Mathematics Student Scholarships
Support a Mathematics Student’s Education
The University of Utah has encouraged colleges and departments to offer additional undergraduate scholarships to continue to alleviate the financial burden on our students.
Donor-funded scholarships allow the Department of Mathematics to provide lifechanging educational and research experiences at an exceptional value.
Please consider helping mathematics students through a scholarship contribution today.
For a limited time, the University of Utah is also offering some matching incentives for new, multi-year scholarship pledges and/or new endowed scholarships.
If you have ever considered naming a permanent scholarship to support mathematics students, now is the perfect time to do so.
For more details about matching incentives, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call, 801-581-4414.
About this issue: Cover by Deborah Hake Brinckerhoff | Designed by Susen Sawatzki
Contributing Writers: Michele Swaner, David Pace, Susen Sawatzki
PROFESSOR TOMMASO DE FERNEX
INCOMING DEPARTMENT CHAIR
OF THE DEPARTMENT OF MATHEMATICS, COLLEGE OF SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH
Tommaso de Fernex is stepping into the role of Chair of the Department of Mathematics, College of Science, University of Utah following Professor Davar Khoshnevisan’s notable six-year term.
“It is with great anticipation that I step into the seat of Chairman of the Department of Mathematics,” says de Fernex, “I am honored for this appointment and humbled by the faith the College of Science has in me. Under the strong leadership of Davar Khoshnevisan, the Department has been on a great upward trajectory, reaching new heights with exemplary faculty recruitment and record recognition, grants, and scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students. Davar and I have collaborated for some time about the outlook of the department and I see a bright future. I am fortunate to belong to such a community, with a first-class faculty, fantastic staff, impressive students, and postdoctoral fellows. I am looking forward to serving the Department in the coming years.”
Tommaso de Fernex is a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society and was an inaugural Simons Fellow in Mathematics in 2012. He served as Associate Department Chair from 2017 to 2019. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and has resulted in nearly 50 publications, with more than 50 invitations to conference talks.
As incoming chair, he will continue his passion for algebraic geometry, working with students, postdocs, and collaborators on problems from birational geometry to arc spaces and singularities of algebraic varieties. In fact, de Fernex is scheduled to speak at the 2023 Fields Medal Symposium to be held October 1620, 2023 in Toronto.
“i see a bright future.”
MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR
Dear members and friends of Utah Mathematics, Welcome to the Summer 2023 edition of Aftermath magazine.
When I look at this year and all of the remarkable accomplishments of our faculty, staff, and students, I am reminded of the fact that the worst of the COVID era is now behind us. It is wonderful to see that, despite the adversities posed by the recent pandemic, we continue to meet and exceed the goals of our mission of excellence in research, teaching, and dissemination of cutting-edge mathematics.
A cursory look at the webpage https://www.math.utah.edu/research/ distinctions.php can serve as a reminder of some of our faculty’s many research and teaching distinctions, too numerous to mention here. Our departmental roster continues to thrive likewise. This year, Assistant Professor Rachel Skipper will join our faculty, having spent a year of research at ENS-Paris. In like manner, our postdoctoral ranks are rejuvenated by talented researchers and educators who will join us this coming year: Debdeep Bhattacharya (PhD, George Washington), Bohyun Kim (PhD, UCLA), Jeremy Brightbill (PhD, UCLA), Alex Ginsberg (PhD, U Michigan), Swaraj Pande (PhD, Michigan), Hunter Simper (PhD, Purdue), Hwai-Ray Tung (PhD, Duke), Alp Uzman (PhD, Penn State), MyVan Vo (PhD, Purdue), and Noble Williamson (PhD, UC-Riverside).
We admitted 18 new PhD and 7 new Masters’ students in our graduate training program, and have the good fortune of recently hiring 2 terrific members of the staff, Sean Cook and Scott Patten. We have also begun collaborating with Susen Sawatzki to whom we owe this very edition of Aftermath.
This year marks the sixth, and final, year of my tenure as Chair of this remarkable department. I have had the honor of working closely with the Administration, Faculty, Staff, and Students, and I have had the distinction of interacting closely with the many generous Friends and Supporters of this department. It is not possible to adequately summarize in this format the many positive contributions of this group. The recent well-attended Department Awards Ceremony, U Convocation, and the Department’s Hooding Ceremony, were further reminders of the fantastic work that we collectively accomplish. I see only good tidings on the horizon and know that the future of leadership in our department, in the person of our incoming Chair Tommaso de Fernex, further cements the excellent work that we shall continue to do together.
With best wishes for an inspiring Summer Term,Davar Khoshnevisan
GRADUATING CLASS OF 2023
college of science convocationDelivered by Sahana Kargi
THREE NUMBERS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
I majored in math for a reason, I’m a lot better with numbers than I am words, so today, I want to tell you about 3 numbers that changed my life.
That’s the difference between 122 and 32,000. As a math major, numbers have always held a special significance, but as humans, I think we struggle to comprehend their magnitude. For some context, here are your college milestones. 89 is the number of majors you could have chosen, 120 is the number of credits you finished to earn a bachelors degree, 1,534 is the number of acres you walked around campus, and 31,878 is the difference between the size of my high school and the University of Utah.
