Faculty News Briefs

September 2018

At the 60th birthday conference for Bob Gompf at UT Austin (12-15 July 2018) UMass Amherst was represented across the board by Associate Professor R. Inanc Baykur, Visiting Assistant Professors Noriyuki Hamada and Jonathan Simone, PhD candidates Rich Buckman and Andrew Havens, and recent Commonwealth Honors College graduate Kai Nakamura (now a PhD candidate at UT Austin). While there, Inanc gave an invited talk on "Small symplectic and exotic 4-manifolds via positive factorizations."

UMass Amherst geometric topologists take Texas: Nakamura, Simone, Gompf, Baykur, Havens, Hamada, Buckman

In June, Professor Tom Braden gave a short lecture course titled "Introduction to category $\mathcal{O}$ and symplectic duality in the hypertoric setting" at Notre Dame, as part of a summer school on geometric representation theory and symplectic varieties for graduate students and postdocs. And during August, Tom flew to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he heard Associate Professor Paul Hacking deliver an invited lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians on joint work with UT Austin's Sean Keel.

Stathis Charalampidis talked about "Formation of rogue waves in continuous and discrete models: Theory and computation" this summer at the SIAM Conference on nonlinear waves and coherent structures. (He is also our new Chief Undergraduate Advisor - kudos, Stathis!)

Visiting Assistant Professor Liubomir Chiriac received a 2018 AMS-Simons travel grant. Administered by the American Mathematical Society with the support from the Simons Foundation, each grant provides an early-career mathematician with funding for two years to be used for research-related travel. Each year UMass Amherst will receive an additional amount equal to 20% of the travel grant to enhance the research environment in our Department.

On 16 June 16 2018, Associate Professor Erin Conlon gave an invited talk "Parallel Markov Chain Monte Carlo Methods for Bayesian Analysis of Big Data" at the International Chinese Statistical Association Applied Statistics Symposium in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

In June, Professor Rob Kusner participated in the conference Topology in Dimensions 3, 3.5 & 4 at U.C. Berkeley, celebrating the 60th, 70th & 80th birthdays of Abby Thompson, Marty Scharlemann & Rob Kirby, respectively. And in July, he lectured on "Chirality for Crooked Curves" at the Topology and its Applications conference at WKU in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Rob also contributed (with Hugh Bray, Fernando Coda Marques, Michael Eichmair, Ailana Fraser, Lan Hsuan Huang, Chika Mese, Bill Minicozzi, Karen Uhlenbeck & S.T. Yau) to the writing (and editing) of "The Mathematics of Richard Schoen" which honors Rick on his recent award of the Wolf Prize. (This tribute is slated to appear in the December Notices of the American Mathematical Society.)

Assistant Professor Yao Li reports that he was awarded a Simons collaboration grant for mathematicians, which he will sacrifice because he just received a larger NSF grant (DMS-1813246) for his project "From deterministic dynamics to thermodynamic laws.” He had his paper "On the polynomial convergence rate to nonequilibrium steady state"
accepted by The Annals of Applied Probability, and two more of his papers were recently published: “How well do reduced models capture the dynamics in models of interacting neurons?” (joint with Logan Chariker and Lai-sang Young, in Journal of Mathematical Biology), and “From billiards to thermodynamic laws: Stochastic energy exchange model” (joint with Lingchen Bu, in Chaos: An interdisciplinary journal of nonlinear science - this paper was designated an "editor’s pick).

Assistant Professor Alejandro Morales appeared in the 2018 edition of Latinisms featured in the September Notices of the AMS celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15–October 15). Lathisms is also a website founded in 2016 by Alexander Diaz-Lopez, Pamela E. Harris, Alicia Prieto Langarica, and Gabriel Sosa to provide an accessible platform that highlights the research and mentoring contributions of Latinx and Hispanic mathematical scientists.

