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GPI - Christopher Staniszewski, Professor of Mathematics

Man in collared shirt in front of bookcase
Courtesy of Framingham State

By Kaitlin Carman 

News Editor

Why did you want to become a professor?

Ever since I was a kid, I was like, I want to be a firefighter or I want to be a teacher. Then when I was 8, I wanted to be an astronaut or a teacher,, so it just like it kind of always was in me. I really just enjoyed learning and I think learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin. So I kind of caught the bug early. I was fully planning on being a high school teacher when I went to undergrad [at the University of Rhode Island]. I double--majored in math and secondary education. Then I was applying to different high school jobs. I applied to one grad school [URI] because my parents told me to. They [URI] called me and offered me a full ride through a teaching assistantship. It kind of went like, “Oh, would you like to come back for grad school?” I was like, “"Sure, you know, maybe someday.” Then they said, "It's on us.” So yeah, kind of non-traditional. So I went back to grad school, got my Ph.D. and started teaching here. … I wouldn't change it for the world.

What are your research interests?

In my own research and my thesis, I worked with imaginary numbers. So like the square root of negative 1, it can't be negative 1, because two negatives, a negative times a negative, is positive. And so I thought it was kind of fascinating the use of these numbers, but I can't point to them in the real world. So eventually, I studied them, and then when you study that, it eventually leads to fractals, which are these patterns that are similar - no matter how much you zoom in, it still looks like the whole portrait. So those are kind of fascinating. That's kind of what I research in scenarios called dynamical systems.

How would you describe your journey to becoming a tenured professor?

So I applied to 40 different jobs or so -  which I think is actually a relatively small number for most people coming out of Ph.D. There's a joke that applying for jobs is a full-time job. And I basically just kind of applied mostly in New England - my family's from here - but kind of just on the coasts in general. And Framingham State was actually my first choice. Like I mentioned, I had a background in secondary education and Framingham obviously has a history [of being a teacher’s college], so I was very drawn to it that way. I was lucky enough to get an offer and I jumped right at it.

What would you like to accomplish during your time at FSU?

I think the big goal is to leave it better than I found it. I like to try and create some programs that are forward thinking and help people get jobs. You know, AI [artificial intelligence] is a big field right now and I helped design the AI minor here. And I am kind of hoping to watch that grow eventually into a concentration within the major or like a major in and of itself. So kind of just helping students, particularly STEM students, and making sure our curriculum is matched to what they'll need in the real world. There's part of that, but ultimately, it's working with people. I love that my office is right across from the undergraduate Math Lounge. And so, I just love seeing the math majors every day and just joking around with them and joking around with my colleagues. College is just an environment where people are just all trying to get better and just be better humans and it's a great environment to go to every day. So I've really enjoyed that. … For a long time, I’ve wanted to make a math and music Rams course. Yes, there’d be some amputation - calculation - I don’t know how I got to amputation - it feels the same for some students - but there would be some calculation in it. I’d want to talk about how Spotify can recommend one song to you based on your listening history. … Let’s talk about some of the principles behind it.  … If you had a student listening to Lil Baby and then Taylor Swift, what song would you recommend to them next? To even build toy models of that I think could be a fun component of that course. That could be a way of demystifying algorithms. 

What advice would you give to students?

Speaking from experience, I doubted myself a million times in my life. And every time I thought the world was ending, I woke up the next day and it didn't. I've dealt with anxiety and impostor syndrome - or versions of that - and was able to make it through. So keep trying, don't give up. Find what works for you.

What is an interesting fact about you that people might not know?

I don't like to wear shoes when I teach. I don't wear shoes at home. I feel like I'm comfortable when I'm teaching. And so if I'm doing something I enjoy, I feel like I'm at home and why would I wear shoes doing that? My Ph.D. advisor, who was a Ph.D. student before me, did not wear shoes - in the winter or bathrooms - whatsoever. I would walk around the hallways in my socks and I'd go into my office. I wear shoes to work but I kick off my shoes generally and kind of walk around the classroom barefoot but not on the way to the bathroom.



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