Professor of Mathematical Sciences

University of Delaware


Toby Driscoll is a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Delaware. His research interests are in scientific computation, mathematical software, and applications of mathematics in the life sciences. He is the head of the Center for Applications of Mathematics in Medicine at UD.

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  • High-order and spectral methods in scientific computing
  • Mathematical software in Matlab and Julia
  • Applied mathematics, especially in biomedicine


  • PhD in Applied Mathematics, 1996

    Cornell University

  • MS in Applied Mathematics, 1993

    Cornell University

  • BS in Mathematics, 1991

    Pennsylvania State University

  • BS in Physics, 1991

    Pennsylvania State University

Recent Posts

Putting a math- & code-heavy textbook online

Some changes arrive with great drama and attention. Others creep in stealthily, like the gradually warming water that boils the proverbial frog (contrary to reality). I can’t think of the last time I welcomed the sight of a printed journal in my mailbox. Though I might print the occasional article that needs to be pored over slowly, I’ll recycle that copy after a bit; the electronic version is the one that I archive.

The sorry state of teaching ODEs

I’ve spent the last two spring semesters teaching ODEs (ordinary differential equations) to a total of about 170 biomedical and chemical engineering majors. The content is dictated by a number of constraints: the perceived desires of the client departments, multiple instructors, all of whom have more experience with the course than I do, and traditional expectations. Based on a limited survey of popular textbooks ( this, this, and our choice, Brannan and Boyce), many courses like this are quite similar.

Matlab vs. Julia vs. Python

I’ve used MATLAB for over 25 years. (And before that, I even used MATRIXx, a late, unlamented attempt at a spinoff, or maybe a ripoff.) It’s not the first language I learned to program in, but it’s the one that I came of age with mathematically. Knowing MATLAB has been very good to my career. However, it’s impossible to ignore the rise of Python in scientific computing. MathWorks must feel the same way: not only did they add the ability to call Python directly from within MATLAB, but they’ve adopted borrowed some of its language features, such as more aggressive broadcasting for operands of binary operators.

New look, new tech

At long last, I’ve refreshed the look for this site. Previously it was based on a “Metro UI” style for HTML, which looked nice to me at the time. Actually it still looks pretty nice, but it was named for the Metro design introduced with Windows 8, which tells you that it wasn’t exactly a modern look. More importantly to me, I’ve ditched writing raw HTML for creating a site using the Hugo content creation system.

Jekyll for clicker questions

For a few years, I’ve been a fan of clickers (aka personal response systems) for large lecture sections. Clickers are a simple–and scalable–way to incorporate a little widespread active learning in the classroom. They can’t work miracles, but they do allow me to reward attendance, rouse the students once in a while, and give good feedback to all of us about how well the latest concepts are sinking in. I like the accountability: If you got the question wrong when 80% of the class got it right, that’s on you, but if 20% of the class got it right, that’s on me.


Fundamentals of Numerical Computation

Undergraduate textbook in computational mathematics.

Exploring ODEs

A different kind of introduction to ODEs.

Learning MATLAB

Streamlined approach to MATLAB for veteran programmers.

Schwarz–Christoffel Mapping

Monograph on a major conformal mapping method.


Computing with functions instead of numbers.

Schwarz–Christoffel Toolbox for MATLAB

Conformal mapping to regions bounded by polygons.

MATLAB software

Contributions to the MATLAB ecosystem.

Isospectral drums

Eigenmodes of isospectral drums.

Recent Publications

Parameter Estimation for Evaporation-Driven Tear Film Thinning

Mathematical Models of the Tear Film

A Model for Tear Film Dynamics during a Realistic Blink




University of Delaware

Sep 2010 – Present Newark, Delaware
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Associate Professor

University of Delaware

Sep 2004 – Aug 2010 Newark, Delaware
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Assistant Professor

University of Delaware

Sep 2000 – Aug 2004 Newark, Delaware
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Postdoctoral Associate

University of Colorado

Sep 1996 – Jun 2000 Boulder, Colorado
Department of Applied Mathematics