You can find bits and pieces about me in various statements in other parts of the website, but I hope that this monologue is a bit more cohesive. It's certainly longer.
First, I am not the MP for North Swindon in the
Second, although in formal correspondence I use Michael (since legally that is my name), in day to day informal conversation I go by Mike and if you call me Michael, I may not answer to that; unless, of course you are family, in which case allowances must be made. Notice also that both my first and last name each have precisely one 'i' in them.
I was born in
In the late 1970s, my family relocated to
I spent five mostly happy years at
Since this is a maths webpage, I suppose that I should mention a little about my mathematics history up to this point. I was quite good at maths throughout elementary school, but when I arrived at
Of course, most students need good instructors and I was no exception: My thanks go out especially to Mr. Alan Lloyd (A-level) and Mr. Maurice Maynard (GCSE, AO, A-level), both of whom were very influential. It was Mr. Lloyd who first showed me Euler's formula and told me it was beautiful. I did not understand at the time, but now I do. I should also mention Mr. Larentowicz from 6th grade, easily the best maths teacher that I had at Assumption. Sadly I have lost contact with Mr. Maynard, but am pleased to have recently got back in touch with Mr. Lloyd. Mr. Larentowicz is now the head of mathematics at a school in Pennsylvania.
Based on my results and my interests, I opted to go to university specifically to study maths. At the time, I thought that after I earned my BSc, I would go on to the bar. I soon realised that law was not the career for me, and indeed the only white collar career that I have wanted since has been the career of an academic. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned.
In 1991, I started my first year at the University of Bath, with the aim of getting first class honours. My results from my first year were decent, but frankly I was not understanding that much. In my second year, things took a significant turn for the worse. I won't go into detail here, but basically I just burnt out and made a number of mistakes in my personal life. My second year results were horrible, although my statistics marks were reasonable. Normally, given those results I would have either repeated the second year or dropped out. However, the maths department had just started a new degree programme, called an Ordinary Degree (as opposed to Honours Degree). The net result was that I could go on to the 3rd and final year (called stage IV since stage III was for those who took a year in industry) but with a significantly lower class of degree. Since my long-suffering parents were investing a considerable amount of money in my education, and I did not want to repeat the second year, I ended up taking this option. I pulled myself together just enough in my third year to pass just enough classes, almost all of them in statistics to get the degree.
At this point, I should mention three professors at
Back to the long winded story: I had now spent 8 years in
While I was underage, I had a legal guardian in the country. She had three children of her own, all similar in age to me, and for the sake of sanity, simplicity, and a genuine bonding, I have come to think of them as my brother and sisters. Since I am in fact an only child, this has had a profound impact on me. Besides that, I had done a number of cool things. For example, I slept under the
Unfortunately, I was about to graduate with a substandard degree, albeit, from an excellent university. I had never had a job; I had no job prospects; and little chance of getting into a postgraduate programme. So what was the solution? Join the military. Since the Americans get uptight about their nationals joining foreign military, I decided to join the United States Air Force. As a result, I moved back in with my mother, who now lived in an apartment in
In the meantime, I worked a series of temp jobs for several agencies. I got to do a variety of work. Some jobs that I had were unskilled labour at a construction site, bag check during Fall rush at the UCLA bookstore, working at a factory that made roofing shingles, filing, and extra work for the film 'Nixon' starring Anthony Hopkins. I've never seen the film, so I don't know if I've even been credited, let alone whether I actually made it on to the fabled silver screen. These jobs were low skilled, but they helped me gain confidence in my ability to get work, earn a pay cheque, and pay off my debts.
An especially important temp job that I had was at the UCLA student store's warehouse where I was involved in book processing (i.e. we counted books). It was important because I worked there for 7 months, by far my longest temp job, and because I got called back to work there full time on a permanent basis. In the end, I worked for the UCLA student store for 5 years as a permanent employee, nearly 6 years including my temp work. Through this job, and my mother's support, I got myself back on my feet and stopped making the silly mistakes that plagued my undergraduate career. I performed a number of duties at the warehouse, including delivery driving, shipping/receiving and computer store merchandise processing. Also I learned how to drive a forklift (or as I prefer to think of it, an overgrown Tonka Toy). All in all, it was a great job to hold while in my twenties since it paid pretty well and it helped keep me fit. In addition, I met a number of other great people at or through this job including my now brother-in-law, and his sister who became my second (and last) girlfriend, and is now my wonderful supportive wife. Additionally, I finally had pulled myself together enough to apply to universities to pursue my studies. California State Northridge (CSUN) accepted me (thanks again to E. Ryan and D. Draper for their letters of recommendation) and I began nighttime classes, this time paying for my own education rather than relying on my parents.
Cal State Northridge was great, but being a part time student, I never felt part of campus life. Still, I met several wonderful teachers there; of particular importance were Dr. Helena Noronha (my advisor), Dr. Michael Neubauer (I finally passed an abstract algebra exam under his patient tutelage), Dr. David Klein (he of the math wars, but a man who helped me realise that real analysis was much more accessible than I had previously thought), Dr. Stephen Breen (the man who inspired me to take up functional analysis), and Dr. John Dye (my graduate analysis instructor). In fact, all of the instructors that I had at CSUN were excellent- they also include Dr. Lorraine Foster, Dr. Ali Zakeri and Mr. George Biriuk. Unlike my days at
Being a full time student was a big adjustment, but it was helped by a number of things: First, the support of my wife; second, proximity to campus- I lived 10 minutes away by bike and the weather was usually fine; third, having my own office with a good desk and a whiteboard- these two things are indispensable to me, and really if there was one physical tool that I was missing, and could really have used as an undergraduate, it was the lack of a big board at my workplace (Of course, I did not realise that having a big board would be useful at the time...)
I also finally got to teach classes, and found that I really loved teaching. I think that I have a genuine gift to impart mathematics, even to those who think they are not mathematically inclined. Of course, not all of my students agree with me, but one cannot please everybody. Suffice it to say that I do my very best, get good results, and generally get good feedback from homework readers, office staff, and colleagues involved in the same class that I am. Most importantly, I generally get good feedback from my students; moreover, I always work to improve.
Still, it was a
struggle. At times, I was in near despair because I found passing qualifying
exams so hard. However, my fellow grad students were there for me. Of special
note is Dr. Mike Bice, who was a mentor of sorts for
me. Mike, a fourth year grad student when I arrived, was the guy who really
showed me how to write good proofs. He is now at Cal State Stanislaus, and
still helps me out with advice whenever I ask; and even writes letters of
recommendation for me- what a guy!
Eventually I did pass my quals, advanced to candidacy and defended my dissertation. After 32 years, I was able to change my title without changing the language that I was speaking in. In the process, I have almost by accident earned a 3rd degree (MA), which made me feel better about my MS from Northridge. My knowledge of maths has dramatically increased. I spent a year as a visiting assistant professor at
Things have recently more exciting because of the birth of my sons, Andrew Christopher Wills on 31st May 2005,
and Robert Gordon Wills on 13 April 2007. Being
a parent is a lot of fun, and I would like to think that I am a pretty decent
dad, and that my boys are so far turning out pretty well. The
photo page shows the development of Andy
and Bobby rather better than I could put into words.
So how did I get to this point, especially given my ignominious second year at