Rachel Dunwell

Rachel Dunwell

Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Director of the Mathematical and Computational Reasoning Center


My greatest pleasure in teaching is seeing students gain their own personal understanding of mathematics. I have found that this happens most frequently when the student is working a project of their own choosing, and I endeavor to be as open as I can be to helping students work on research or reading projects. This has had the additional benefit of leading me into areas of mathematics to which I previously had little exposure.

My second greatest pleasure in teaching is creating courses, or remodeling existing courses, to tailor them to the needs of students taking the course. Since taking up my current position at Rhodes in Fall 2005, I have been able to work with Christopher Seaton on redesigning the Applied Calculus course in such a way that student learn the elements of calculus through a series of mathematical modeling projects. At Rhodes, I have taught courses in statistics, probability and calculus. I have also worked with students on studies related to data-mining, time series, and numerical analysis.

In addition to my teaching duties, I am the director of the Mathematical and Computational Reasoning center (MCRC). The MCRC is an academic support center where students assist their peers who are taking lower-level math courses. As part of my work as director, I have developed courses in math education that help the students working in the MCRC develop their teaching skills.

I have been very fortunate to have obtained experience working in a wide range of educational institutions in several different countries. I am a native of Britain and received all my education and training in the United Kingdom. I started my career as a secondary school (a school for pupils between the ages of 11 and 18) teacher, and my first appointment after finishing my professional training was in a secondary school in Chitipa, Malawi. Upon returning to the United Kingdom, I taught in an English secondary school for two years. Since then my teaching has been in higher education. I have held short-term appointments at Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh, Scotland) and the National University of Ireland at Galway (Ireland) before returning to Africa to work at Bindura University of Science Education in Zimbabwe.


My research interests have varied over time as I have taken advantage of different opportunities that I have had in the different places that I have worked.  The work I did for my PhD was in the analysis of equations that model the formation of micelles. While in Zimbabwe, I had the opportunity to work with a team modeling the effectiveness of passive cooling systems in a building in Harare. It was also in Zimbabwe that I started learning about and working on the statistical analysis of large data sets that are generated by surveys. This has involved making cross-country comparisons in the responses given by infant caregivers to questions concerning infant development. Most recently, I have started looking at ways of extracting evaluative information from data collected by the National Study of Infants, Toddlers, and Their Families Receiving Early Intervention Services (NEILS) project. NEILS surveys caregivers and professionals concerning their perceptions of the effectiveness of federally-mandated early intervention services given to children from birth up to the age of three years.

Outside the classroom  The two forms of relaxation I enjoy most are cycling and listening to radio programmes broadcast by the BBC (Radio 4 and Radio 7). I have taken part in a few of the sponsored bike rides that are organized around Memphis. The most fun of these has been for the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society. Each September, the National MS Society organizes a two-day ride from Memphis down to Tunica and back (the FedEx "Rock-n-Roll" Ride).

My pet cat, Wetherby, came to Memphis with me from Zimbabwe. He loves the fact that he doesn’t have to go outside anymore, and gets to eat dry food all the time.


B.Sc., Leeds University;
M.Sc., Liverpool University
Ph.D., Heriot-Watt University