Dr. Tim Rogalsky, Associate Professor of Mathematics, has taught at CMU since 2000.
What do you love about your work here?
There are so many things. One is that my students are really, really fun to work with. I just taught a chaos theory course, and student papers at the end of the semester included a paper on spirituality and environmentalism, a paper on Shakespearean literature, and a paper on God’s omniscience. I love the way they think deeply about so many different but interconnected things, and the way they come up with some really profound insights derived from the mathematical theory of chaos and its applications.
What did you teach this past year that most excited you?
My favourite course is Intro to Calculus, because it’s easy to apply. That’s what makes math really exciting for me: To think about how the way the real world operates can be understood through mathematics.
What are you researching and writing right now?
I just finished a project on Salvador Dali that I would like to continue. Salvador Dali is fairly well known as a surrealist painter, as someone who was rather crass, someone who you certainly wouldn’t think of as a religious person, but there are a lot of depths to him that I’ve found, and some of those depths involved using mathematics and science as a conduit to spirituality. I call it mathematical mysticism.
What do you most long for in your work?
I love the a-ha moments. Sometimes it’s in the classroom and I watch the light bulb come on in a student’s eyes. Sometimes it’s in my own mind or in my heart; I’m teaching a concept and I suddenly get these intense shivers, and I think about how amazing all of this is in the way that it works together. Sometimes it’s in my own research. I can be in the shower or wake up in the middle of the night, and suddenly there’s this idea that just kind of pops forth in full glory that the day before, the hour before, the minute before I didn’t know, but in that moment I suddenly know and understand.
Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?
I have given a handful of noon-hour talks at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. In April I presented, “Why Beauty Matters: The Art of Nature,” on some of the really beautiful mathematical patterns we find in the world. I’ll be sharing a version of that at a CMU Face2Face event in November. Explaining mathematics in ways that are understandable to people who don’t have a mathematics degree is something that I love to do. Watching an audience of non-mathematicians says, “Wow!” about mathematics is so, so cool.
What saying or motto inspires you?
The Franciscan friar and author Richard Rohr has been known to say that mystery is not that which is unknowable, but that which is endlessly knowable. That is so often true in both mathematics and theology. We’re always learning, always striving to know better, and that journey is always thrilling.