Dr. Willy Hereman

By Izzy Aguiar

This article was originally published by the Oredigger.

Dr. Hereman is a professor in the Applied Mathematics and Statistics Department, was the Department Head from 2012 to May 2016, and is a self proclaimed “pi fanatic”. When Dr. Hereman arrived in 1989, the campus of Mines was very different: none of the colleges had been established, most of the students were commuters, and women only made up about 7 percent of the total population.

Some of his favourite memories from his time at Mines have come from working with young students like Dylan Jones, who started at Mines when he was twelve. Dr. Hereman says that Dylan stunned him every time they were together, whether it be with how easily he memorized numbers or with his ability to retain high level information without taking notes. Dr. Hereman chuckled as he recalled that Dylan had 500 digits of pi memorized and when he challenged him to memorize the digits of e, it only took him three days to memorize 200 digits.

Another of Dr. Hereman’s rewarding experiences has been working with the Sayers’ family. Ryan Sayers was a student at Mines who was completing his double major in Math and Physics when he tragically died in 2003. Dr. Hereman had been doing research with Ryan at the time and since then has published the work they did together. Dr. Hereman has also worked with the Sayers family to create the new Ryan Sayers Lab in Chauvenet Hall, the Ryan Sayers Memorial Award and Scholarship, and the annual Ryan Sayers Pi Mile. Dr. Hereman says that it has been such an honor to have had the opportunity to turn a sad situation into something positive and rewarding.

Dr. Hereman is currently in transitional retirement and beginning in 2017 and finishing in 2019 he will only be teaching in the Spring semesters. This changing schedule leaves him with free time and ample opportunities. Dr. Hereman has ambitious and exciting plans that will fill these new slots of time and satiate his love of travel. He has offered to collaborate on projects with mathematicians and scientists all over the world in exchange for flights and accommodation. In volunteering his collaboration, Dr. Hereman hopes to travel to new and exciting places, continue to meet interesting people, and gain new knowledge in the process.

Dr. Hereman is also planning on volunteering with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS). AIMS offers a one year postgraduate program to students from all over Africa, taught by guest lecturers who are each responsible for a month long course in mathematics. In 2008 Dr. Hereman worked with AIMS at their Cape Town location in South Africa, teaching a course in Dynamical Systems in Chaos. He lived with the students, participated in social events, and often had students show up to his office in the wee hours of the morning. Dr. Hereman emphasized that the job is a huge commitment but also extremely rewarding. He hopes to volunteer at one of their new locations in Cameroon or Tanzania, pending permission from his wife.

With all of these exciting things to look forward to, it is nice to hear that Dr. Hereman will still miss Mines. Specifically, he says, he will miss the contact with his colleagues and with the students. Dr. Hereman has a wide social sphere in the AMS department and has lunch every day with Dr. Martin and plays racquetball with Dr. Navidi. He says that doing math can be lonely business, and he is anticipating that he will feel this loneliness once he is not here everyday, chatting with students and colleagues, and collaborating on projects.

Dr. Hereman claims to have the best job in the world and the look on his face as he says this is confirmation. He has travelled to multiple countries, worked on countless interesting projects, and met incredible people and lifelong friends. We are so fortunate to have Dr. Hereman at Mines, someone whose contagious enthusiasm has shaped the community we experience today.

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