Scott Strong is not your typical college mathematics professor. He bounds into class with more energy than all 30 students combined, uses the room as a coordinate system to model quadric surfaces, and always manages to evoke many more questions than calculus can possibly answer. Professor Strong is the epitome of an engaging lecturer, challenging each and every student who steps into his room to consider the real world application of a subject often considered too abstract.
While many CSM professors can say that they have been teaching here for a long time, Scott Strong can additionally say that he has a student perspective on this university. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Professor Strong first came to Mines in 1997 to study Mathematics and Computational Sciences as an undergraduate. After landing a teaching position at the university and eventually receiving his master’s degree in Applied and Computational Mathematics here, Professor Strong decided that Golden was home.
“The longer I stay, the more enamored I am with Mines and Golden,” he contends. “You just don’t find the level of math and science focus combined with a small community anywhere else.” Professor Strong has been teaching at Mines since 2001 and is currently finishing up a Ph.D. in Applied Physics.
As a Mines student, Professor Strong himself went through the honors sequence of math courses, which includes Calculus 2, Calculus 3, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra. Furthermore, while he never imagined that he would end up actually teaching the classes, the honors curriculum is something that he has become very passionate about.
“At the end of the day for me, learning is about developing interconnections and conceptual problem solving,” says Professor Strong on the honors variant. The honors program puts more responsibility on the student, so there is time in class for exploring real-world connections and texturing the material.
“Ultimately, Honors is a platform to give students a new perspective on math,” he explains. As the needs of students change, the honors curriculum and description are evolving so that students can best decide if honors is that experience that they want.
While Applied Math and Statistics is one of the smaller departments on campus, Professor Strong has loved math for as long as he can remember. “I remember a time in 2nd grade when we had math workbooks, and the teacher wouldn’t let me work ahead,” he recalls. Even with this knowledge, he considered studying electrical engineering, geophysics, and physics before he finally decided to follow his passion and be a Mathematics and Computational Sciences major. Professor Strong thinks this may have something to do with fact that he did not really know what being a math major meant, even though the subject itself made him happy.
In addition to teaching two sections of Honors Calculus 3, he is currently doing research on vortices in ultra-cold fluids. According to Professor Strong, when atoms are cooled to extremely low temperatures, the effects of quantum mechanics are visible and geometric idealizations occur due to constrained properties of the fluid. Studying the geometric idealizations involves differential equations and thinking about shapes.
Professor Strong’s passion for both his students and the subject shines through in every lecture. He strives to first and foremost be an engaging teacher and to use his energy to involve the students. Once students are engaged, he uses a unique style of lecturing to foster an environment of communication.
“We learn by asking questions,” he asserts. “An instructor can support this by asking students what they think and supporting exploration while still keeping discussion on the subject at hand.” Professor Strong also thinks that it is very exciting to hear what Mines students have to say because they have unique viewpoints and ideas.
In addition to teaching and researching, Professor Strong enjoys walking his dog, cooking and gardening, and hanging out with his wife. Living in close proximity to campus also allows him to walk to and from work, which is something he appreciates.
After being connected to School of Mines for more than 15 years, Professor Strong now strives to better the Mines community through a number of academic committees. His favorites are the ones that allow him to contribute to a “tangible quality of positive change for students,” like evaluating candidates through a hiring committee or helping students find the best path for them through readmissions.
In everything, this dedicated faculty member shows how he genuinely cares about student success and making a difference in the lives of others. “The most important quantity that floats around this school is the students themselves,” explains Professor Strong. And from partial derivatives, to radio waves, this dedicated professor is using math to make a difference—one student at a time.