Reid changed course and headed for Missouri State, the University he still calls home after almost 25 years teaching.
“I love doing what I’m doing,” Reid said. “I like the students and I like Springfield.” The diversity of courses in the math department allows Reid to teach something a little different nearly every semester. “I get to teach a broad range of things. That keeps it interesting,” Reid said.
Reid’s focus in mathematics is commutative algebra, and though it’s mostly theoretical now, the discipline could have surprising practical applications in the future. “You never can tell. Some of the ideas behind the technologies we use now on a daily basis were once considered quite abstract and esoteric,” Reid said.
He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Chicago, then got his doctorate at Duke University. He’d known since he was quite young, however, that he’d get an advanced degree.
Reid comes from a line of PhDs; his father had one in chemistry and his maternal grandfather had one in physics. “I knew by the time I was in fifth or sixth grade I’d get a PhD. The only question was whether it would be in math alone or along with physics,” he said.
Math emerged as the frontrunner in Reid’s interests when he encountered the so-called New Math taught in public schools in the 1960s and 1970s. New Math emphasized mathematical structure through abstract concepts such as set theory and number bases other than 10.
“I was good at math, before that,” Reid said, “but New Math opened everything up for me.” His course was set.
These days, he teaches classes ranging from pre-calculus and calculus up to graduate-level. He supervises master’s students working on theses and he is the faculty sponsor of the math department’s Problem-Solving Group, which works together to solve challenging problems from mathematics journals. “Sometimes the journals will publish our solution, which is nice for the students to see,” he said.
Reid spends summers working on his own research.