Coming from such a small school, my transition to a large university was nothing short of overwhelming. I didn’t have AP, IB or advanced programs, so I felt behind in my classes. I was expected to have a thorough understanding of concepts I’d never even heard about. I didn’t have a large network of alumni and students to reach out to for support. Ultimately, I felt like I didn’t have the tools to be successful.
When we transition to college, we leave behind our established friends, family and community. We leave behind our support system and are forced to build one from scratch. This requires effort, intention, and vulnerability. It means reaching out to new people, trying new experiences, and asking for
help, even when it feels uncomfortable. As I look out into the crowd, I don’t see a sea of faces, I see my network. 31,878. It’s a huge number, and I felt every bit of it in my transition. But in my life, there’s one number that puts this to shame.
Though it’s less than one third of the size, the difference in that 8,431 is much greater than 31,878. 8,431 is the number of miles from India to America. The distance that my dad traveled alone, in an airplane for the first time without even enough money to afford a ticket home. 8,431 is the distance between my parents and their mom and dad. The distance between their favorite foods, their best friends, their childhood! 31,878 represents my transition to college, but 8,431 represents my parents’ transition to a new life. I stand here tonight not as an individual, but as a representative of a larger community. Their stories remind me, remind us, that success is not easy and it does not come quickly.
As an ambassador, I’ve led countless tours and answered many questions about classes, extracurriculars and campus life. I knew I would be shaping the experiences of other students, but what was most significant was the way it shaped my own college experience. By sharing my story with others, I was forced to reflect on my own journey and the choices that I made. This led me to appreciate the opportunities I’d been given and be more intentional about the decisions that I made.
congratulations PhD graduates
Today is a day to celebrate not only the decisions we’ve made, but the decisions made by those around us and those who came before us. Their decisions gave us the privilege to make our own. Through their struggles and triumphs, we are able to stand here today on their shoulders and honor their legacy. So thank you. Thank you for sacrificing familiarity, and comfort. Thank you for sacrificing your loved ones’ milestones: birthdays, weddings, and funerals. Thank you for sacrificing the opportunity to watch your parents grow old and instead, working to build me a new life.
I would also like to take a moment to thank those who have passed away. Though they are not physically here, their impact on our lives continues to be felt. Thank you for your unwavering support, encouragement and love. Your absence today reminds us of the preciousness of life and your memory and love continues to inspire us. Thank you.
onto the third and final number: 6.
When people ask me about my major, they make a face at my response. Even without words, their furrowed brow and squinted eyes say it all: “why math”. When I was younger, I loved math because I thought it was rigid. I naively believed that if you followed all the rules, you could solve any problem. In a gray world, I found comfort in what I thought was a blackand-white subject.
However in college, I quickly realized that was far from the truth. The subject I believed was black and white wasn’t just gray, it was a rainbow of colors. What scared me most were the unsolved math problems, 6 to be exact. Some of these problems have been around for centuries, and even with the brightest mathematicians who’ve dedicated their careers to studying them, they remain unsolved. I used to worry that I too would remain unsolved. That despite everyone’s greatest efforts, I was just too difficult to figure out. That I would remain a hypothesis, an experiment, and never evolve into anything concrete.
Now, I take pride in that. The existence and pursuit of these unsolved problems is what keeps the field exciting. While they themselves may remain unsolved, the process of solving them leads to new discoveries, collaborations and insights. So tonight, I encourage us to embrace the unsolved parts of our lives. Some questions exist not to be answered, but to remind us what we are looking for.
thank you.by Sahana Kargi
This compelling speech was delivered by Kargi who represented the Class of ’23 on May 4, 2023 at the College of Science convocation in the Huntsman Center at the University of Utah.
WELCOME NEW FACULTY AND POSTDOCS
Bohyun is an applied mathematician specializing in numerical methods for nonlinear partial differential equations. Her research interests lie in the fields of fluid dynamics and physical modeling. She has acquired a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Mathematics from the University of California, Irvine. Following that, she pursued a PhD degree in Mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Currently, Bohyun Kim holds the positions of Postdoctoral Fellow and C.R. Wiley Instructor at the Department of Mathematics, University of Utah.
Ray is an incoming postdoc who recently earned his PhD from the Department of Mathematics at Duke in 2023. With the guidance of his advisor, Rick Durrett, he used stochastic processes and dynamical systems to work on a variety of problems in mathematical biology, including cancer, epidemic and ecological modeling. During his PhD, Ray also enjoyed working with undergraduates through teaching and summer research programs. Ray is very excited to join the mathematical biology research community and is looking forward to his time at the University of Utah.