Professor Franz Pedit reports: In April and May 2018 he gave a long lecture course on his present research interests titled "Flows of Curves and Surfaces" for PhD students and postdocs at the Yau Mathematical Science Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing. While in China, he also delivered colloquium talks titled "Gradient flows of Geometric Variational Problems: the Elastic Curve Flow" at both Beijing University and Tongji University, Shanghai. During 1-7 July 2018, he and Mike Wolf (from Rice University) organized the 5 day BANFF-BIRS workshop Higgs Bundles and Harmonic Maps at the Casa Matematica Oaxaca (CMO), Mexico. During the last 2 weeks of August, while visiting the SFBTR 106 Discretization in Geometry and Dynamics at TU Berlin, Franz wrote the invited contribution "Commutative Hamiltonian Flows on Curves in Real Space Forms" for the special volume celebrating the birthday of Boston University's professor Emma Previato.

And on a more somber note, we mourn the passing on 2 July 2018 of our dear colleague Richard S. Ellis, an internationally regarded probabilist, and a good friend to many of us on campus and in the community. It's an immeasurable loss to our Department. For many years Richard edited these monthly News Briefs, along with the annual Newsletter, and I --- your current editor --- enjoyed working with him on both for much of the past decade. As I re-drafted the letter soliciting your briefs this month, I realized it was based on Richard's traditional text, passed down from him to me several years ago. Both the Newsletter and these News Briefs have become Department traditions, shaped by each of us who has taken on the role of editor, but Richard's influence looms large. He and I shared many common interests outside mathematics, particularly an intellectual curiosity about languages and literature, and both of us have been deeply committed to carry on the tradition of publishing. Richard's dedication to this enterprise is evinced by his last email to me: "How's the Newsletter coming along? Just curious...." It was sent on the eve of 1 July 2018.

May 2018

Calden named Instructional Innovation Fellow

Four faculty from the College of Natural Sciences, including our own Senior Lecturer Adena Calden, were recently selected through a highly competitive process to participate in the Summer 2018 Innovate@ Symposium that runs 21-24 May 2018. These symposia, led as a collaboration between TEFD, UMass Libraries, and IT, provide a unique opportunity to have hands-on instruction, to work with colleagues, and then try out the tools. Symposia members will also become part of an innovation think tank as Innovation Fellows that will be brought together to consider new instructional innovations throughout the academic year.

Over a hundred UMass faculty have participated in the Innovate@ Symposium. Including the four most recent additions, there are now 29 Innovation Fellows in the College of Natural Sciences. Each Innovate Fellow has an innovation page where they discuss their proposed instructional innovations, upload videos of presentations to the Symposium participants, or highlight recent accomplishments.

Austin Rohlfing, Math Undergrad, wins Grinspoon Award

Austin Rohlfing was presented with a Grinspoon Entrepreneurial Spirit Award on 25 April. Austin’s startup, TernBooking, has combined travel accommodations with savings and budgeting for a trip. TernBooking has competed in four rounds of Berthiaume Center’s Innovation Challenge and currently maintains work space in the Berthiaume incubator. The venture will also participate in Berthiaume’s 2018 Summer Accelerator program.

Kudos to our three SCUDEM teams

On Saturday 21 April, three teams from UMass Amherst presented their work for the Spring 2018 Student Competition Using Differential Equations Modeling (SCUDEM). Starting on 13 April, each team of three students worked together on their choice of one of three modeling scenarios. On the day of the competition, they were given an additional twist to their problem to address, before presenting their model in a 2-page executive summary as well as a 10-minute presentation.

The first team, consisting of Enya Truong, Henry Phan, and Sharath Ramkumar worked on "Modeling the Cool Kids," using graph theory and Markov Chains to explain how clusters of social interactions form and break. The second team, consisting of Fusheng Yang, Joe Shao, and Hui Kennedy worked on "Sorting Recyclables," where they modeled the separation of paper and cardboard materials with a fan. Their model included the differences in acceleration and drag on the two materials, and they were awarded "meritorious" mention. The third team, consisting of Jonah Chaban, Jimmy Hwang, and Artem Vysogorets also worked on "Sorting Recyclables." They included detailed modeling of tumbling paper along with random orientation of the paper stream, and they were awarded an "outstanding" mention (they also finished first in the Fall 2017 competition).

Assistant Professor Matthew Dobson served as the faculty coach for our three teams, and also led the morning development session for the other faculty coaches.

And in other news....

