National Academy of Sciences member William Brock hired at MU

William Brock, a Guggenheim Fellow, will develop tools for mathematical research.

The department of economics will add William Brock, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, to its staff later this spring.

Brock, who currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will teach a month-long technical mathematics module at MU for both graduate students and professionals in fields like computational biology.

The opportunity to teach this class is just one of the reasons he looks forward to coming here, Brock said. He has family in nearby towns like Mexico, Mo., and Brock’s daughter is an assistant teaching professor in the MU division of applied social sciences. Brock also graduated from MU in 1965.

“I was actually there when the old Shack existed,” said Brock. “It was a much smaller campus back then.”

Last year, Brock was invited to MU to speak about early warning signals of ecosystems on the brink of collapse.

“They invited me to be a Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitor and give a lecture so that’s probably what got (the hiring process) started, I suppose,” Brock said. “I guess someone must have liked it.”

Brock is one of three distinguished faculty members to be hired by the university. Napoleon Chagnon and Martin Daly were both hired by the department of anthropology and brought many honors with them. Brock said he has quite a bit of respect for the two, especially for Chagnon’s accomplishments.

“This guy is a real living Indiana Jones,” he said.

After graduating from MU, Brock went on to earn a doctorate from the University of California – Berkeley in 1969, according to a MU News Bureau release. He was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1987 and in 1998 became a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Brock works primarily in economics and mathematics, designing applicable models to aid those fields.

“I am a toolmaker for other researchers,” Brock said in the release. “My mathematical models and statistical analysis are, hopefully, already helping other MU researchers to use the data they collect on such diverse topics as salamander ecology, the business cycle and linguistic anthropology.”

Brock said some of his favorite places to think are coffee shops like Lakota Coffee Co. in downtown Columbia.

“A couple of cappuccinos and it’s amazing what the brain will do,” Brock said. “When my wife and I drive across the country we have a map in front of us and college towns are like our oases.”

Brock said he and his wife are looking forward to spending some time in Columbia.

“When we’re down there we get our accents back,” he said.

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