Associate Professor of Mathematics
Math and Mime
The bookshelves in Tim Chartier's office are stuffed with the requisite math texts--as well as Futurama DVDs, The Collected Works of Gary Larson and dozens of Muppet toys. On the faculty at Davidson since 2003, Chartier may be the only person in the world doing creative work in numerical linear algebra and as a mime.
On Stage Early
The son of two seminary teachers, Chartier had his first puppetry gig when he was 10; he became interested in mime soon after. For his 16th birthday, his parents took him to see Marcel Marceau. Weakened by a long illness, Chartier could barely sit up during the performance. "I knew I'd pay for this with 2 or 3 days of weakness, but it was worth it." He's since had several opportunities to study with the legendary performer, who encouraged him and praised his work. "Marceau's ability as an educator still inspires me," says Chartier.
After earning B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in math, "My original goal was to teach during the year so I could perform during the summer. But every time I thought I was only a mime, something would remind me that I couldn't limit myself that way. The same was true for math. God just dropped incredible signs that made it unbelievably clear that I was supposed to be doing both." For the past several years, Chartier and his wife, Tanya, have been marrying the two divergent fields in a show called "Mime-matics," which they've performed across the U.S.
An Honored Teacher
Chartier's work in numerical analysis and partial differential equations has led him to projects including diagnosing different types of leukemia, predicting the outcome of post-season sports contests and helping Netflix better determine which movies customers will like. He has spent summers at Los Alamos National Laboratory and at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He frequently involves students in his work. In 2007, he received the Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College or University Mathematics Faculty Member from the Mathematical Association of America.