Loyola University Chicago

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Dr. Goebel, Mathematics Graduate Program Director

Dr. Goebel, Mathematics Graduate Program Director
Rafal Goebel received his M.Sc. degree in mathematics in 1994 from the University of Maria Curie Sklodowska in Lublin, Poland, and his Ph.D. degree in mathematics in 2000 from University of Washington, Seattle. He held a postdoctoral position at the Departments of Mathematics at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, 2000‒2002; a postdoctoral and part-time research positions at the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, 2002‒2005; and a part-time teaching position at the Department of Mathematics at the University of Washington, 2004‒2007.
In 2008, he joined the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Loyola University Chicago. He is the recipient of the 2009 SIAM Activity Group on Control and Systems Theory prize. His interests include convex, nonsmooth, and set-valued analysis; control theory, including optimal control; hybrid dynamical systems; mountains; and optimization.

Q: What is your favorite course to teach?
A: At Loyola, it's surely Real Analysis I, Math 351. However, I do enjoy teaching most of our calculus and analysis curriculum. 

Q: What originally got you into math?
A: With my mother being a physicist and my father being a mathematician, I may have been doomed from early on. I also just enjoyed math. It helped to have good math, physics, and chemistry teachers in elementary school (which, in Poland, went through 8th grade), who pushed me towards science competitions, and less engaging teachers of other subjects. The attrition continued in high school, with a legendary (also mean and politically incorrect) math teacher, and less motivating physics and chemistry teachers. At some point, my father's advice, that there has never been a good father-mathematician and son-mathematician, made it clear: I had to try.

Q: What is your favorite false statistic or untrue theory?
A: While not a complete theory, my favorite (possibly) false result is a theorem I thought I had proven two summers ago, and tried to have it published, only to have a reviewer find an error in the proof. The result says that, for a nonlinear discrete-time control system, if a compact set is pointwise asymptotically controllable with open-loop controls, then the set can be made pointwise asymptotically stable using feedback control. It sounds lovely, doesn't it?  

Q: Two truths and a lie?
A: My personal best in long jump is 24 feet 4 inches. I am a math professor mostly for the money. If I had to do my math education all over again, I'd do it... and I'd listen to my mentors more carefully. 

Q: What has your favorite moment been as a professor at Loyola?
A: It is not easy to pick the favorite, as there have been many nice moments... and some less nice too! One moment that comes to mind does so thanks to the coffee mug next to my computer. There was a student in my Calc I class some years ago who appeared capable to do OK, but clearly did not try hard, in fact, he barely tried. He agreed with this honest assessment, but it was too late that semester for him to recover. He flunked the class, and the very next semester took my Calc I class again. He did try this time, passed, and at some later time, during some faculty and student event, nominated me to receive the coffee mug. I use the mug almost every day. 

Q: If you could never do math again, what would you do with your life and time?
A: The answer used to be that I'd be a landscape and nature photographer. I liked finding the right wild place, and the challenge of dealing with traditional, sometimes black-and-white film, or with the persistently erratic Soviet-made cameras a long time ago. Now, with the advance of digital photography, I am not so sure. I could very happily be a stay-at-home dad, though I'd probably try to teach some math to my kids sometimes. 

Q: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for students?
A: Solve problems.
 
— Reported by Laurynas Kalesinskas (Class of '17)