Debdeep’s research is interdisciplinary and combines rigorous mathematical analysis with cutting-edge computation techniques. His research interests include high-performance computing and analysis of partial differential equations, especially of nonlocal and nonlinear types with a focus on mechanics of materials. He is interested in peridynamics and other nonlocal models and their applications to continuum mechanics, granular media, fracture in solids, signal processing, and machine learning. He received his PhD in Mathematics in 2020 from the George Washington University under the guidance of Professor Frank Baginski. The title of his thesis was “Harmonic Analysis Techniques in Nonlinear Dispersive Equations and Signal Processing.” At the University of Utah, with Distinguished Professor Ken Golden and colleagues, he aims to employ his expertise in interdisciplinary mathematical problems, especially novel theoretical and computational techniques coming from granular media and fracture to partial differential equation models for sea ice and its role in the climate system.
Jeremy was recently a visiting assistant professor at UC Santa Barbara, working with Ken Goodearl. He graduated in 2020 from UCLA with a PhD in Mathematics with advisor Raphaël Rouquir studying homological algebra and the representation theory of finite-dimensional algebras. His current research involves the differential graded stable category (a triangulated category that can be associated to a finite-dimensional graded algebra) and triangulated categories of negative Calabi-Yaudimension. His PhD dissertation describes the dg-stable category, a triangulated category associated to a graded selfinjective algebra and studies the theory of perverse equivalences in this setting.
Alex’s passion is mathematical biology. His introduction to mathematical biology came through a summer undergraduate research program in evolutionary game theory. In graduate school at the University of Michigan, Alex broadened his knowledge of mathematical biology by studying computational neuroscience, writing his dissertation on lowdimensional descriptions of networks of neurons. This fall he is joining Aaron Fogelson’s research group as a postdoc to model blood clotting.
Alp is a mathematician specializing in dynamical systems. He received his PhD from Penn State in May 2023 under the supervision of Professor Federico Rodriguez Hertz; his thesis, “Arithmeticity for Maximal Rank Positive Entropy Actions of R^k by Diffeomorphisms” won the Raymond and Christine Ayoub Award. His current research focus is nonuniform measure rigidity, an area his thesis has been a contribution to. He is also interested in higher rank actions at large, as well as other dynamical areas like ergodic optimization and subriemannian dynamics. He holds a BSc in mathematics and a BA in philosophy from Koc University in Istanbul, Turkey. Apart from mathematics his interests are (Husserl-adjacent) phenomenology and films. He and his wife drove to SLC all the way from State College, Pennsylvania; currently in his free time he is learning to make a movie out of the footage he shot during the four-day-long ride.
Noble is thrilled to return to his alma mater, the University of Utah, after earning his PhD in algebraic geometry from UC Riverside. His research involves the application of combinatorial and computational techniques to birational geometry but above all, he is interested in helping students understand and appreciate mathematics, especially geometry, at all levels. At UCR, he was fortunate to have been given many opportunities to teach and mentor undergraduate students during some unusual circumstances such as the Covid-19 pandemic. These experiences helped him develop an explorationfocused teaching style that he is eager to share with the exceptional students at the University of Utah.
Rachel received her PhD in 2018 from Binghamton University under Marcin Mazur. She spent the next year as a research assistant (postdoc) between the University of Goettingen and the ENS Lyon. From 2019-2022, Rachel was a Zassenhaus Assistant Professor (postdoc) at the Ohio State University. Finally, before coming to Utah, she spent the last year as a visiting researcher at the École normale supérieure, Paris. Her research focuses in group theory and in particular on groups with difficult to find properties which arise via actions and almost-actions on trees and related structures. In addition to research, Rachel considers mentorship an important part of her life as a research mathematician. Rachel has been a mentor through the AWM mentor network for many years as well as with the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP).
HUNTER SIMPER In May 2023 Hunter received his PhD from Purdue University, where he was advised by Uli Walther. Broadly speaking, he works in commutative algebra and algebraic geometry. In particular, some topics he likes thinking about include: determinantal varieties; more generally ideals of minors and ideals coming from a GL action, Local cohomology; recently, he’s been very interested in homological properties of thickenings, StanleyReisner rings and simplicial complexes, Bernstein-Sato polynomials and related D-modules.
ANNA TANG NAMED FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR
THE KEY IN OUR COLLECTIVE HAND
Mathematics,” says Anna Tang BS’23, “is a key in our hands that is able to change shape to fit almost any lock in the world.” A graduate of Mathematics at the University of Utah, Tang not only uses that key to model how breast cancer tumors continue to grow despite estrogen controls in current therapies, but to apply for a Fulbright Fellowship. In April, she was confirmed as a finalist and will be heading to Germany this fall. A member of the Fred Adler lab group known for its broad range of mathematical modeling work—from rhinoviruses to ant colonies, and from sea ice to urban ecosystems–Tang is clearly enamored with math-biology models which have grown exponentially, especially as they relate to healthcare applications. That interest stems from working on differential equations as a precocious youth, and now continues to blossom at the U. Her parents provided living examples of science in practice and taught her the art of resilience. Her mother, a research faculty member at U Health was quick to instill in her daughter that failure is just one step toward success; and her father is a computer scientist. That her parents are both immigrants from post-communist China, “not fluent in the language of elementary writing assignments,” they focused with their daughter on the universal language of math.
