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Leslie Jones
Ph.D. Candidate

Leslie Jones

The view from the small square window of Leslie Jones's office seems straightforward enough. The Fountain Mall and Sid Richardson Building are easily within her view and even inside the office, the neat stacks of books and freshly cleaned dry erase board hint at nothing out of the ordinary. But Leslie, a doctoral candidate in mathematics, lives anything but a usual life.

"I live in Ft. Hood [a military base] and my husband just got back from Iraq this past weekend," she says. "He's been in the military for 16 years serving as a pilot." The wife and mother of two children has been making the hour-long commute twice a day, four days a week for three years and yet manages to retain a posture of both perseverance and radiance. "It's not been easy but I do a lot of work in the evenings and that's how I manage it," she says. "But when you're doing something you really love, it becomes your hobby."

Leslie, a graduate of Mercer University, made the choice to come to Baylor, just as the graduate program in mathematics was getting off the ground. "When I first got here, I really wasn't sure if there would be enough classes to take," she admits. "But we approached professors about what we'd like to take, they put it on the books, and before we knew it, there were more courses to take and more areas to explore than we had time to pursue."

Her research focus is topology, and specifically, the dynamics of one-dimensional maps, inverse limit spaces, symbolic dynamics, and tiling spaces. "I started on a research project last summer, it's on strange adding machines, tent maps and sequences for which I submitted a couple of papers recently," Leslie says.

These research interests take her annually to the Spring Topology Conference, which gives her a chance to talk to people whose papers she studies and bases her research on. "It's incredible that they sit down at breakfast with you and are willing to entertain questions; I am always star struck!" she says.

And in addition to her research, she has found another area of deep interest and talent: teaching. Last year, Leslie was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Instructor award from the mathematics department and honored again with the same award by the university. "Of course I love the math," the second-generation teacher says. "But it's more about the teaching."

As an anecdote, she shares a moment after returning from a conference last year, in which an undergraduate student questioned her choice of spring break destinations. In an unintended moment of reflection, she replied, "I hope when you grow up, you'll find a job that you enjoy as much as I do mine, and then you'll be glad that you spent your spring break at this kind of thing."