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Mathematician and Neuroscientist Chosen for Texas Ten Recognition

Mathematician and Neuroscientist Chosen for Texas Ten Recognition
Every year, the Alcalde by the Texas Exes flips the script and gives alumni the chance to give their favorite professors an A+. Through nominations from former students, the Texas Ten honors professors who have made a difference in the lives of Longhorns.​ This year, two of the Texas Ten were chosen from the College of Natural Sciences.

Michela Marinelli

Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience | Years at UT: 6.5

Photo by Matt Wright-Steel/Alcalde.

Mind Bender: Her favorite book is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. "It makes for a great story."

Truth is King: Marinelli's favorite quote comes from John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn": "Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know." It's her favorite because her course is all about truth, and the beauty of truth.

Michela Marinelli used to live in Rome, where she grew up looking at the Colosseum out her window. She has also lived in Bordeaux, France, and Chicago. Marinelli says that while it was a bit hard to move to Texas back in 2013, she has come to love Austin and UT.

"Texas is different, right?" Marinelli says. "When I come here, my blood pressure goes down."

Her ideal student, Marinelli says, is curious, willing to explore new things and be uncomfortable — they don't just expect to get everything right the first time around. Most importantly, they're willing to explore a new possibility.

"One thing that I do love is when I see that shine in their eyes, when they get something and they see the application of that in their life," Marinelli says. "It's very rewarding."

As Marinelli, an associate professor in neuroscience and psychiatry, sees it, students need this type of curiosity and drive to survive her difficult Analytical Skepticism course. "I hold my students to very high expectations," Marinelli says. "The course is extremely hard."

Despite this — or maybe because of this — students often walk away from the class with a totally new perspective. "Some of the comments they've written, I printed them just to remember," Marinelli says. "They're like, 'You changed the way I see the world.'"— E.C.

William Wolesensky

Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of Mathematics | Years at UT: 7

Photo by Matt Wright-Steel/Alcalde.

Longhorn Love: "This is going to sound like a cop out, but it's the truth. Almost all my UT students are my dream students."

Favorite Book: Albert Camus' The Stranger. "Students know me now and they tell me that I'm one of the most positive people they've ever met. But I wasn't always that way. That book captures how people sometimes feel at different times in their lives."

Even for a numbers guy, mathematics professor William Wolesensky has had too many professions to count. The Nebraska native has worked in factories, trained horses, farmed for many years, worked at a bar, and taught computer courses in a penitentiary. Before taking a position at UT, he originally moved to Austin to run a beef jerky business. But through it all, math has been by his side. "Math changed my life," he says.

Wolesensky started at UT in 2013 after that jerky business didn't work out. He spent 17 years as a professor at the College of Saint Mary in Nebraska, and another three years at Doane College. He says he never expected to become an educator, though. When he was earning his master's degree in 1987, he found himself struggling to get through the program. But one of his professors took special notice of him and encouraged Wolesensky to persevere. "There was nothing in it for him," he says. "It gave me a lesson about life."

Since then, Wolesensky has committed his career to helping students however he can. He says he is never happy when someone is unsuccessful. "My favorite thing to tell my students is, 'You're going to get tired of hearing me say this — but I know your lives are much bigger than my class. I want you to be successful in your lives as well as here.'" — Danielle Lopez

​Meet the rest of the Texas Ten in the original Alcalde post.

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Thursday, 09 February 2023

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