It turns out that another Chinese immigrant whom Tang refers to as “Auntie” propelled Tang even further into the language of math and its potential applications to healthcare. While working on her PhD at the U, says Tang, “Auntie took care of me when my mother [working as a post-doctoral researcher] and father were attending conferences.” Already an MD, Tang’s surrogate mom often told stories of working in emergency rooms in China. Then, in 2008, eight-year-old Tang traveled to Jiangxi Province to visit her Auntie who had earlier returned to China where she eventually learned she had contracted stomach cancer.
“She had always been so full of life,” recalls Tang, “helping others as a doctor and researcher …” But now, the woman who with her mother was “pushing the boundaries of our knowledge … was decimated by the cancer that had affected her.” While the experience with Auntie in China was fourteen years ago, Tang vividly remembers how bleak her Auntie’s hospital room was “except for one single, solitary sunflower in the vase next to her bed.” While looking at that flower and its seeds, the third grader suddenly remembered, of all things, the Fibonacci Sequence–the series of numbers in which the next number is found by adding up the two numbers before it–and how it is found in nature.
That experience was “the root of the wish to apply math to life,” she says. There with her Auntie, Tang remembers wishing she could cure cancer “like you could solve a math problem. … Cancer is a strange land. It whisks its patients away to another world of fear and uncertainty.” Unfortunately, the intrepid model to Tang of what it means to seek scientific understanding did not return from that land.
An honors student with a minor in chemistry, Tang will work with Anna Marciniak, a mathematical oncologist at Heidelberg University in Germany. In that lab, Tang will be working to quantify the mutational landscape of another kind of cancer: acute myeloid leukemia. Using integro-differential equations she and her team will be asking what the mutations of cancer cell populations look like and how they present themselves phenotypically.
Meanwhile, Tang, who worked as a TA in the Department of Chemistry, graduat-
ed from the Department of Mathematics this spring. She says that Fred Adler, who heads The Fred Adler lab group at the U, and is Director of the School of Biological Sciences, “is the most eccentric professor I’ve ever worked with. In a good way,” she quips, then laughs, “He has in his office a list of ‘trigger’ things that he doesn’t want to see in a math model.” The Adler lab group is a very collaborative environment, she continues, “always a blast! The projects are so diverse you get to see so many applications of math. It’s inspiring.”
In the lab group, Tang works closely with
post doc Linh Huynh, designing models, running simulations, collecting data to fuel discussions over fixed-point stability and long-term behavior.
It’s not every third grader who resonates with the Fibonacci Sequence. In fact, Tang finds doing mathematics, in a way, meditative. “I really love it because you’re just thinking. It feels a little like I can take myself away from technology just working with a piece of paper.” Reflexively, however, Anna Tang recalls her Auntie in that hospital room, and the Fulbright recipient knows she wants to move through that heady, calming space into simulations and eventually applications to healthcare.
“If there is anything that can prolong the life of a cancer patient,” she says, “it will be math,” the shape-shifting key in our collective hand that can fit most any lock.by David Pace, first published @ math.utah.edu.
“IF THERE IS ANYTHING THAT CAN PROLONG THE LIFE OF A CANCER PATIENT,” SHE SAYS, “IT WILL BE MATH,” THE SHAPE-SHIFTING KEY IN OUR COLLECTIVE HAND THAT CAN FIT MOST ANY LOCK.
GOLDWATER SCHOLARS 2023-2024
Four College of Science students with studies in the department of mathematics were awarded a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. in an ongoing partnership with the Department of Defense’s National Defense Education Programs, Dr. John Yopp, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, announced that the Trustees of the Goldwater Board have again been able to increase the number of Goldwater scholarships it is awarding for the 2023-2024 academic year to 413 college students from across the U.S. “The Department of Defense’s continued partnership with the Goldwater Foundation ensures we are supporting the development of scientific talent essential to maintaining our Nation’s competitive advantage,” said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, Acting Deputy Director of Research, Technology and Laboratories, who oversees the NDEP program. the Goldwater Scholarship is the oldest and most prestigious national scholarship in STEM fields in the U.S. and identifies college sophomores and juniors who show promise of being the next generation of leaders in STEM fields. With the 2023 awards, this brings the number of scholarships awarded since 1989 by the Goldwater Foundation to 10,283.
applied mathematics; physics & astronomy
A sophomore, Eliza Diggins participated as a freshman in the Science Research Initiative (SRI) program, sponsored by the College of Science. The SRI puts students in a lab to do research as soon as they arrive on campus. After Diggins was admitted to the program, she began working with Fred Adler, professor of mathematics and of biology in the Department of Mathematics and in the School of Biological Sciences. “Math and physics have both had a special place in my heart for most of my life. Even back in elementary school, math and science always held my attention more than other subjects. I began to actively study physics in middle school and never looked back.” Following graduation she hopes to pursue a PhD in theoretical astrophysics to use innovative computational and analytical techniques to better understand the dynamical processes at play on all scales of the cosmos. You can read an interview of Diggins here.
