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Faculty Profile: Dr. Shadow JQ Robinson

by Web on March 29, 2016

For Dr. Shadow JQ Robinson, the joy of teaching comes from interacting with students. Since joining the Millsaps faculty in 2008, Dr. Robinson has taught courses not only in physics, but also in astronomy and mathematics. He has also had the chance to lecture on the physics of sound in a music course, and to lead multiple classes in an English course due to his knowledge of Tolkien’s work and mythology.Physics is the quest to understand the “why” and the “how,” to know everything about our universe from how it began to how it might end. For Dr. Robinson, this goal is perhaps the ultimate intellectual quest anyone can undertake. He participates in this goal through his research as well as his teaching.

Dr. Robinson’s published research is in the area of theoretical nuclear physics. Atomic nuclei have unusual and unexpected properties resulting from the strong nuclear force that binds the protons and neutrons together to make the nucleus. Through extensive calculations utilizing the nuclear shell model, Dr. Robinson and his collaborators attempt to understand the origins of the various properties and structure found in the nucleus.

Number theory is another area of interest for Dr. Robinson. He studies perfect numbers and properties of continued fractions. Defined as numbers where the sum of its divisors excluding itself equal the original number, perfect numbers are rare. Dr. Robinson’s interest is in possible extensions of the definition of perfectness and the consequences of that extension. In the area of properties of continued fractions, his particular interest is a problem inspired by the as yet unproven Zaremba conjecture relating to the elements in a continued fraction expansion of rational numbers. Dr. Robinson says, “a continued fraction expansion of a number will often expose beautiful symmetries that can be hidden when numbers are expressed in their traditional form. Pi, for example, has some very simple patterns in various continued fraction expansions and the golden ratio has the simplest pattern imaginable.” In his office, you will find two workstations sitting side by side, one constantly calculating properties of continued fractions while the other works constantly calculating properties of atomic nuclei.

In the midst of all his research and teaching, Dr. Robinson is also a long distance runner and an author. He has written several novels and is currently working on an epic poem. For the past ten years, Dr. Robinson has completed the NANOWRIMO National Novel Writing Month, during which participants write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. It is also a life goal of his to someday play through all Beethoven and Rachmaninoff piano sonatas.

Dr. Robinson’s breadth of knowledge and his wide range of interests allow him to connect with Millsaps students over a myriad of disciplines. “So many of our students have a sense of purpose and passion for something meaningful,” Dr. Robinson writes, “Every day you are surrounded by people who are not just going to graduate and succeed, but who are going to have a meaningful impact on our world.”

- Lauren Abramson, Class of 2015