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  March 5, 2001

Spencer Still Loves Teaching
After More than 50 Years

When Domina Spencer, professor of mathematics, arrived in Storrs the University was headed by President Albert N. Jorgensen. It was 1950 and many institutions were still reluctant to hire women as faculty members, especially in math and science. UConn, however, appointed Spencer as an associate professor. She was promoted to full professor 10 years later and continues to teach full time.

Spencer began her teaching career as head of the physics department at American University at age 21 and taught at both Tufts and Brown before coming to UConn. She earned her bachelor's degree in physics from MIT in just two years. She also holds master's and doctoral degrees in mathematics from MIT.

For more than half a century, she has taught classes three days a week.

Spencer is also a productive researcher, specializing in electromagnetic theory, illuminating engineering and integral equations. Her research has produced eight scientific books and 300 papers.

Her work in illuminating engineering and integral equations has increased the understanding of the reflection of light within rooms and has aided in the design of better lit interiors. She has applied her work in these fields to the development of luminous ceilings, which provide rooms with the optimal distribution of light. Spencer has one such luminous ceiling - painted with the history of her mathematical career - in her office. One of her most recent published papers, "The Geometrical Representation of Nutrition," shows how vectors can be used to analyze nutrition quantitatively.

Spencer says she has greatly enjoyed her years of teaching at the University. "I think that this job is more fun than any other in the world." she says. "And I am thankful that the Lord led me to UConn."

Spencer says she also takes pride in knowing that as a professor at a state school she is participating in the education of many students who are the first in their family to attend college.

Spencer was recognized recently during a University-wide celebration of long-serving employees.

Rebecca Stygar