Professors Tom Braden and Rob Kusner, Visiting Assistant Professor Jacob Matherne (who's heading to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton next year - kudos to Jacob), and PhD candidate Andrew Havens were among attendees at the Spring AMS sectional meeting at Northeastern University. On 21 April, Tom gave a talk in the Arrangements of Hypersurfaces special session on "Equivariant cohomology and intersection cohomology of a completion of a hyperplane arrangement," while Rob spoke on "Geometry and stability of critical point-configurations in $S^2$ and critical links in $S^3$" at the Discretization in Geometry and Dynamics special session 22 April.

Vlad Emelyanov, a graduating senior in CS with a Mathematics minor, developed online assessment materials for statistics courses at UMass this semester under the supervision of VAP Eric Hall. These resources were also contributed to the Open Problem Library of WeBWorK, a nationally used open-source online homework system supported by the MAA and NSF. This curriculum development project was undertaken with a Flex Grant from the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Distinguished Professor Panos Kevrekidis has published his third paper in Nature Communications this academic year . In addition to To infinity and some glimpses of beyond and Direct measurement of superdiffusive energy transport in disordered granular chains, his paper Interactions and scattering of quantum vortices in a polariton fluid has just appeared. Panos's new book, co-authored with VAP Christopher Chong, on Coherent Structures in Granular Crystals: From Experiment and Modelling to Computation and Mathematical Analysis has also been published recently by Springer-Verlag.

During 2-3 April, Professor Michael Lavine served on a committee reviewing the Department of Computer Science & Statistics at the University of Rhode Island. He also delivered a talk at the New England Statistics Symposium, held at UMass on 14 April. Patrick Flaherty and Anna Liu were among the organizers of the Symposium.

Professor Ivan Mirkovic reports that "one of our faculty has been elected as a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences in the picturesque Balkan country of Croatia" - here "corresponding" means the member lives outside the country - kudos to Ivan!

At Northeastern University on 5 April, and at Yale University on 26 April, Marshall H. Stone VAP Luca Schaffler gave seminar talks titled "Equations for point configurations to lie on a rational normal curve."

News Briefs will return in the Fall. Have a pleasant summer!

April 2018

Visiting Assistant Professor Stathis Charalampidis gave a talk titled "Formation of rogue waves in continuum and discrete models: Theory and Computation" during the AMS Sectional Meeting at Ohio State University on Saturday 17 March.

Professor Michael Lavine attended the OSAC all-hands meeting in Chicago between 20 and 23 March as a member of the fingerprint subcommittee; OSAC is an arm of NIST. He became an Associate Editor for a special issue of The American Statistician on statistical inference in the 21st century, and had a paper "Frequentist, Bayes, or Other?" accepted for publication there.

In a research seminar at MSRI on 7 March, Associate Professor Alexei Oblomkov presented his joint work with Andrei Okounkov and Rahul Pandharipande. He is a Research Professor at MSRI for the Spring semester as a part of its Enumerative Geometry Beyond Numbers program. Alexei was also named a Simons Fellow for the year 2018. (The Simons Foundation supports a one-semester extension of his sabbatical leave, and Alexei plans to visit his collaborators during the Fall semester.)

Professor Franz Pedit gave colloquium talks, at the University of Innsbruck on 9 March and at the Technical University Vienna on 15 March, titled "Gradient flows of geometric variational problems: the elastic curve flow." He also gave a plenary lecture of the same title at the workshop Geometry of Submanifolds and Integrable Systems organized by the International Research Network Project “Symmetry, Topology and Moduli” at the Osaka City Advanced Mathematical Institute during 23-30 March. After that, Franz embarked for Beijing to spend 3 months in the Yau International Mathematical Institute at Tsinghua University.

On 9 March, Professor HongKun Zhang gave both a colloquium talk on "Various diffusion behavior of Lorentz gases" and a Dynamical Seminar talk on "Markov partitions for hyperbolic systems with singularities" at the Mathematics Department of Indiana University–Purdue University, Indianapolis. Between 18-23 March, HongKun attended the conference New Developments in Open Dynamical Systems and Their Applications at Banff, Canada, of which she was one of the main organizers. The conference, supported by the Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS), brought together more than 40 participants from around the world, including many leading experts in the field of dynamics related to open systems. Diverse branches of research in this field have applications ranging from quantifying the occurrence of rare events, such as large storms or financial crises, to understanding the fundamentals of thermodynamics. By studying connections between these various types of open systems, the conference promoted progress and fostered new directions of research in this rapidly developing area of dynamics.

