Staff Spotlight: Dr. Jones

Thursday, February 18th, 2016
Dr Jones
Dr. Jones is a math and computer science teacher at CHS, yet there’s more to him than just his job.  Recently, he’s been giving in-class presentations about the applications of trigonometry in music, complete with an electric guitar and microphone.  Obviously, he’s no ordinary teacher!  The Chronicle was interested to learn more, and got this exclusive interview revealing the man behind the math.
Katie Hyland: Where did you go to college?

Dr. Jones: I went to Rice University and got my undergraduate degrees; I double majored in mathematics and electrical engineering.  Then I went to Stanford University and got my Masters in education, and I got a California teaching credential, which came in handy when I got back into education later.  I went on and got a Masters degree and a computer science PhD at the University of Kansas.

KH: What did you do before you were a teacher at CHS?

DJ: My first job after graduate school was being a professor of computer science at the State University of New York on Long Island.  Then I spent nearly two decades at AT&T in artificial intelligence research.  I was one of the first AI researchers that AT&T hired.

KH: What made you want to become a teacher?

DJ: Actually, when I was finishing up my undergraduate work at Rice, I tutored on the side as part of my work study, and I enjoyed it so much I actually said ‘you know, I think I want to do teaching.’  I had worked at a consulting engineering firm a couple of the summers when I was home away from college and, I don’t know, was just more intrigued by teaching as a career.  After I got the education degree I taught a few geometry classes in California, I thought I’d go back and get my PhD and maybe teach at a college, which I did for four years… But over the years, even after I was in research at AT&T I always loved teaching, I taught occasionally at Rutgers and other places.  So when they folded up the research lab I rather than go get another corporate research position, I really just wanted to return to teaching, really pure teaching.

KH: In your classes, you’ve been doing a Math in Music presentation.  Can you summarize this idea for students that aren’t in your classes?

DJ: I always do lots of applied math, I tell students how math gets used in the real world, and I spend a lot of time in the real world doing research.  I have lots of hobbies and music is one of those, so I started doing these large assemblies.  They sort of describe music from all different angles, not just the math, but from psychology, from physics, and so forth.  It was really well received, so I decided to keep doing it.  In recent years I’ve brought it back to the classroom because it’s a more intimate environment where students can ask questions.  I just thought it was a really good way to bring home the fact that trigonometry and algebra are all around us.

KH: What made you interested in math in music?

DJ: In the early nineties when I was at Bell Labs, my lab director was one of the world class scientists working on high definition televisions.  Several of us had an interest in music anyway and electronic music was just gaining legs at that point, so he asked several of us to set up the HDTV lab at Bell Labs.  So I bought a lot of equipment, including a lot of synthesizers and so on.  Of course I had to learn how to use all of it, so it was fun.  It sort of used a different part of my brain and my skill set.

KH: What are your favorite bands or songs?

DJ: I tend to be kind of a classic rock, maybe leaning a little bit toward blues, folk, country, so James Taylor, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, those kind of folks.

KH: What are your hobbies?

DJ: My wife would tell you I’ve got too many hobbies!  Astronomy, actually, in the spring I’ll take the honors precalc students in the back of the C Wing and we’ll look through my telescope.  In fact, I just helped the school buy a telescope.  Obviously all kinds of things surrounding music, not just synthesizers and guitars and so on, but I have a Steinway piano and a Martin guitar.  But I also am interested in electronics.  Photography is a huge passion of mine, I have a Nikon camera and take lots of pictures, I’ve probably taken 25,000 pictures in my lifetime.  That’s it!