AUDREY GLENDE physics & astronomy; mathematics; philosophy of science
An honors student with a triple major, Audrey Glende is currently researching a crystal and mapping its electrical and magnetic properties at extreme conditions, such as pressures similar to that of the earth’s core temperatures just above absolute zero. The crystal (EuCd2P2) has been labeled as a superconductive candidate among other characteristics. As with electronic parts or materials used in fuel/battery cells, “many of the materials with complex properties,” she says, referring to her work with the crystal, “are discovered through both theory and experimentation within condensed matter physics.” It is this area of inquiry in which her ambition lies, and she is hoping to complete a PhD in physics and eventually share her knowledge through teaching at the college level. Among many influential family members in her life, she says, “I probably see myself most in my dad and know that it is very much so because of him that I have been comfortably hand-held into my passion for STEM in a way many people aren’t.” Her father encouraged her to participate in science fairs as a youth and she was eventually recognized by Business Insider magazine as having conducted one of the 30 most impressive science fair projects in the U.S. in 2015. Glende’s faculty mentor is Professor Shanti Deemyad.
DANIEL KOIZUMI mathematics
After graduation, “I hope to pursue a PhD in Mathematics [and] conduct research in pure mathematics and teach at university,” says Daniel Koizumi. His faculty mentors include Professor Karim Adiprasito, a German mathematician working at the University of Copenhagen and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who works in combinatorics; Professor Sean Howe, who works in arithmetic and algebraic geometry, representation theory, and number theory; and Professor
NICHOLS CRAWFORD TAYLOR
applied mathematics; computer engineering; computer science
“I love robotics, autonomous systems, and all the math and engineering surrounding them,” says Nichols Crawford Taylor. “I’m excited for the future they’ll create!” Taylor, a triple major, plans on pursuing a PhD in robotics and then transferring to industry to teach and present his research. “Right now,” he says, “I’m working on skill sequencing for autonomous manipulation using partial views of objects. We don’t expect robots to have all-encompassing knowledge, so we’re using human-like views of objects with color and depth. From there, my research is about how to put together different skills the robot has to achieve a goal, like re-arranging books on a shelf.” A presidential intern during the 2021-2022 academic year and, currently, the Residence Hall Association President at the U, Taylor has been on the Dean’s List and is a member of Pi Mu Epsilon. He is also a member of the Jiu Jitsu club. His faculty mentors include Dr. Daniel Drew, Dr. Alan Kuntz, and Dr. Tucker Hermans, the latter of whom he considers his hero. “His breadth of knowledge and experience is astounding,” says the Orem native. “He knows so much about and surrounding the field, and has incredible insights on problems that take a good bit of time to wrap my head around.”
Jon Chaika, whose research in the field of dynamical systems seeks to understand a space and a map by following individual points. Recipient of the departmental Undergraduate Award for Excellence in Graduate Courses, Koizumi’s ambition is to continue doing research at the intersection of combinatorial topology and commutative algebra. He spent three months in 2022 as a research fellow at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “On a lazy Saturday,” he says, “I ... enjoy hiking, cooking, or running.”
SEAN HOWE RECOGNIZED
FOR EXCELLENCE WITH AN EARLY TEACHING AWARD
Nomination Excerpt: “During my undergraduate career, Dr. Howe has been instrumental in my success by advising my applications for scholarships, graduate schools and research experiences; and by providing individual instruction on an advanced research project and related topics. I am extremely fortunate and grateful for Dr. Howe’s constant support and the positive impact he has had on my life and academic career. The personal impact of his guidance truly cannot be understated—he has proven to be an outstanding mentor in every manner possible, exhibiting extraordinary character and compassion for his students.”
physics. For example, the geometric idea of distance can be modified to give a new definition, depending on a prime number, of when two integers are “close.” One can then count the number of approximate (for this new definition of close!) integer solutions to an equation using the same mathematical techniques that are used to break down music into fundamental tones.
He almost missed out on mathematics as a career.
When Sean Howe was a freshman at the University of Arizona, he originally planned to study creative writing. He was only planning on taking two semesters of calculus to meet basic degree requirements.
But something clicked when Howe’s instructor took a day off from the regular curriculum to give a lecture on the different sizes of infinity or cardinality. “I was hooked,” remembers Howe, now assistant professor of mathematics, “and I was lucky to be in a department surrounded by a lot of great people who were willing to mentor me.” He is particularly grateful to Rob Indik, associate professor of mathematics and associate head of undergraduate programs at the University of Arizona, who allowed Howe to participate in an undergraduate research project when Howe had almost no experience beyond calculus. The project opened doors for Howe both academically and professionally.
Not surprisingly, there were bumps along the way as he worked on obtaining advanced degrees. He spent two years working on a master’s degree in Europe before returning to the U.S. for a PhD program at the University of Chicago. “Studying in Europe was an amazing opportunity mathematically and personally, but at times I also felt isolated, incompetent, or just plain stupid. Adjusting to a different educational system and having to do work in a foreign language was tremendously challenging,” he said. The experience has given him empathy for the courage and strength it takes for a student from a different country, culture, or socioeconomic background to leave home to study at the University of Utah.
