Faculty News Briefs

June 2012

On April 30 and May 1, 2012 the department was visited by an external review team of four distinguished mathematicians and statisticians. Academic departments are typically reviewed every seven years or so, and this was our year. The team assessed our strengths and weaknesses and made recommendations to the department and administration. Overall, the review was favorable. The summary says the following: "The committee was pleasantly surprised and excited to find such a vibrant and generally young department on a definite upward trajectory, more than responsibly fulfilling its role within the university."

On April 21, 2012 sarah-marie Belcastro, a lecturer in our department, presented at the Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Conference, which was held at Western New England University. Her activity was titled "email in the back yard." On May 22 she exhibited "Negatively Curved Mobius Bands" at the Virtual and Physical Shape Exhibition, Shape Modeling International, in College Station, TX.

On May 3, 2012 the department held a retirement party for Professors Murray Eisenberg, Arline Norkin, Peter Norman, and Arunas Rudvalis. They served the department for a combined 168 years and, in addition to their research, they contributed enormously to our teaching, use of computers for students, research for undergraduates, and departmental administration. They will be greatly missed.

On May 7, 2012 Professor Richard S. Ellis gave a talk in the probability seminar in the Department of Mathematics at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. The title of his talk was "From Large Deviations to Statistical Mechanics: What Is the Most Likely Way for an Unlikely Event To Happen?"

During the period May 16-18, 2012 Professor Franz Pedit co-organized and lectured at the workshop on the solution to the Willmore Conjecture held in Granada, Spain. Professor Rob Kusner, Professor William Meeks (also a co-organizer), and several dozen other experts on mean curvature from around the world participated in this workshop.

During the period April 15-21, 2012 Professor Jenia Tevelev attended a "Toric Geometry" workshop at Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach, an international research center situated in the Black Forest in Germany http://www.mfo.de. He gave a talk titled "Flips and Antiflips of Cyclic Quotient Singularities and Moduli of Surfaces."

During the period May 14-16, 2012 Professor HongKun Zhang attended the workshop "Progress and Problems in Dynamics," which was held at the University of Houston. The aim of the workshop was to review progress and potential topics that are ripe for cross fertilization and development in the areas of probabilistic dynamics, network dynamics, and hybrid dynamical systems. As one of the primary speakers, HongKun was invited to give the opening talk in the conference on "SRB Measures for Non-Equilibrium Billiards." This expository talk both reviewed recent progress and indicated possible new directions and problems in chaotic systems. The more than 50 participants included experts in dynamical systems and probability theory from USA, Europe, Canada, and other places. Further information on the workshop is available at http://www.math.uh.edu/dynamics2012/.

May 2012

During the period March 30, 2012 - April 1, 2012, the department hosted an AGNES (Algebraic Geometry Northeastern Series) workshop, organized by Professors Paul Hacking, Jessica Sidman (Mt. Holyoke College), and Jenia Tevelev. The conference attracted about 150 participants with diverse backgrounds, including 77 graduate students and 30 female participants. The plenary talks were given by Professors Kai Behrend (University of British Columbia), Maksym Fedorchuk (Columbia University), Alexander Goncharov (Yale University), Brendan Hassett (Rice University), Klaus Hulek (Leibniz Universität Hannover), Bernd Sturmfels (University of California at Berkeley), Bianca Viray (Brown University), and Claire Voisin (Institut de Mathématiques de Jussieu). Three of the talks were complemented by 30 minute introductory lectures directed specifically at graduate students. The workshop also featured a professional development event: a presentation titled "How To Get a Job at a Liberal Arts College/Teaching School" by Professor David Cox (Amherst College). A traditional open problem session was headlined by Professors Radu Laza (Stony Brook) and Eyal Markman. All talks were videotaped and will be freely available at the workshop website http://www.agneshome.org. The poster session featured 12 poster presentations by junior participants, including a poster titled "Kulikov Surfaces" by Visiting Assistant Professor Stephen Coughlan, a poster titled "Degenerations of Surfaces and Vector Bundles" by graduate student Anna Kazanova, and a poster titled "Boundary Divisors in the Moduli Space of Stable Quintic Surfaces" by graduate student Julie Rana.

