Get to know Muhammad Usman
"One cannot avoid mathematics," said Dr. Muhammad Usman, sitting in his office in the Department of Mathematics.
Was that a threat? He smiled, no it wasn't. Dr. Usman has made a life of math, aware of the ways in which both simple and complex mathematical models are intertwined in all aspects of life and interaction. A man hires a plumber for a ten-dollar service charge and two hours of work and his bill is $70. If he's figured out the plumber charges $30 an hour, "he has solved the equation 2x+10=70," delighted Usman. On a completely different note, mathematical models and simulations also tell scientists the ratio of concentrations to use in the administration of cancer medicines or insulin levels appropriate for diabetes patients. It's all mathematics.
Dr. Usman teaches two undergraduate courses and one graduate level course in numerical analysis. Every other year he offers a class he co-developed with a biology faculty member, an interdisciplinary course on mathematical biology. His favorite courses to teach are the numerical analysis and mathematical biology classes. Usman and a colleague even went so far as to publish a paper in a STEM journal detailing how the students in their team-taught mathematical biology course completed their course projects.
"[I like them because in] graduate and interdisciplinary courses, sometimes you get a student who is really interested and would like to study more," said Usman. "Apart from their Ph.D. project, they really want to do more."
Usman earned his Bachelor and M.Phil. degrees in Islamabad, Pakistan, but came to the U.S. to complete the Master in mathematics and biophysics at Ohio University and chose to finish his Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati, along with another Master’s degree in nuclear engineering.
"In the U.S. the word mathematics is used in [everything]," he explained. "Anything you name, I can tell you there is a mathematical model; mathematical work is done." Pakistan does not investigate applications of mathematical theory outside of statistics, he said.
Usman came UD in 2007. While the University was appealing in its own right, the geographic location was particularly alluring. With its proximity to major universities including his alma mater in Cincinnati and The Ohio State University (and their supercomputer) just an hour north, it was an ideal situation for Usman.
"I didn’t want to go out of Ohio," he said. "When I got job offers, this was one of them and this was closest to Cincinnati. And UD has a connection with [Wright-Patterson Air Force] Base."
Additionally, while his mother and brothers still live in Pakistan, his wife and two sons are here in Dayton. "If I have the time, I just like to spend it with my family," he grinned. "Other than that, I don’t have any other hobbies. Kids are my hobby."
The pride Usman holds for his students and their achievements is a mirror of the pride that he has for his young family.
"My 12-year-old son is very interested in math and science," and attends the STEM school in Kettering. He spends time at robotics competitions and has always been very interested in the way things work.
"My little one is a second grader. [He knows] my weaknesses," Usman chuckled. "I go home, I’m tired, I eat and the first thing he says is, 'Papa, look at this. I did a math problem!' He would create his own math test and solve it and then say, 'OK, now give me a dollar.'"
Expectedly, Usman's career and family take most, if not all, of his free time. However, if he wasn't a professor, as he's wanted to be since he was a small child, "I'd see myself writing books," he said. "I'd be writing books for upper-level math.' Not a far cry from his current career path. If given the chance and a sabbatical, Usman plans to compose a textbook for his interdisciplinary course. "Some books are good in mathematics," he said, "some are good in using the software. There is no balance."
Another interesting Usman fact? He collects coins. "Coin collection is my [one] hobby,' he said. 'I started when I was in the seventh grade. I was going to school, walking in the street and I found a coin from the United Arab Emirates, and that was the start of it. I still have it. The oldest one I have is from 1890." He's never had them appraised, "I just like to have them," he said.
And while the reasons Usman chose UD are mostly based on the opportunities it provides, in speaking of the University as a whole, "I love UD because I chose UD," he said. "I love UD, this was my first choice."