Teaching Mathematics at Georgia Tech Lorraine

School of Mathematics Professor Wing Li on living and working in Metz, France

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: This blog post was first published on the Georgia Tech Lorraine blog on March 8, 2017, by Samuel Burke.

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Dr. Wing Li, the mathematics professor at GTL for this semester. I attend the class she is teaching for undergraduates this time around, differential equations, twice a week and can personally attest to the fact that she is one of the most genuinely nice professors currently teaching at Georgia Tech, and someone who really does care about her students learning.

I learned from Dr. Li that she attended high school in Hong Kong, which is where she first realized that mathematics was the subject she wanted to pursue into college and beyond. After graduating from high school, she moved to the United States by herself to attend an American college, first receiving her B.S. from the University of Iowa, and then her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, both in mathematics.  Now Dr. Li teaches at Georgia Tech and is currently in her 3rd semester at our French campus.

Dr. Li told me that she believes that many professors are reluctant to volunteer to teach at GTL, often due to having kids who are currently enrolled in primary or secondary school in the Atlanta area. However, Dr. Li is in the unique position of being married to a native of France and having kids who are fluent in the language. She told me: “it was an excellent experience for the children, not only did they get to learn subjects in French, but they also got to really see the differences between the American and French school systems.” Because of this, Dr. Li was more than happy to volunteer for the position multiple times.

Currently Dr. Li is involved in research related to a subject called operator theory, which she described to me as basically being linear algebra (matrices, subspaces, etc.) but with infinite dimensions. She says it is an extremely interesting subject since: “you can’t just use a calculator or a computer to solve for the answer when you’re working with infinite dimensions. You have to really break everything down to pure theory instead of solving for specific examples.” Also, “if you can understand how things work with infinite dimensions, working with finite dimensions becomes simple.”

Outside of math, Dr. Li told me she’d always had an interest in music.  Following graduate school, she began taking piano lessons, but not having a piano of her own to practice at home, she switched instead to voice lessons. “It was convenient because I will always have my voice with me, but I didn’t realize how much of a strain lecturing for hours every day would be.” So, finally, she ended up choosing the violin, which she practiced an hour every day for 8 years until kids came into the picture.

At Georgia Tech Lorraine, students are encouraged to travel as much as they can, so I thought I’d ask Dr. Li a little about her travels. She told me that of all the places she’s been to the Greek islands struck her as the most beautiful, but the place that had the greatest impact, she revealed, was actually Alaska. “I had never seen anything so vast, yet in a way it was romantic and inviting. A place where I would very much like to stay and contribute to the land instead of just pass through.”

Dr. Li’s parting words to me were ones of advice for students here at GTL “don’t miss Metz,” she told me. “As you travel to famous locations all over Europe, don’t forget about the place you are calling home for these 4 months, and the incredible beauty and history that is right in our backyard.”

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  • Wing Li, in Georgia Tech Lorraine

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