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The professor’s room: Zachary Kirk

An occasional series that gets within the inner sanctums of academia – because clever people have interesting rooms.

By Cory Phare

November 1, 2017

Zak Kirk in his office.

Zak Kirk likes puzzles. Since he’s an affiliate professor of mathematics, that makes sense – but what is puzzling is how surrounding himself with an artistic maelstrom aids in the act of calculation. Here’s how he has made a shared office his own corner of expression.

  1. This border is an M.C. Escher woodcut print donated to me from a former professor where the images geometrically morph from squares into lizards into honeycombs and so on. Escher’s studies on distorted space and grid systems curved to keep the ratios proper; figuring how to make shapes work like that is mathematical.
  2. Here is my diploma from Miskatonic University, a fictional institution where the characters from [author] H.P. Lovecraft’s work go. I enjoy the imagination and draw a similar kind of inspiration in how to approach my work.
  3. I’m a fifth-degree black belt in taekwondo but actually got my start doing it here at MSU Denver as an undergraduate looking for a class to keep me active. I really enjoyed it, stuck with it and just recently became a coach for the CU Denver team.
  4. These contraptions are a Rubik’s dodecahedron and a cube with gears you need to not only solve for colors but to make it sit flush. I’ve figured them both out a couple of times – it’s really relaxing and Zen-like, as you don’t focus too hard but just enough to pay attention to what you’re doing.
  5. A lot of people think it’s weird to be into both art and math, but to me it’s the same creative process – the same way of thinking about why things are what they are. After trying to do the art thing for a while, I decided to switch to mathematics to make a living; I still paint on the side for personal enjoyment, though.

P.S. Calling all faculty and staff members…
Do you have an interesting office – and would you like to feature it in our series? Just email Cory Phare.

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