Professor Alan Parks
Courses for Fall 2016
Optimization (math 435)
Links on this page.
American Mathematical Society
our graduates and faculty 2016 at the annual end-of-year party in the Viking Room
Here is a FAQ for students interested in our curriculum.
A FAQ for calculus I and II (math 140 and 150).
I have recently undertaken a thorough revision of our applied calculus sequence (math 120 and 130). We want the course to be more practical and to involve more understanding of how theory and practice interact.
You have learned a mathematical subject if you can reconstruct its basic definitions and facts on your own, and if you can apply those facts in a variety of contexts. Mathematics is about getting a great many consequences from a few central facts, not about memorizing lists of facts or equations.
Applications and theory are not alternatives; indeed, they are strongly related to each other. For instance, the Intermediate Value Theorem says that if f(x) is continuous on the interval [r,t], and if f(r) < 0 < f(t), then there is a number s between r and t such that f(s) = 0. An applied approach to this fact might produce approximations to the number s; an abstract approach might ask for a rigorous proof that the Intermediate Value Theorem is true. There is such a proof that produces approximations in the course of its argument. The details (and a more precise statement of the theorem) are here.
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This summer I am working on connections between music theory and mathematics, along the lines of Tymoczko's book A Geometry of Music.
I work in applied mathematics, including optimization, coding theory, and mathematical dynamics. These areas form a well-traveled corridor between mathematics and physics, chemistry, economics, biology, and other subjects.
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I am an action-oriented programmer interested in the theory of computation, coding theory, and the analysis of algorithms. "Action oriented" programming stresses the selection and organization of the algorithms used in a program, as opposed to "object oriented" programming which manages a program by the abstract description of objects. I am rarely interested in code that is abstractly portable, and I do not hide methods in my data structures. On the other hand, I am a firm believer in careful documentation. I currently use Java; in the past I have written applications in C++, Objective-C, Scheme, html, FORTRAN, pascal, matlab, ALGOL, and a couple of assembly languages.
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Service in the Lawrence Community.
I serve this year as Chair of the Mathematics Department and on the committee for tenure, promotion, and reappointment. I am one of the faculty advisors to Lawrence Christian Fellowship. I serve as faculty marshal.
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My wife Jean and I have three children and four grandchildren. The upper left-hand picture was taken on Sanibel Island, Florida, where we vacationed in December, 2015.
I am involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an organization that serves undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty through its various ministries. The InterVarsity chapter at Lawrence is called LCF; it is one of the oldest campus organizations. I am also involved in the Appleton Gospel Church which currently meets at the YMCA on Sundays at 10.
I am a serious amateur musician, writing and playing mostly church worship music but also blues (especially gospel blues: Willie Johnson, Gary Davis, Son House, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and others), rural folk music (Stanley Carter, Ricky Skaggs, Gillian Welch, and others), and some jazz (Wes Montgomery, but also early folks like Bix). And throw in a preoccupation with early sacred music, especially Bach, Vivaldi, and Palestrina.
The picture to the right portrays John Henry Newman (1801-1890), whose works are linked here. Newman's book The Idea of the University presents an alternative view of the liberal arts based on the metaphysics of orthodox Christianity.
Proud user links.
The Heritage H-535. Expressive rhythm, lead lines, blues, jazz.
Fender guitars and amps. Clean living.
Dr Z amps. The Maz 18.
Breedlove acoustics. Ideal for live sound.
Vox AC15. A less expensive amp that sounds nice and chimey.
Fulltone effects. Non-clean living.
Maxon compressor and analog delay.
Really, really good music stores: Elderly Instruments in Lansing. Vintage and modern gear at Willie's American Guitars in St. Paul, and the very friendly high-end Humbucker Music in Georgia.
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Disclaimer: I take responsibility for the content of this page. It attempts to represent my work at Lawrence University and my attitude toward that work. Although I do not claim to represent official policies of Lawrence University, I believe that my views are entirely consistent with those policies. Any questions or comments should be directed to myself.