Neil Nicholson

Associate Professor of Mathematics

Math & Actuarial Science


+1 630 637 5233

Dr. Neil R. Nicholson is passionate about teaching mathematics.  He is an associate professor, coming to North Central in 2010 after three years at William Jewell College.  His research interests lie mainly in the fields of geometric knot theory and discrete and computational geometry, though he also has peer-reviewed work in sustainable service learning and relationships between knot theory and musical rhythm.  The primary goal of his research is to collaborate with students.  Thus, finding projects accessible by undergraduates is always his top priority and has resulted in multiple co-authored peer-reviewed articles.

Most recently Dr. Neil, as he is known by his students, has authored A Transition to Proof: An Introduction to Advanced Mathematics (CRC Press), a textbook targeting students making the leap from the calculus sequence to theoretical mathematics.  "It's more than a textbook to be used in class," says Neil.  "This is a book you'd want to display proudly on your coffee table.  It will inspire exciting dinner conversations.  You can ask my son; we've talked in-depth about cardinality over tacos." 

Beyond the classroom, Neil is North Central College's Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR) to the NCAA and serves as advisor the NCC Cycling Club.  He is a member and past chair of the Faculty Elections committee, has chaired the Faculty Elections Committee as well as the Enrollment Management, Athletics, and Student Affairs Committee, served as a Director-at-Large for the Illinois Section of the Mathematical Association of America, and has served as a Coleman Foundation Faculty for his weaving of entrepreneurial approaches into his general education courses.  Dr. Neil has been very active in the M3 math modeling competition, serving as a grader for their national competition and having written multiple problems for their monthly dialogues.  He was the primary author of the 2016 national competition question, partnering with the National Park Service to write, "From Sea to Shining Sea: Looking ahead with the National Park Service" as well as the 2020 national competition question, partnering with the North American Council for Freight Efficiency to write, "Keep on Trucking: U.S. Big Rigs Turn Over from Diesel to Electric."  This competition annually draws thousands of high school teams from across the country, giving them just under one day to use math to answer real-world problems.  It's a concept he's taken into his MATH 490: Seminar in Advanced Mathematics course, pushing senior math majors to apply years' worth of learning to one broad, open-ended question.

Beyond North Central, Dr. Neil spends much of his time devoted to his passions of running (not fast but far), ultra-distance mountain bike racing and bikepacking.  He is also the founder of DTS (Dream, Train, Succeed) Coaching and works with athletes of all levels to achieve their running goals.  And last, but certainly not least, Dr. Nicholson spends ample time addressing the needs of Gordon, Gus and Coconut, his three cats.


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Selected Scholarship

A Transition to Proof: An Introduction to Advanced Mathematics, CRC Press, 2019, 450 pp.

Weak visibility preserving functions, with Jack Billings, Minnesota Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics, 4, 1-6, 2019.

Piecewise-linear virtual knots, Journal of Knot Theory and its Ramifications, 20(9):1271—1284, 2011.

On weak lattice point visibility, with Rebecca Rachan, Involve: A Journal of Mathematics, 9(3), 411--414, 2016. 

Visualizing Euclidean Rhythms using Tangle Theory, with Jonathon Kirk, Polymath: An Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences Journal, 6(1), 10 pp., 2016.

Courses Taught

FYE 100: First Year Experience

MTH 280: Nature of Proof in Mathematics

MTH 300: Linear Algebra

MTH 375: Problem Solving Seminar

MATH 473: Topology

MATH 490: Senior Seminar

LEV 390: Seminar on Leadership Theory

IDS 125: Interdisciplinary Studies (The Ethics of Statistical Manipulation)

IDS 125: Interdisciplinary Studies (Math Model Building and Real World Solutions)

MATH 390: Research Methods in Mathematics