Howe’s research is in the Langlands program, an area of mathematics that develops analogies to explain the behavior of prime numbers using ideas grounded in geometry and
“When someone asks about my research, I like to tell them I spend my days sipping lattes and thinking about prime numbers,” joked Howe. “But the reality is I love the feeling of seeing something in a new light for the first time, and that's what I'm constantly chasing in my work.” The goal of his research is to take a problem that feels intractable and find a new way to look at it to reveal a simple, elegant solution. Some of the topics Howe studies have applications to cryptography (the branch of mathematics that allows you to safely and securely buy products online without having your credit card information stolen), but that isn’t why he studies them.
Howe credits a number of professors who helped him in his career. “There are too many to name, and they’ve all played a role in shaping me into the mathematician I am today,” said Howe. A few standouts are David Savitt, chair and professor of mathematics at Johns Hopkins University; Sergei Tabachnikov, professor of mathematics at Pennsylvania State University; Frank Morgan, professor of Mathematics at Williams College; and, thesis advisor Matt Emerton and mentor Benson Farb, professors of mathematics at the University of Chicago.
Howe is an active hiker and runner. After moving to Utah, he added climbing and skiing to his outdoor activities. “One of the best things about being a mathematician is that you always have something interesting to think about,” said Howe. “Of course, it can also be one of the worst things because it’s sometimes hard to stop thinking about math! ” His home life is busy with his wife and young daughter. He still enjoys writing short stories and essays, but for now, he pours his creativity into mathematics.
In the next year or so, Howe plans to explore some new conjectures in the Langlands program that have grown out of his recent work. “But the truth is I have no idea where my research will take me—and that’s just the way I like it!”
KENNETH M. GOLDEN
RECEIVES THE CALVIN S. AND JENEAL N. HATCH PRIZE IN TEACHING
Kenneth M. Golden, distinguished professor, Department of Mathematics, College of Science was awarded the Calvin S. JeNeal N. Hatch Prize in Teaching, February of this year. From his nomination, praise describes Golden’s unique teaching style, “Having more than 40 years of classroom experience to perfect the art of teaching, 80-plus publications in academic and scientific journals, more than 500 invited lectures and having presented three times in front of the United States Congress, Dr. Golden has amplified what it means to be a teacher by not only being at the top of his field but also by creating a safe and inclusive environment where students can be challenged to reach their full potential.”
The Calvin S. and JeNeal N. Hatch Prize in Teaching is provided by an endowment given to the University of Utah by Mr. and Mrs. Hatch. The purpose of the prize is to recognize an outstanding teacher at the University of Utah and according to the award committee, to “make a contribution to teaching, the dissemination of knowledge, and to improve our ability to communicate with each other.”
The Committee recognizes aspects of teaching such as: increased learning by students, unusual motivation, and stimulation of students to seek greater learning, evidence of unusual concern for students, development of innovative methods, introduction and inventiveness of new courses, noteworthy expertise in a given field of study, effectiveness of presentation, and other exemplary contributions to university education. Golden was recently featured in Popular Mechanics magazine under the headline, “How Atomic-Scale Geometry Might Shape the Future of Electronics.” The article references his research with moiré patterns and how new findings connect to the history of two concepts: aperiodic geometry and twistronics. To
learn more about his findings with moiré, see a feature in an earlier edition of Aftermath magazine. Work affiliated with Golden and his research is referenced in publications such as ScienceDaily, Nature, and now Popular Mechanics exemplifying the broad application of Golden’s-led research.
Earlier this year, Golden delivered the opening remarks during the Wilkes Climate Science & Policy Summit held at the U of U Alumni House.
Last year, Golden was named as a University of Utah Presidential Societal Impact Scholar Awardee. Dr. Golden and four other scholars are a select group of faculty recognized as experts in their respective fields and disciplines; they share and translate their scholarship, research, creative activities and ideas with opinion leaders, policy makers, the public, and other audiences outside the university and in ways that can transform society.
From his Wikipedia page Golden is referenced as the “Indiana Jones of Mathematics” for his research and the fields his work impacts. He is widely known for his work in modeling sea ice and its role in the climate system. He blends methodology including mathematics and theoretical physics to advance how sea ice is represented in global climate models and contributing to the more accurate projections of the fate of Earth’s sea ice packs and the marine ecosystems they support. Eighteen expeditions to conduct sea ice field experiments inform, validate, and guide development of his models, and have enabled him to observe firsthand the processes driving change in the polar regions. Read more here.
The National Science Foundation posted a fascinating video about Golden’s research, “Bringing mathematics to sea ice research.”
DR. REBECCA W. DOERGE WORKS TO DISSOLVE THE SILOS OF SCIENCE
HER RESEARCH PROGRAM, STATISTICAL BIOINFORMATICS, IS, BY ITS VERY NATURE, AN INTERDISCIPLINARY PURSUIT TOWARDS ONE END—TO UNDERSTAND THE FUNCTION OF DNA AND EPIGENOMIC ASSOCIATIONS.
