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Mathematics Educator and Researcher Named CSUF’s 2022 Outstanding Professor

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“I never had a professor who was better at explaining difficult topics than Dr. Behseta. He makes learning math enjoyable and I would recommend him to any of my peers looking to get the most out of their education.”

“Dr. Behseta demonstrated deep knowledge, contagious enthusiasm and encouragement. The course subject is difficult, and his great attitude and confidence helped us learn.”

“He is always willing to answer questions and make students feel comfortable asking them.”

These are just a handful of student comments in support of Sam Behseta, professor of mathematics, this year’s recipient of Cal State Fullerton’s 2022 Outstanding Professor Award. Behseta was selected based on his exemplary contributions as an educator and scholar. CSUF President Fram Virjee announced Behseta’s selection at today’s (April 14) Academic Senate meeting.

Framroze Virjee, Sam Behseta, Stephen Stambough

In presenting the award, Virjee noted, “If the goal of a professor is to ignite students’ passion for learning and hope they fall in love with the subject matter for life, Sam Behseta has achieved this. He has transformed classroom opportunities, changed his office hours and developed programs where students learn through participation. He offers real-world research experience to match what students will find in the field and to which they are entitled.”

“During my tenure at Cal State Fullerton, I have been fortunate to teach a large number of graduate and undergraduate classes in statistics and applied mathematics,” Behseta said. “Some of my personal favorites are introductory classes. In those classrooms, I have found some of the most outstanding research students, who in their own right, are now pathbreaking educators or visionary data scientists.

“In data science, it is critical for students to develop a solid understanding of the basic concepts in theoretical and practical aspects of probability, statistics and computing, early on. Many students mistakenly believe this will be too hard for them. I tell them, ‘If you fail, it’s because I failed as a teacher. It’s my job to help you understand.’”

Behseta has supervised the work of more than 50 undergraduate researchers, many of whom are first-generation students.

Beyond being an approachable and beloved teacher, Behseta is also an accomplished researcher who has published extensively, presented at prestigious conferences and encouraged students to achieve far more than they thought possible. In fact, one of his former students is now an associate professor in the mathematics department.

“When I look at my students and their success, it reinforces in me the idea of what we can accomplish at Cal State Fullerton,” he said. “It is quite important and makes a lifelong difference — one classroom and one student at a time.”

Among Behseta’s accomplishments are:

Fellow of the American Statistical Association
The American Statistical Association recognizes fellows as “those who have an established reputation and have made outstanding contributions to statistical science.” The number of new fellows per year is limited to one third of 1% of the membership of ASA — the second oldest organization in the U.S., formed in 1839. Behseta was selected to become a fellow in 2017.

Director of CSUF’s Center for Computational and Applied Mathematics
In 2015, Behseta with a group of colleagues, initiated an effort to form an interdisciplinary scholarship with a computational component. In 2016, Behseta was appointed director of the Center for Computational and Applied Mathematics. Since its inception, CCAM has become a viable and highly active organization, supporting a significant number of data science research activities on campus.

High-Performance Computing Cluster
In 2021, CCAM secured two large grants: $600,000 from the U.S. Army for a new high-performance computing (HPC) cluster that enabled science and mathematics faculty and students to engage in leading-edge research activities. The supercomputer, which is part of the Center for Computational and Applied Mathematics in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, gives researchers the ability to process a large amount of data in a fraction of the time.

In 2022, CCAM secured a second supercomputer, ushering in an exciting era of advanced research for students, faculty and staff. The new high-performance computing cluster’s efficiency coupled with CCAM faculty’s diverse research topics, will not only pave the way for advancement in a multitude of fields: biology, biochemistry, statistics and applied mathematics, but it will also meet the demands of modern scientific research.

California Data Science Experience Transformation Program
More recently, in collaboration with researchers at UC Irvine and Cypress College, Behseta and colleague Jessica Jaynes, obtained a $1.5 million grant to provide opportunities for underrepresented and historically underserved students to receive training on the foundations and modern applications of data science, and to get involved in high-level research.

Statistical Modeling of COVID-19 Data
Soon after the outbreak of the pandemic, Behseta and colleague Derdei Bichara, began building machine learning and mathematical models for predicting the spread of COVID-19. This model accounted for mobility among communities and human behavior and was showcased extensively in the media.

Serving Minorities in STEM
Behseta was involved in securing National Science Foundation funding of $1.46 million to examine the effects of dual-language programs on increasing mathematics and science achievement among junior high students in the Anaheim School District.

He also helped secure $1 million for a project, Big Data Discovery and Diversity Through Research Education Advancement and Partnership, to inspire and train undergraduate students with diverse backgrounds about the approaches in big data analytics.

Valerie Orleans