Joan Barksdale, an undergraduate alumna from 1966, has been a consistent benefactor of UMass Amherst and our department for a number of years and has supported several undergraduates with fellowships and REUs. During the week of April 26, 2012 she visited the university for a meeting of the CNS Advisory Council. While here, she met with Will Melton, the CNS development director, who arranged a meeting with Joan, some of the students whom she has supported, and Professors Farshid Hajir, Michael Lavine, and Peter Norman. The purpose of the meeting was to talk about what her support has meant to these students and how REUs can benefit our undergraduates. On April 26 Joan donated $25,000 to the department to support REUs.

During the period April 15-20, 2012 Professor Weimin Chen attended the 5-day workshop "Geometric Structures on Manifolds" at the Banff International Research Station in Alberta, Canada. He also gave an invited talk titled "On Seifert Fibered 4-Manifolds." The workshop had about 40 participants consisting of a mixture of researchers in Riemannian geometry and low-dimensional topology from Australia, China, Europe, and the US. Of the 40 participants, 20 were invited to make presentations.

On April 11, 2010 Haley Hedlin, a statistics postdoc, was the speaker at this spring's UMass/UConn Joint Colloquium at the UConn Statistics Department. The title of her talk was "Statistical Methods for Estimating Temporal Associations from Electrocorticographic (ECoG) Data." Here is the link to the abstract on UConn's colloquia webpage: http://www.stat.uconn.edu/www/?cate=event&info=talk&colloquium_id=1326140768.

On April 2-3, 2012 Professor Michael Lavine chaired a committee reviewing the Mathematics Department at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA.

April 2012

On March 20, 2012 Professor Rob Kusner gave one of the Clifford Lectures at Tulane University on the topic of "Configuration Space, Möbius Transformations & Canonical Differential Forms." On March 26 he delivered a lecture at a workshop held at the Hausdorff Institute of Mathematics in Bonn, Germany. The talk was titled "The Space of Soap Bubbles."

On March 14, 2012 Professor Franz Pedit gave a public lecture at Durham University for the unveiling of a granite sculpture inspired by a Willmore torus that Dirk Ferus and Franz discovered in the 1990s. The lecture was titled "The Willmore Conjecture: The First 50 Years." In the mid 1960s Tom Willmore, a professor of mathematics at Durham University, formulated a conjecture about minimizers of a certain variational problem involving the Willmore functional. About a month ago a preprint with a proof of this conjecture was posted in the arxiv. Franz also co-organized the workshop "Navigating the Space of Surfaces" during the period March 26-30 at the Hausdorff Institute in Bonn. Franz is co-directing a special trimester there on "Integrability in Geometry and Physics."

March 2012

In July 2011 the newsletter of the ACM Special Interest Group on Software Engineering began publishing a column listing the 10 most cited articles in software engineering based on statistics in the ACM Digital Library. The paper by Matthew B. Dwyer, Professor George S. Avrunin, and James C. Corbett from the 1999 International Conference on Software Engineering was number 10 in July 2011, but has moved up to number 6 in the January 2012 listing. The paper is titled "Patterns in Property Specifications for Finite-State Verification."

On February 10, 2012 sarah-marie belcastro, a lecturer in our department, gave a mini-event at the Harvard-MIT Math Tournament (HMMT) on Adding in Geometry (Minkowski Sums). Photos can be viewed at http://web.mit.edu/hmmt/www/datafiles/photos/2012/41.shtml#photo, http://web.mit.edu/hmmt/www/datafiles/photos/2012/42.shtml#photo, and http://web.mit.edu/hmmt/www/datafiles/photos/2012/43.shtml#photo. An interview with Sarah on the Math4Knitters podcast, published on February 5, 2012, appears at http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20120205/BLOGS2601/120209952. It includes a discussion of mathematics books and the arithmetic of a shawl. There is also a 2-minute video contribution of her work to Karl Schaffer's dance piece, The Daughters of Hypatia: Circles of Mathematical Women, performed on February 24 and 25 in Santa Cruz, CA. The video contains the text of her speech, her choreography, and her performance of both.

