The first of my classes I attended this semester was Differential Equations. It was an hour and a half lecture on a hot Tuesday. I remember feeling very tired. Everyone had just arrived from their respective airports – Frankfurt, Luxembourg, or Paris. The night before we had been getting to know each other, the Lafayette dorms, and the town of Metz. Everyone was very disappointed summer had officially ended and school started the next morning.
As we made our way into lecture I looked around, everyone seemed dead tired or just mentally fatigued in some way. But as our “world famous” tech guy patched our connection through to Atlanta, a smiling face came through. Dr. Ionel Popescu. He quickly gauged the room and could tell we were all not in the mood for math. So he began telling us about himself. He was born in Romania, currently doing research on topics associated with differential equations. Then came the jokes, the famous jokes!
Now, it is almost inconceivable for me to think of Diff. Eq. without jokes. Dr. Popescu has a very good talent for timing them well. Just when people start to trail off and lose focus, out comes some hilarity in the form of Irish bar jokes, English humor, or laughs about Russian mathematicians. Some were better than others, yet the amazing thing is his quantity. At least 3 or 4 jokes every lecture, each of them different. So for three and a half months now he has been going strong telling well over 100 jokes in that time. And to be truthful, Dr. Popescu was the first faculty I thought of when I learned I would need to interview professors and students. Mathematicians always have very interesting minds. As Dr. Popescu might say “all this math wears on you and some mathematicians in fact go insane.” He told us a joke about a couple of insane mathematicians, but I’ve forgotten some and will spare telling it for fear of butchering the joke.
Unfortunately I was unable to actually get an interview with Dr. Popescu due to his location difference. You see, Dr. Popescu teaches us all the way from Atlanta through a video conference class. Some casual “googling” was enough to find more about Dr. Popescu. (His website is not only as witty as his lectures but also as informative.) Dr. Popescu received his doctorate at MIT in 2004. He spent the next three years working as a postdoc at Northwestern University doing research. Eventually in 2007 he found his way to us Georgia Tech, where he began as an assistant professor. Currently Dr. Popescu teaches a variety of courses at Georgia Tech ranging from 2552 (Differential Equations) to 4080-Senior Projects, 6221-Classical Probability, and 9000-Doctoral Thesis. Continuing his interest in research, Dr. Popescu focuses his witty talents on stochastic analysis on Manifolds, Differential Geometry, and random matrices just to name a few.
Dr. Popescu also proves a point to many students trying to make it at Georgia Tech; with the right attitude, especially positivity, difficult problems become much easier to solve.