Ray Levy is an educator from the coast of North Carolina.
As a math modeler, I solve problems using tools from mathematics, statistics and computer science combined with methods from the context of the problem. Most of this work is highly interdisciplinary, which makes it interesting! My goal is to empower people to use mathematical modeling and data science tools and improve our world.
I attended the first public boarding school in the US, the NC School of Science and Mathematics, in its early days as part of the 4th graduating class. I enjoy giving back at the fabulous Teaching Contemporary Mathematics conference.
After graduating from Oberlin College with degrees in English and Mathematics, I worked for Learning Disabilities Services (now called the Learning Center) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), which opened my eyes to what students can do when they are provided with appropriate support.
Middle and High School Teaching
For about a decade, I taught Middle and Upper School at Carolina Friends School in Durham NC and served as the Upper School Dean. In the summer I coordinated the mathematics program at the Duke University Talent Identification Program. I consulted for SAS Institute and the Durham Public Schools on software and educational technology. To support this work I completed an MA in Educational Media and Instructional Design from UNC Chapel Hill.
An undergraduate capstone experience in Operations Research at NASA organized by Bruce Pollack-Johnson (then at Oberlin, now at Villanova) kept tickling my fancy to learn more mathematics. So a decade after undergrad, I entered NC State University to obtain both an MS and PhD in Applied Mathematics in only four years. I appreciated the NC State’s strong connections with governmental and industrial mathematics.
My research focus was fluid mechanics, specifically models of motion for thin liquid films of viscous fluids (think oil) and surfactants (think soap), which requires a coupled system of fourth-order nonlinear parabolic-hyperbolic partial differential equations (think cool math). My husband and two daughters encouraged me and tolerated my almost complete absence of brain space during that time for anything but mathematics.
I landed a fabulous job at Harvey Mudd College, possibly by making a joke during my teaching demo about very large chickens eating velociraptors (according to Art Benjamin). I taught in the mathematics department for 12 years, served as Associate Dean for Faculty Development, and led a multi-institution Department Chairs Workshop for the Claremont Colleges. During this time I co-wrote a Partial Differential Equations text for Princeton Press with Michael Shearer.
At Mudd, I co-taught the first-year writing course (WRIT 001) with a member of almost every other Department in the college (Peter Saeta, physics; Dan Stoebel, biology; Wendy Menefee-Libey, writing; Pat Little, engineering; Colleen Lewis, computer science; Kathy Van Heuvelen, chemistry) and I taught photography and fluid mechanics with Ken Fandell from the department of humanities, social sciences and the arts. I will always treasure the opportunity to learn about teaching in other disciplines from these folks. I also enjoyed serving as Associate Director and faculty mentor for mathematics in the HMC Clinic (industrial education) Program.
My fluids research collaborations continued to focus on thin films, with forays into underwater robotics and a study of whale flukeprints.
In 2019, out of over 500 NSF Focused Research Group awards, our grant was one of only four that had been awarded to a liberal arts college.
Service to the Profession
I served as Vice President for Education for the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and worked with the fabulous Michelle Montgomery and her team that runs the M3 Challenge. Out of a series of NSF Modeling Across the Disciplines workshops envisioned by SIAM Ed VP Peter Turner, we led four initiatives:
- Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Math Modeling Education (GAIMME)
- SIAM Activity Group on Applied Mathematics Education
- NSF-funded IMMERSION program (NSF-1441024) for PK-6 teacher professional development in mathematical modeling. Pomona Unified School District has adopted this project. Teacher leaders from the district are now running the PUSD Math Modeling Summer Institute
- Math Modeling Hub online community and resources
Cornell mathematician Tara Holm and I met at a Transforming Post-secondary Education in Mathematics (TPSE) meeting. With Fadil Santosa we created the BIG Math Network, which brings together the mathematical societies to focus on careers in the mathematical sciences. Rick Laugesen joined to coauthor our first book, the BIG Jobs Guide, which is now available with a companion interview card game from AMS and SIAM.
As Deputy Executive Director of the Mathematical Association of America in Washington, DC, I diversified the teams and practices forming the robust portfolio of foundation and government sponsored programs and the American Mathematics Competitions (MAA AMC).
I love boats and have been a grassroots mountain bike rider for Kona. I like to call my pace “enthusiastic chill.”