CSUF math professor’s influence adds up to a ‘legacy of the future’ – Orange County Register

Sam Behseta, Professor of Mathematics at Cal State Fullerton, recently gave a talk entitled “Statistical Thinking and Data Exploration”.

Participants in the lecture, held on November 7 in a conference room at the Pollak Library, included colleagues, current and former students, and even CSUF President Framroze Virjee.

Throughout the lecture and PowerPoint presentation, Behseta showed examples of advanced research projects undertaken by his students.

Therein lies evidence of what Behseta finds most rewarding about his career as a professor: students who have been so inspired by Behseta’s enthusiasm for teaching mathematics that they undertake research projects of their own.

Many of the professor’s former students have engaged in mathematics and data research.

This ability to not only teach, but to impact the lives of his students is one of the reasons Behseta was named CSUF’s Distinguished Professor for 2022.

The prize is awarded for exemplary achievements by a professor as an educator and scientist.

Typically, Behseta is gracious and humble when speaking of discernment.

“It’s an exciting moment in the life of an academic to be recognized in some way by your peers and peers,” said Behseta, who began teaching at CSUF in 2008. “A lot of this, I think, is the result of collaborating with peers, peers, and students.”

An accomplished researcher and author of several publications, Behseta also praised the structure of the university itself.

“I couldn’t help but appreciate the fact that I’ve accomplished something because I’m in a good place,” he said. “That there is a support system that gives people like me these opportunities to do good work.”

Valerie Poyner, Behseta’s former student, attended the lecture.

Poyner admitted to being a shy first-generation college student who dreamed of becoming a doctor when he entered CSUF as an undergraduate.

But after enrolling in Behseta’s math class, Poyner reconsiders her career choice.

Today, Poyner is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at CSUF and one of Behseta’s colleagues.

“He was always kind enough to make everyone feel welcome,” Poyner said. “He gave me the courage to talk to him a little more, and one thing led to another, and he started saying, ‘Maybe you should try to do some research.’ ”

Poyner took the advice and conducted her own research projects while pursuing a teaching career.

Behseta has also made efforts to improve CSUF’s capacity to conduct important research.

In 2016, Behseta was appointed director of the Center for Computational and Applied Mathematics, a university organization that advances research in science and mathematics through collaboration with students, faculty, and external partners.

In 2021, he led a push to secure $600,000 in grants from the US Army for a new high-tech computing cluster that will enable math and science faculty and students to conduct research.

The center received funding to acquire a second supercomputer in 2022, creating opportunities for research in several areas including statistics, applied mathematics, biology and biochemistry.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Behseta and his colleague Derdei Bichara began constructing a mathematical model to predict the spread of the virus.

This model was widely presented in the media.

“He is an amazing human being who has not only devoted himself to his passion in his academic pursuits as an amazing mathematician and statistician,” said Virjee. “But he’s also a mentor, someone who believes in making the world a better place through academic pursuits, not just through his research but through the impact he has on students. He creates a legacy of the future simply by doing what he loves.”

In collaboration with researchers at Cypress College and UC Irvine, Behseta and her colleague Jessica Jaynes, a former CSUF student, received a $1.5 million grant to give underrepresented and historically underserved students the opportunity to have a Receive training in data science applications and engage in high-level research.

“The students are his main focus,” said James. “He’s always there for you.”

While guiding math majors and graduate students to become leaders in their fields, Behseta says he’s just as content teaching introductory math courses as he is to students who are sometimes afraid of math.

“In the past, we were trained or engineered to be afraid of math, and that’s global,” Behseta said. “Partly because it’s very deep and very abstract. It’s not tangible like chemistry or physics.”

The key to relieving students of math fears is teaching them to make the subject interesting, he said.

Demystifying math and encouraging a love of the subject during elementary school is key, he said.

“We all need motivation early in our lives, and when you have a good mentor, a really inspirational teacher who can engage you in the intricacies of the lesson and get you excited about it, pursue that,” the professor said.

https://www.ocregister.com/2022/11/17/csuf-math-professors-impact-adds-up-to-a-legacy-of-the-future/ CSUF math professor’s influence adds up to a ‘legacy of the future’ – Orange County Register

Dais Johnston

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