Ditching the white-coat persona of the science professor, Rebecca Doerge beckons a broad diversity of interdisciplinary studies that cross pollinate data and research to usher in a new dawn of science that betters the world and those living in it. In her words, “Our vision for the future of science is one that brings together the foundational sciences with artificial intelligence, machine learning, engineering, data science and human ingenuity to solve real-world problems.”
From her helm as the Glen de Vries Dean
of the Mellon College of Science (MCS) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), with a joint appointment between statistics/data science and biology, she recalls her time as an undergraduate and graduate student in the Department of Mathematics, College of Science at the University of Utah. At the outset, she allowed her personal interests to guide her through a series of choices that began her intrigue with interdisciplinary research and application. During the dawn of computer science in the 80s, Doerge thrived with the promise of
career opportunities in programming. However, along the way she discovered her love of mathematics, so she changed her degree path.
Her MCS biography outlines her study of theoretical mathematics at the University of Utah where she got her foothold in applying the attributes of computing, mathematics, and statistics to exploring and ultimately understanding human genetics. Earning her B.S. in Mathematics from 1982 to 1986, she concluded at the U of U with a Master’s in Statistics from the
“ When I was first at the U of U (Fall 1982), freshman year, I took a Calculus class from Bruce Crauder (now at Oklahoma State University). I was first gen, didn’t know what I was doing, and certainly had no clue about titles and ranks of professors. Now, I realize that Bruce was a very new assistant professor, just starting. Long story short, I took a couple courses from Bruce. He is the first person to “ever” encourage me in math. One day, we were talking, and he asked me my plans. I told him I wasn’t sure and that I was thinking about switching to architecture (this was well before the genetics interest was found). I can tell you exactly where we were on campus (the giant rocks by the student union) and exactly what he said. He turned to me and said, ‘it would be a great loss to mathematics if you left’. Fast forward to the mid-2000’s. I was doing well at Purdue and had a different last name. I received an email from Oklahoma State University asking that I serve on an external review committee. The letter was signed by none other than Bruce Crauder!!! I looked him up, and it was the “same” Bruce Crauder from Utah who has so strongly influenced my education. Unfortunately, I was unable to serve on the committee due to a conflict, but I was able to thank him for the impact that he had on my life. What surprised me was that when I reached out to introduce myself to him... remember I had a different last name... and explain our connection, he remembered me! Amazing. Anyway, I will forever be grateful to Bruce Crauder for encouraging me when few in the world were. Also, I want you to know that I saved the email from him. ”
Department of Mathematics in 1988 with Advisor Simon Tavaré and presenting her thesis on, “Information of Fixed Cluster Samples for Genetic Traits Involving Mixtures of Distributions.” Her education continued to North Carolina State University where she received her PhD in statistics from 1989 to 1993 with a minor in genetics with advisor Bruce Wier and then on to Cornell University from 1993 to 1995 as a Postdoctoral Fellow with Gary Churchill. In 1995, she joined Purdue University as an Assistant Professor holding a joint appointment in both the College of Agriculture, Department of Agronomy, and the College of Sci-
ence, Department of Statistics. From 2010 to 2015, she led the Department of Statistics as Head, before moving to Carnegie Mellon as Dean in 2016. Her distinctions are evidence of her ability to articulate her intentions and shine light on the achievements of the universities, colleges, and departments with which she aligns. While teaching at Purdue, Doerge received the Teaching for Tomorrow Award in 1996, the University Scholar Award in 2001 through 2006, and the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor in 2010.
She lives her own advice of joining communities and contributing beyond
your own home base. From her MCS biography, “Doerge is an elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association (2007) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2007), and a Fellow of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (2009). She declined the American Council on Education Fellowship in 2016 to become dean of the Mellon College of Science. She held previous positions as chair of the AAAS Statistics Section (2019); a member of both the Board of Trustees for the National Institute of Statistical Sciences and the Mathematical Biosciences Institute; a member of the Engineering External Review
Committee at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and a member of the Global Open-Source Breeding Informatics Initiative Advisory Board.” During an interview in 2016 by Amy Pavlak Laird announcing Doerge’s appointment as Dean of MCS, Doerge points out one of the many aspects that sealed the deal. She said, “…when I was interviewing, I learned that the Mellon College of Science is committed to educating the whole student. That really resonated with me.
“My hope is for the younger people to change the state of science, for them to be wellbalanced and communicative and more integrated into what’s important in the world. The new MCS Core Education gets to the heart of this, and it really is a very forward-thinking approach to education.”
In the announcement of Dr. Doerge’s reappointment as Glen de Vries Dean of MCS in 2021 by Jim Garrett, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Carnegie Mellon University, he lists an impressive number of her achievements to date, including greatly contributing to one of things that drew her to MC originally— its innovative Core Education program designed to develop individuals who are better prepared to either excel in the world of academia, or thrive in the workforce. She has been instrumental in bringing forth the world’s first academic cloud lab fostering collaboration and broader data access. Garrett also highlights Doerge’s initiatives in progressing interdisciplinary approaches to neuroscience, life science, materials science, computational biology, cosmology, mathematics, artificial intelligence, and sustainability.