Professor Panos Kevrekidis had a busy winter. During the period January 23-26, 2012 he visited Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh, delivering talks on his recent work on Bose-Einstein condensates and especially the dynamics of dark solitons, vortices, and vortex rings in them. On February 7, he also visited the Division of Applied Mathematics at Brown University, delivering the joint Brown-BU PDE seminar. During the week of February 20-24, Panos visited both CalTech to collaborate with the group of Chiara Daraio and USC, where he delivered a talk in the Mechanical Engineering Department on February 22. Finally, during the period of February 27-29, Panos attended the American Physical Society's March Meeting in Boston, where he also delivered a talk.

Professor Eric Sommers gave two twenty-minute talks at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston in January 2012. The first talk was titled "The Singularities of Slices in the Nilpotent Cone," and the second was titled "A Duality Map for Nilpotent Orbits." He gave a longer version of the second talk in February at the Lie Groups Seminar at MIT.

February 2012

On January 6, 2012 Sarah-Marie Belcastro, a lecturer in our department, gave two talks at the 2012 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston. Her talk titled "Counting Kempe-Equivalence Classes for 3-Edge-Colored Cubic Graphs" was given at the AMS Special Session on Recent Trends in Graph Theory, and her talk titled "Epistemological Culture and Mathematics" was given at the MAA Session on the Philosophy of Mathematics and Mathematical Practice. She also had two works in the juried Mathematical Art Exhibit. They can be seen at http://gallery.bridgesmathart.org/exhibitions/2012-joint-mathematics-meetings/smbelcas. Sarah-Marie was interviewed for an independent radio producer's piece. The sound can be heard at http://www.npr.org/2012/01/10/144984603/a-unique-expression-of-love-for-math, and photos are posted at http://aridanielshapiro.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/math/. She published an invited survey article titled "The Continuing Saga of Snarks" in the January 2012 issue of College Mathematics Journal 43:1, 82-87. She also has two pieces in the juried Lafayette College Museum exhibit, "Sticks, Strings, and the Mobius," which is described at http://galleries.lafayette.edu/2011/09/01/sticks-hooks-and-the-mobius-knit-and-crochet-goes-cerebral/.

Emeritus Professor Jim Humphreys spoke in the AMS Special Session on Linear Algebraic Groups at the 2012 Joint Mathematics Meetings held January 4-7, 2012 in Boston. The title of his talk was "Special Nilpotent Orbits and Modular Lie Algebra Representations." Professor Ivan Mirkovic and Professor Eric Sommers also gave talks in that session.

Professor Rob Kusner delivered the closing lecture in the Symposium on Analysis of Geometric Evolution (SAGE) held at the University of Texas at Austin January 10-13, 2012. His sage talk, titled "Soap Bubbles & Polynomials: Moduli Spaces of Complex Projective Structures and CMC Surfaces," marked the 10th and 20th anniversaries of his 1992 and 2002 Texas Geometry & Topology Colloquia held at Rice University and Texas Tech, respectively.

Emeritus Professor Floyd Williams has been invited to be a Guest Editor, along with four other invitees, for the publication of a special issue of the journal Advances in Mathematical Physics. The title of the special issue will be "Mathematical Methods in Field and String Theories, Quantum Gravity, and Cosmology." It will be published by the Hindawi Publishing Corporation on October 19, 2012. Two other special issues with different sets of guest editors are also planned for 2012.

Professor Hongkun Zhang recently received an NSF CAREER Award for her proposal titled "CAREER: The Nature of SRB Measures for Nonequilibrium Hyperbolic Systems." This is a five-year award for $400,000. Her proposal describes research in dynamical systems and ergodic theory with a focus on two particular topics: (1) statistical properties of nonequilibrium hyperbolic systems and (2) properties of SRB measures and related physical laws. The educational component consists of curriculum development, supervision of graduate students, and some special outreach projects. A CAREER award is the highest distinction that NSF can provide to junior researchers, and the program is extremely competitive.

On January 6, 2012 Professor Hongkun Zhang also gave an invited talk on "Billiards with Twists" in the AMS Special Session on Uniformly and Partially Hyperbolic Dynamical Systems at the 2012 Joint Mathematics Meeting in Boston. Being an active member of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), she also served as one of the mentors for AWM Workshop participants on January 7.