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Meet Dr. Gabriel Lugo

My name is Gabriel Lugo and I am a mathematician. I am fascinated with differential geometry, otherwise known as the math behind relativity.

I grew up in Colombia, South America. My older brother was very smart and my father gave him a lot of attention, explaining all sorts of scientific and mathematical phenomena. I used to quietly tag along and listen to my father’s explanations. One day he tried to explain to my brother that an ellipse has two focal points by splashing water in our elliptically shaped bathtub (http://physics.ucsc.edu/lecturedemonstrations/waves/visible/visible2.html). I was fascinated and long after they had finished I sat by the tub studying the splashing foci. My father was an amateur astronomer. I saw him reading Albert Einstein’s book “The Meaning of Relativity” and I became very curious (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/einstein/). Imagine computing the radius of the universe with simple mathematical calculations! This book is what first sparked my interest in science and math. When I took geometry in school I really liked it and became hooked. Unfortunately, my family’s finances changed for the worse and I had to give up my expensive education and go to a poor school. This was not challenging for me so I began to teach myself at home. When I was 14 we moved to California where I continued my education. I earned a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley where my research focused on relativity and mathematical physics. Today, I am an Associate Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. For the past 16 years I also have served as a faculty member for Summer Ventures, a state-funded program for academically talented students who may pursue careers based in science and mathematics (http://www.summerventures.org/). Over the years I have worked with venture students on a wide variety of projects, including the physics of bungee jumping and roller coasters. I believe this is the ultimate in creative teaching and I am able to use it as a springboard to create new curriculum for the university. Just as my father used everyday situations to teach my brother about science, I have taken everyday experiences to teach my students and even my own sons about physics and math. If you ask them, I am sure that my sons will tell you how much fun it is to learn about centripetal force as you are flying off a merry-go-round that your dad is pushing as fast as he can!

If you are interested in experiencing the physics of merry-go-rounds and roller coasters, check out the following websites: http://www.ncmr.org/education/k12/amusement_park.html


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