In memoriam: Nolting remembered for his generosity

Photo of Carse Nolting
Carse Nolting

Dr. Ben Carse Nolting, a bright graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Mathematics Ph.D. program whose compassion and sense of wonder uplifted his peers and professors alike, passed away at the age of 38 on Aug. 2, 2020.

Nolting's insatiable curiosity was cultivated at an early age. Born in Sitka, Alaska, on Feb. 19, 1982, Nolting was adopted by the local Tlingit tribe as a member of the Kiksadi clan and spent the majority of his youth exploring all the outdoors had to offer. This early exposure to the beauty and abundance of nature fostered Nolting's deep appreciation for the natural world, which ultimately motivated him to pursue a career in mathematical biology.

During his undergraduate career at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Nolting quickly garnered an incredible reputation among faculty. A mathematics major with both the talent and the drive to spearhead research, he frequently sought opportunities to expand his own knowledge on the subject. With the encouragement of his mathematics professors, Nolting applied for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship—a prestigious scholarship awarded to outstanding undergraduate students in the engineering, mathematics, and natural sciences fields—and became the university's second mathematics student to receive this honor.

Following his immense success at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Nolting continued his education at UNL as a graduate student studying theoretical ecology and applied mathematics. His Ph.D. advisors were David Logan in the math department and Chad Brassil in biology.

Nolting continued to shine at UNL; he amassed a large network of close friends and mentors who nourished his potential and helped hone his ability to solve the most complex of equations. His intense curiosity and interest in research propelled his career, and before graduating from the master's program, Nolting received recognition from the Ecological Society of America for authoring the best graduate research paper of the year at an annual ESA meeting.

After receiving his master’s degree, Nolting stayed at UNL to complete his doctorate. His acclaimed Ph.D. dissertation, which explored foraging behavior, theory and simulation, earned him a postdoctoral opportunity at Case Western Reserve.

From fellow colleagues to students seeking help on online math forums, Nolting selflessly devoted his time and mathematical talents to help others succeed in the field. Many of his former colleagues recall the gentle encouragement that was a hallmark of Nolting's teaching.

"Ben was one of the kindest, most generous people I've ever met. He would repeatedly go out of his way to reach out, listen well, and help others. Whenever you talked to him, you had the sense that he was actually listening," said Mike Janssen, Nolting’s friend and an associate professor of mathematics at Dordt University. "He was a brilliant mathematician. During the IMMERSE bridge program at UNL in 2007 it was a running joke that Ben was constantly solving problems in the most convoluted ways, but in reality it was a self-deprecating joke; he got to correct solutions much faster than most (certainly than I)."

Donate to the Dr. Ben Carse Nolting Fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation, which was established to benefit UNL undergraduate and graduate students pursuing study in mathematics, with preference for the disadvantaged.

– Lindsay Augustyn