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Views of the wave tank in action in Chapman Hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.From left are, Sungduk Yu, Jeffrey Olander, and Keith Mertens.

Scientists have used the large wave tank in Chapman Hall to study the physics of oil plumes following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (photo by Dan Sears)

Student’s work in fluids lab inspires math gift

Chris Joy ’13 was so excited about his summer internship that the math major’s parents wanted other Carolina students to benefit from a similar experience.

Bob and Molly Joy of Vonore, Tenn., created the Robert Joseph and Myra Ficklen Joy Excellence Fund in the department of mathematics after Chris spent the summer before his senior year working in Carolina’s fluids laboratory — home to the wave machine— simulating oil spills and collaborating with faculty and graduate students.

The Joy endowment will support math undergraduates — as well as graduate and postdoctoral students — with stipends, research materials, equipment and conference and symposia expenses. Those resources will supplement their classroom experience and inspire them to use what they have learned to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

Bob and Molly Joy, far right, celebrate Chris' graduation with brother Robert and sister Kelley.
Bob and Molly Joy, far right, celebrate Chris’ graduation with brother Robert and sister Kelley.

“This was such an eye-opening experience for Chris, using math in a practical sense and making it real,” said Bob. “We need more math and science majors, and hope that many other Carolina students have the opportunity to engage in real-world applications of what they learn in the classroom.”

Today, Chris is a dedicated and energetic math teacher at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough, N.C. He is also the school’s head coach for the junior varsity baseball team and assistant baseball coach for the varsity squad (he was a pitcher in high school). He is merging his two passions and inspiring more students to study math and science in college. Chris was enrolled in the UNC-BEST program, which provides math and science majors with a fast track to teacher licensure, helping to fill a shortage of qualified science teachers in high schools.

“The Joys’ gift will make possible many fantastic opportunities for our students,” said Rich McLaughlin, department chair. “The excellent research that Chris conducted with a fluids lab research team ultimately led to several undergraduates traveling to present their findings at the national American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics [thanks to] Joy funding. “We look forward to sending many more students to national meetings and being able to provide critical support for generations of math students.”

The Joys have long supported their three children’s alma maters, “especially when they have such positive experiences,” said Bob, who retired five years ago after a 25-year career as a Colgate-Palmolive executive.

A Tennessee native, Bob earned a bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State University. Molly graduated from Hollins College with a degree in English and later earned a Ph.D. in political science from The George Washington University. She has deep family ties to Carolina: her father, brother, sister and niece are alumni.

Though retired from their professional lives, Bob and Molly spend many hours each week as volunteers for The Bush Family Refuge, which serves the homeless, and the Helen Ross McNabb Center, which provides mental health services for families. Molly also volunteers at the Vonore Public Library.

For the Joys, supporting Carolina is an extension of their family tradition of finding a need, then helping to fill it.

[ By Del Helton ]

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