The following interviews reflect back to 2016 and illustrate her desire to understand humanity to its DNA core, value every person, and place herself in the service to all. The insightful Q & A’s bring detail to what fueled her understanding of how interdisciplinary study serves curious individuals in a more holistic way while contributing to the revolution in science.
In an Alumni Spotlight by Terry Byron in 2016 that reflects on her time at NC State, she shed light on the origin of her interest in genetics. Responding to Terry’s question about her arrival to statistical bioinformatics while at NC State, she says, “Interestingly and surprisingly, I took no genetics or biology
classes as an undergraduate; I studied theoretical mathematics at the University of Utah from 1982 to 1986. During my master’s work in statistics in the Department of Mathematics at Utah from 1986 to 1988, I became interested in computing which led to applications in human genetics. This was the beginning of my interest in genetics, heredity and the technologies employed to investigate the genetic code for the purpose of producing data that required data analysis. The year following the completion of my master’s, I worked for a human genetics research group at the University of Utah Medical School, analyzing data. This experience was life-changing and a key motivator to continue on to a PhD I realized the fun I was having and how much I had to learn about statistics, computing, and genetics. When I moved to NC State, I transitioned from human genetics applications to agricultural applications. I like to joke that, unlike humans, plants stay where you put them, eat what you tell them, and mate with whom they are told.”
That time frame at NC State gave birth to her desire and proved her persistence in promoting interdisciplinary research between statistics, genetics, and computing. In that same interview in 2016, she fathoms what the next 5-10 years might bring including, “Similar to taking your car to the shop for diagnostics of its internal memory cards of performance, humans will have doctors’ visits or maybe at-home monitoring devices that will identify and diagnose medical and health issues.”
Born in Stamford, New York, Doerge is first-generation educated, and looks back at her lone journey through academics and says to Byron that she had no guidance about the pursuit of higher education and the process that it is. If she knew then what she knows now, she would have slowed down and allowed herself to mature and spend time reading, presenting, meeting people, cultivating the craft of meaningful communication, and building relationships. She says, “Unless you can explain— verbally and in writing—what you have done, why it is important, and how your approach is advantageous to your collaborators, no one is going to believe you.”
She concludes the interview with great wisdom, “As far as advice, don’t get comfortable. Push yourself to change, grow and to say ‘yes’ to opportunities that scare you. And, finally, when in doubt, be generous.”by Susen Sawatzki
“as far as advice, don’t get comfortable. push yourself to change, grow and to say ‘yes’ to opportunities that scare you. and, finally, when in doubt, be generous.”
MATHEMATICS DEPARTMENT AWARDS
THE GOLDEN SCHOLARSHIP
JUNIUS JOHN HAYES ENDOWED SCHOLARSHIP
JUNIUS JOHN HAYES DIVERSITY SCHOLARSHIP
Hanna Pucheu Okamura
TOM AND CATHY SAXTON SCHOLARSHIP
THOMAS A. HURD AND MARGARET HURD BARTON MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
D. KEITH REED MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
CALVIN H. WILCOX MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
MICHAEL ZHAO MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
SUSAN C. CHRISTIANSEN MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
C. BRYANT AND CLARA C. COPLEY SCHOLARSHIP
CONTINUING DEPARTMENT SCHOLARSHIP
MATHEMATICS DEPARTMENT SCHOLARSHIP
J.L. GIBSON SENIOR AWARD
UNDERGRADUATE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN GRADUATE COURSES
UNDERGRADUATE PROBLEM SOLVING TOP PROBLEM SOLVER CONTEST
UNDERGRADUATE PROBLEM SOLVING CONTEST UNDERGRADUATE FACILITATOR
Pi Mu Epsilon
Payton J. Thomas
T. BENNY AND GAIL T. RUSHING FELLOWSHIP
OUTSTANDING GRADUATE STUDENT AWARD
OUTSTANDING THESIS AWARD
DON H. TUCKER POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW AWARD
OUTSTANDING POSTDOC AWARD
FACULTY UNDERGRADUATE TEACHING AWARD
UNIVERSITY GRADUATE STUDENT FELLOWSHIP
OUTSTANDING STAFF AWARD
RTG SUMMER RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP
SUMMER RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP
Sandra Rodriguez Villalobos
FELLOW OF THE AMERICAN MATHEMATICAL SOCIETY
UNIVERSITY OF UTAH HATCH PRIZE IN TEACHING
UNIVERSITY OF UTAH EARLY CAREER TEACHING AWARD
NSF GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP
BARRY GOLDWATER SCHOLARSHIP
Andrew Nichols Crawford Taylor
COLLEGE OF SCIENCE DEAN’S SCHOLARSHIP
JOSEPH T. CROCKETT M.D. MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
CROCKER SCIENCE HOUSE SCHOLAR