The Knox Student (TKS): Where did you go to college?
Brent Solie (BS): Colorado School of Mines and the University of Illinois. I majored in Math and Computer Science and got a Ph.D. in Mathematics.
TKS: What are your academic interests? Did they change as you went through school?
BS: Oh yes. I originally wanted to major in physics, but somewhere along the way I started to enjoy the abstraction of math and abstract algebra. Differential equations are really interesting to me; my first class in differential equations is really why I started to get into math and left physics for it.
TKS: Why did you decide to become a math professor?
BS: Part of it is that there’s a lot of math out there that people don’t get exposed to. Everyone gets algebra and stuff in high school, but there’s other stuff that’s more interesting in some ways.
TKS: What kind of math do you most like to teach?
BS: I really enjoy the Math 121 that I’m teaching this term, where I get to talk about graph theory and all this commentarial stuff that people don’t get to see. There’s more to math than equations, and it’s the equations that get emphasized in school. Most people come out of high school thinking math is not a principally creative discipline, and it’s unfortunate. It takes a lot of education in the current system to get to the point where math requires some creativity, but you can make in-roads a little bit and teach different topics like graph theory, voting theory and game theory. You can’t escape numbers entirely, but you can introduce a puzzle-like element that engages people more than finding the x-intercepts of a parabola for the 15th time.
TKS: What brought you to Knox?
BS: I wanted to teach at a small liberal arts school, and I came out here for an interview and had a great time. I grew up in Chicago and I remember hearing about the Lincoln-Douglas debates, so Knox appealed to me as soon as I saw it as a possibility. It has such a great historical background.
TKS: What are your future plans?
BS: I’m here for the meantime and then hopefully I’ll get a tenure-track position at another small liberal arts college. I enjoy teaching at liberal arts schools, trying to bring a little bit of mathematics to everyone, rather than just the engineers and physicists.