Course People


deForestRuss deForest (Instructor) I’ve long had an interest in the issues of sustainability and I’m excited about leading this course as your instructor this semester. Contact:

I grew up in western Massachusetts in a small industrial town where the main waterway had been contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used in the production of electrical transformers.  For a time I imagined industrial pollution as a local problem but PCBs and other persistent organic pollutants are transported to the high Arctic where they accumulate in the fatty tissue of arctic animals and become part of the diet of Arctic peoples.  Although how this occurs is itself quite fascinating, it is yet another reminder of the adage of our time: ‘There is no away’.

I also take it as a reason for optimism. While PCBs will be remain with us for some time, they have not been manufactured since 1979 and are slowly declining in the environment.  We have found better and safer manufacturing methods. By taking a long view and turning our attention toward the issues of sustainability we may find that we can do much better still. To understand the scope of the challenges we face and the many opportunities for improving our relationship with the ecosystems on which we depend we need skills in quantitative reasoning. I hope this course will serve to help you in developing and strengthening those skills.

When I am not in  the classroom I enjoy getting outside with my family or taking advantage of the fantastic mountain biking available in Central Pennsylvania.


hoellmanRachel Hoellman (Teaching Assistant) Pennsylvania born and raised, I grew up in a Penn State household. I am a junior majoring in Applied and Industrial Mathematics with a minor in Statistics. I am also involved with research in research in epidemiology and vaccine optimization tactics. I enjoy spending my free time time being an activist for environmental issues, especially through my position as Administrative Director of Fossil Free PSU, Penn State’s student run fossil fuel divestment campaign. Additionally I am the treasurer of the Penn State College Democrats. I also enjoy hiking, going to concerts, and running.  Contact:


John Roe (course developer)  Born in England, I’ve been a professor in Penn State’s math department Johnsince 1998.  I am one of the inventors of the mathematical theory of “coarse geometry”, which uses geometric tools to study the “large scale aspects” of mathematical problems.   Though this is an abstract theory, there are natural connections between it and the study of human sustainability, which involves “large scale” questions both in space and time.  I have been dreaming about the MATH 033 course for years and am excited to be bringing it to you at last!  Outside the classroom I am a rock-climber, a guitarist, an enthusiastic but messy cook, and a blogger on topics related to faith, mathematics and the environment.  Contact:

Leave a Reply