Intelligence. Dr Mohammad Khoshnevisan research work in the Applications of Artificial Intelligence and Missile Guidance Technology in cancer detection has been reported by Australian IT / The Australian on November 29 2005 and it is cited by the The AI ALERT semimonthly of The American Association for Artificial Intelligence. Dr Khoshnevisan also has been a research associate with Massachusetts Institute of Technology-ISG and Professor Florentine Smarandache at the University of New Mexico-USA and he has reviewed many articles and he has acted as an examiner for Ph.D theses in Australia and overseas.

I was at CBU around 1989-1992. I remember most of my Professors and I can say:

  1. Professor Miller’s lectures were so fun and she was teasing us and she was saying in the class that she did not study Mathematics because the answers were on back on the book.
  2. Professor Limper’s classes were so challenging and I loved his style of lecturing and I used to hold discussions with him outside our class. One thing that I always remember is the fact that the sudden death of my sister made things very difficult for me. Professor Limper, Professor Yunushka, Professor Becker and Professor Vanderhaar were very helpful and they assisted me during the tough period.
  3. I wrote a paper in differential topology in my junior year and I approached Br. Joel Baumeyer and he greatly assisted me in shaping up my paper and I presented my paper at UCLA. I used to go to Br. Joel Baumeyer’s place of residence which was located on campus at the time and he always provided ne with guidance and support.
  4. I also learned great stuff in complex analysis and real analysis from Professor Becker.
  5. I sincerely appreciate CBU for providing such a great education and atmosphere for me to study. CBU had small sizes classes and I could interact with Professors very easily.

In conclusion, I love those who taught me at CBU and I wish them all the best.

Cheers,
Mohammad

Featured Alum: William Horner, Mathematics 1980

I graduated from CBC in 1980 with a B.S. in Mathematics. As a high school student I had little interest in mathematics, but my mathematical curiosity bloomed while taking calculus courses as part of the engineering curriculum. Eventually it dawned on me that my interest in mathematics far exceeded my interest (and talent) in engineering, and I became a math major. Drs. Yanushka and Becker were my professors for most of my upper division math courses. I recall that they were both excellent lecturers. It was not until after my graduation from CBC that I learned that they are gifted researchers as well. There were quite a few math majors for a school the size of Christian Brothers, and classes were rather large. It was clear to me that my professors were highly dedicated to their work, and to this day I sincerely appreciate their encouragement and guidance.

After getting my bachelors degree I earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Memphis State University. For the past 20 years, I have been a faculty member of the mathematics department at the University of Southern Mississippi. My doctoral thesis was in Differential Equations, but after publishing a few papers based on my dissertation I switched my area to Analysis and Operator Theory. I had the good fortune to collaborate with three professors from Memphis State and “haunted” their department for several summers after taking the job at USM. My research has probably been the most fulfilling aspect of my job, though I enjoy teaching as well. Our department is small for a university having around 15,000 students, so I’ve taught over 25 truly distinct courses.

The job opportunities for our bachelors recipients are quite variable, of course, with three of the major determinants being the student’s academic record, choice of minor, and willingness to relocate. Students who choose Computer Science as a minor tend to fare particularly well, and a number of our students have found positions with defense contractors and the like. The graduates of our master’s program have found good jobs, several teaching at the community college level and others entering industry. At least 6 of our master’s students have gone on to earn Ph.D.’s in mathematics or engineering, and I am happy for their success and to have been a part of their training. While I’m handing out (unsolicited) career advice, let me sound a note of caution to undergraduate mathematics majors contemplating graduate school. If you anticipate earning a Ph.D. in mathematics, then the importance of getting your degree from a highly ranked program cannot be overemphasized. Please take a careful look at the faculties of several mathematics departments, paying special attention to where these folks got their degrees. You might be surprised to find that a large percentage of math Ph.D.’s earn their degree at topfight schools, and consequently departments which are not among the elite can attract faculty from these prestigious programs. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a large and seemingly perpetual oversupply of research mathematicians. This has all the implications you might imagine. While my case may represent an “outlier”, I am a full professor in a math department at a state university, with 20 years experience, who would require a raise of several thousand dollars to match the salary of a novice chemical engineer with a bachelor’s degree. But having a math degree can be lucrative as well. Periodically our department solicits data from our graduates, including salary ranges, and it is clear that a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, with good grades and some computer background, can put you on the path to a prosperous career.

Featured Alum: Analice Hosey Sowell, B.S. Chemistry (minors math, physics), 2002; Master of Arts in Teaching, 2005

Analice Sowell, and her husband, Michael

Teaching is 1% grading papers and 99% being interested in your students and subject you teach. The CBU science professors definitely love the science they teach, and always tried to express that in everything they did. This enjoyment of teaching and working with students has remained with me as I teach my own chemistry students at MUS. When I teach, I always try to think back to the first time I learned something new. I continually remind myself that at one time, I was in my students’ shoes … barely knowing what a chemical compound was, how to balance an equation, or even how to spell “stoichiometry” much less complete a problem. But, I always try to pattern my teaching after the great teachers I had in the School of Sciences. Many times, during my lectures, I’ll pause and chuckle to myself, knowing I just did something or said something just like a science professor I had at CBU. I’m proud to be a teacher, and I’m proud to say I’m a CBU graduate. After all, people see a science degree from CBU and immediately know the outstanding reputation of the School.

But, how did I decide to become a teacher? I worked at CBU after graduating with my Chemistry degree and attended graduate school at night to earn my M.A.T. I definitely had an interest in science and at the time was involved in many education outreach programs, so pursuing graduate work in education was a perfect fit. Once I finished my M.A.T, I took at job with Buckeye Technologies in the Product & Market Development Division as a Chemist. I enjoyed my work, and learned a great deal of real world applications of chemistry. However, I really wanted to go back into the classroom, and I had my chance. Through networking at ACS events like the High School Chemistry Competition (which CBU and ACS sponsor) I met many high school teachers. MUS had an opening for a chemistry instructor, and I readily accepted the chance to teach at a wonderful school like MUS. I will never regret pursuing a career in industry, because I learned so much during that time. However, teaching is definitely my calling. I have great students, and I love going down the halls and hearing “Hey Mrs. Sowell!” My students definitely know my classes are not easy. But, they also know that I will help them when they need me – just like all of my CBU science professors helped me. For some people, teaching high school might seem easy. I beg to differ! Anyone who says a high school teacher has a boring, effortless job evidently has never taught school. It’s a dream come true to teach at MUS, but I infinitely stay in running mode — keeping up with teenagers definitely keeps you on your toes!

Analice’s chemistry students at MUS

Outside of the classroom, my husband Michael and I enjoy attending MUS sporting events together. I’m also involved in the local section of the American Chemical Society, where I currently serve as Chair. Also, I serve on a national committee for ACS where we (the committee) develop K-8 science outreach activities for National Chemistry Week and Chemists Celebrate Earth Day programs. Additionally, I serve as a member of the Program Advisory Committee for the Graduate Education Programs at CBU. My days are busy, but thankfully my loving husband and family support my volunteer efforts and my dedication to teaching. I work with wonderful people at MUS, and I can honestly say I really am having the time of my life teaching here! I know that I do not have 65 aspiring chemists in my classes, but as long as they walk away from their year of Chemistry with an appreciation of all that it has to offer, and what it has given us, I can most assuredly say I have done my job.