- 03/31/2022 10:48:05 AMUndergrad Research Spotlight: Tobey MathisCourtney.McCreedy@unt.edu story
Tobey Mathis is an undergraduate student of UNT Mathematics who recently began his grad-track studies and received an undergraduate research fellowship from the Honors College. His research lies in pure math, specifically fractal geometry and game theory.
"I first got interested in fractal geometry in high school when I read the book Chaos by James Gleick. It provided a good history of the field of chaotic dynamical systems and fractal geometry and really gave me the motivation to dig deeper," said Tobey. "In particular Gleick introduced a shape called the 'Koch snowflake,' a curve with finite area but infinite perimeter (look it up, it's awesome). He simply introduced the shape, but I found it amazing that even a Calculus II student like myself was able to verify the properties of this incredible curve!"
While pure math is often not very applicable to the real world, fractals have applications in image processing and circuit design. Tobey says his fractal research in non-differentiable functions and iterated function systems tend to be more pathological in that they are only of interest to other mathematicians.
"It can be really gratifying to know that you are the only person in the world who knows a piece of information that people actually care about, but really the most rewarding aspect of research is sharing your discoveries with others," he said. "It's amazing to watch as people begin to understand what you've spent months (or even years) trying to figure out!"
Tobey's primary mentors are Dr. Kawamura and Dr. Fishman in the UNT math department. "But if you close your eyes and point chances are you'll find someone who has helped me!" he said. "Despite having decades more experience than me, Dr. Kawamura and Dr. Fishman always treat me like a colleague rather than a student. The amount of time and effort they, and all the professors in the math department, put into their students is truly commendable and their patience rivals that of a Tibetan monk. I could never hope to repay them for all they've done for me."
When not solving math problems, Tobey enjoys playing piano in his free time, and later this semester will be receiving his bachelors in Mathematics with a minor in Music. He hopes to continue studying math at UNT as he works towards a PhD.
"I originally chose UNT because of their very generous scholarships for National Merit scholars," said Tobey. "As I became more involved in the math department though I realized how lucky I was to be here! The math department is full of incredibly smart, compassionate people who want to help you succeed- faculty and students alike."
While at UNT, Tobey has learned to appreciate collaboration and the importance of working with other people. "Especially in math, it's impossible to know everything about a topic. Oftentimes your colleagues will have important insights or a new way of looking at ideas that you never would have thought of. It's incredible how quickly a challenging problem can unravel when someone introduces a seemingly simple idea!"