The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Ed Waymire Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

July 29, 2015


Edward Charles Waymire was born in Alton, Illinois in 1949. Growing up, Waymire's grandfather proved to be a major influence on him and helped to build interests in mathematics and weather that later became very important, professionally.

After completing high school in 1967 and spending the summer that followed working as a door-to-door salesman in California, Waymire enrolled at Southern Illinois University. Originally planning on a career as a high school teacher, Waymire took a variety of math, physics and philosophy courses during his years at SIU. He was also involved in an undergraduate research project where he and his mentor studied the earth's magnetic field and rotation in an effort to gain a better understanding of the properties of lightning. Waymire completed his bachelor's degree in 1971.

Graduate school was Waymire's next step, and he was accepted by the Mathematics departments at both the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona. Though he had been informed that he would be drafted into the military in December, he decided to begin graduate studies anyway, opting for Arizona. That December, the U.S. government declared a zero draft, thus allowing Waymire to continue and complete his graduate degree. During this time he worked with his major professor Rabi Bhattacharya on stochastic processes and authored a thesis titled "The Mathematical Theory of Birth and Death Process."

After finishing his master's degree in 1972, Waymire moved directly into Arizona's Ph.D program. While a doctoral candidate, Waymire took advantage of a teaching opportunity in Mexico, spending a summer at the Universidad Autónoma de Guadelajara in Guadalajara. He won a Meritorious Teaching Award from Arizona in 1975 and completed his dissertation, "Contributions to the Theory of Interacting Particle Systems," a year later.

Waymire's first academic position as a newly minted Ph.D. was as an assistant professor in the Mathematics department at Clarkson College of Technology in Potsdam, New York. While there, Waymire began what would become a lengthy and important collaboration with hydrologist Vijay Gupta on the mathematical aspects of rain, work which eventually attracted funding from NASA. In the summer of 1977, Waymire returned to the University of Arizona as a visiting scientist in its Department of Hydrology. The following year, he went to the University of Mississippi's Engineering Department, again as a visiting assistant professor. Waymire ended up moving to Mississippi, where he remained until 1981. In 1982, after another year as visiting professor in Arizona, Waymire found his long-term institutional home in the Mathematics department at Oregon State University.

At OSU, Waymire continued to conduct research on mathematical aspects of hydrology, the research focus that has defined much his scholarly career. In 1994 he was named editor of Bernoulli, a top international journal of mathematical statistics and probability, and in 2006 he received OSU's Milton Harris Award, honoring his research and its impact on his field. That same year he finished his term as editor of Bernoulli and accepted a new post as chief editor of the prestigious journal Annals of Applied Probability. In 2007 Waymire and Bhattacharya published a textbook titled A Basic Course in Probability Theory. Two years later, they released a second volume, Stochastic Processes with Applications. Waymire was elected President of the Bernoulli Society for Mathematical Statistics and Probability in 2011, and served a two-year term in that capacity.

In 2014 Waymire was awarded the Carver Medal from the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS) for his contributions to the IMS and his service to Annals of Applied Probability. That year he also received the F.A. Gilfillan Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Science, an honor granted by OSU for a career marked by scholarly achievement. Though retired from OSU in 2017, Waymire serves as associate editor of two journals, Stochastics and Dynamics and Probability Surveys, as well as a professional committee for the IMS (2017-2020), and continues to investigate mathematical problems related to flow and dispersion, partially supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. He continues to serve on several graduate student committees for Ph.D. students in mathematics, both at OSU and with the Math Alliance - the national alliance for doctoral studies in the mathematical sciences headquartered at Purdue University. He and Bhattacharya are in the process of completing a four-volume work on stochastic processes.