!!! Newsflash !!!

Kudos to our three SCUDEM teams!!!

On Saturday 21 April, three teams from UMass Amherst presented their work for the Spring 2018 Student Competition Using Differential Equations Modeling (SCUDEM). Starting on 13 April, each team of three students worked together on their choice of one of three modeling scenarios. On the day of the competition, they were given an additional twist to their problem to address, before presenting their model in a 2-page executive summary as well as a 10-minute presentation.

The first team, consisting of Enya Truong, Henry Phan, and Sharath Ramkumar worked on "Modeling the Cool Kids," using graph theory and Markov Chains to explain how clusters of social interactions form and break. The second team, consisting of Fusheng Yang, Joe Shao, and Hui Kennedy worked on "Sorting Recyclables," where they modeled the separation of paper and cardboard materials with a fan. Their model included the differences in acceleration and drag on the two materials, and they were awarded "meritorious" mention. The third team, consisting of Jonah Chaban, Jimmy Hwang, and Artem Vysogorets also worked on "Sorting Recyclables." They included detailed modeling of tumbling paper along with random orientation of the paper stream, and they were awarded an "outstanding" mention (they also finished first in the Fall 2017 competition).

Assistant Professor Matthew Dobson served as the faculty coach for our three teams, and also led the morning development session for the other faculty coaches.

March 2018

On 21 February, Visiting Assistant Professor Jeremiah Birrell spoke in the Mathematical Physics and Probability Seminar at the University of Arizona; his talk was titled "Small Mass Limit of Noisy Inertial Particle Dynamics: Homogenization, Instantaneous Equilibration, and Entropy Production."

The 2017 William Lowell Putnam exam results are in: out of 575 participating institutions in the US and Canada, UMass Amherst ranked 46th, an excellent result! (Last year we ranked 55th out of 568.) Our three team members were Alexander Fischer, James Hagborg and Artem Vysogorets. James did particularly well, placing in the top 7% of the 4638 students taking the Putnam last December; Patrick Lei also had a noteworthy individual performance. Many thanks to VAP Liubomir Chiriac for his fine job running the Putnam seminar last fall.

Assistant Professor Nestor Guillen is applying his professional expertise to the topic of Gerrymandering. On 4 February he spoke at the Austin Gerrymandering Workshop, with a presentation about optimal transport and calculus of variations perspectives on redistricting. Nestor was also a part of the “Gerrymandering Steals Elections: Learn How It’s Done and How to Stop It" panel in Northampton on 12 February; moderated by former mayor Clare Higgins, other panelists were U. S. Representative Jim McGovern, State Representative Paul Mark, and Adam Hilton of Mount Holyoke College.

Assistant Professor Alejandro Morales gave the colloquium at the Tulane University math department on 29 February (OK, 1 March). His topic was "Volume and lattice point formulas for flow polytopes."

February 2018

The Department welcomes Professor Nathaniel Whitaker as our new Head! Nate succeeds Farshid Hajir, who was appointed late last summer as the UMass Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.

Visiting Assistant Professor Eric Hall gave an invited talk about “Robust information divergences for model-form uncertainty arising from sparse data in random PDE” at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Lab on 9 January. In other news, VAP Hall has been awarded an Early Career Travel Grant from the American Mathematical Society to attend the 2018 ICM.

Professor Rob Kusner was invited to China for the first 3 weeks of January to work on the geometry of minimal surfaces in spheres with former UMass research fellow Wang Peng. On Friday the fifth, Kusner delivered a pair of lectures titled "Complex Polynomials Classifying Coplanar CMC Surfaces" at Tongji University in Shanghai; the following weekend he lectured on the same topic at a conference in Xiamen organized by Guan Bo, a former UMass Ph. D. student and postdoctoral visitor, now a professor at both Ohio State University and also Xiamen University. (Rob reports: the food was good, the math was great, and the fast intercity trains were simply amazing! :-)

At the beginning of January, a video on Alcuin numbers of graphs featuring Assistant Professor Annie Raymond was published on the Numberphile channel on YouTube.

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