Math and Music in Perfect Harmony
Bill Coberly, associate professor of mathematics majored in mathematics in college but played the trumpet throughout his high school and college career. In the early 1990’s, after many years without a musical outlet, he picked up the trumpet again.
“It was miserable,” Coberly said. “So, even thought I don’t have a good solo voice, I can read music and have a good ear, so I joined my church choir.”
After enjoying church choir for a few years, Coberly decided to join the new Tulsa Oratorio Chorus in 1992, and since then he has learned and performed major choral works. The Oratorio Chorus has three or four performances each season, which runs form September through May each year.
Performing these difficult choral arrangements is hard work. It requires one evening of group practice each week, supplemented by “homework” to master the part. but Coberly said the hard work is worth the effort.
“It is excellent stress relief from the rigors of teaching and research, requiring both mental and physical effort,” Coberly said.
Coberly’s vocal pursuits have continued to stretch. He currently sings in a small ensemble called Counterpoint. The ensemble performs a variety of music from madrigals to contemporary works and performs for a number of community events.
In addition to relieving the stress of his academic profession, Coberly suggests his mathematical and musical lives maybe intertwined at a deeper level.
“I did listen to an play Mozart when I was young,” said Coberly. “So maybe there is something to the myth that music and mathematics are related.”
The Department of Mathematics offers curricula leading to the B.S., B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. These programs prepare graduates to meet the demands of a modern global society; one that requires sophisticated quantitative skills in solving difficult problems in science, engineering, business, education and government. These curricula emphasize theory and application of mathematics and stress the use of modern tools of communication, modeling, and computation necessary for interdisciplinary problem solving and research. The department also provides courses in mathematics and statistics for students in other departments and colleges of the university.
The Department of Mathematics currently has 13 full time faculty with mathematical specialties in such fields as analysis, applied analysis, numerical analysis, and mathematical statistics. Faculty research advances the fundamental understanding of these areas of mathematics and applies it to a broad range of topics, such as, elasticity of thin plates, vortex dynamics, optimization, mathematical biology, bioinformatics, and finance. Mathematics faculty are actively engaged in interdisciplinary research through the Center for Boundary Integral Methods and the Institute for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.
Currently, about 85 students are majoring in mathematics, many with double majors in related fields. In recent years, TU mathematics students have been awarded Goldwater Scholarships and National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships, inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, accepted into Teach for America, and have earned the highest scores in Oklahoma and Arkansas on the prestigious, international Putnam Exam in mathematics. TU mathematics alumni have gone on to successful careers in finance, energy, software design, aerospace, medicine and medical research as well as academic careers in K12 schools, colleges, and universities.