Letter From The Chair

Alan ReidGreetings alumni and friends of Mathematics,

As autumn eases into winter and our current semester winds down, life in the Mathematics Department at UT remains vibrant and active for both our faculty and our students. In addition to our ongoing research at the forefront of mathematical discovery and application, UT Mathematics is also shepherding bold endeavors regarding how we teach mathematics to students, both here on campus and far from home. As Department Chair, it’s my honor and pleasure to share some of these stories with you in this newsletter.

Connecting Undergraduate & Graduate Students: The Directed Reading Program

The Directed Reading Program (DRP) is part of the Research Training Group
program in Geometry and Topology within the UT Mathematics Department. DRP pairs undergraduate students with graduate student mentors to undertake independent projects in mathematics, which provides training in mathematical research for the undergraduate while inspiring our graduate students to continuously reevaluate and improve how they think about and teach mathematics. Moreover, the DRP cultivates closer ties between our undergraduates and graduate students, creating deep and lasting relationships which can enrich participants lives long afterwards.

Any undergraduate student may apply for DRP and, if accepted, will be assigned an appropriate graduate mentor. The student and the mentor will agree on a project, which can arise from work described in a book or an article, but the project is not limited to such things and students are encouraged to develop their own lines of research. The DRP student is required to have an hour-long weekly meeting with his or her mentor to discuss progress towards the goal of the project, and in between the DRP student dedicates approximately four additional hours of independent work on their project. At the end of the semester, the group of DRP participants will meet, and each DRP student will give a 15-minute talk on the semester's work. This Fall, 33 students will present a talk emerging from their work in the DRP.

From Austin to Ghana: Graduate Students take UT Mathematics Abroad

When 3rd year PhD student and Navy Veteran Marjorie Drake was asked to fulfill a continuing Naval service request by teaching Mathematics in Ghana, she knew it was going to be an extraordinary opportunity. Her colleagues thought so as well. After explaining the assignment to fellow 3rd year students Ethan Leeman and Nicky Reyes, they both signed on as volunteers for this unique chance to lead a workshop for African undergraduate mathematics students. In July of 2015, Marjorie, Ethan, and Nicky spent two weeks in Biriwa, Ghana teaching an intensive workshop for the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. AIMS-Ghana is a center for education, research, and outreach with these goals: to promote mathematics and science in Africa; to recruit and train talented students and teachers; to build capacity for African initiatives in education, research, and technology.

The UT Group was asked to lead the Computation & Applied Mathematical Sciences Workshop, which focused on vital skills for research programming by developing and applying computational tools for use in mathematical scientific research. This workshop combined teaching and mentoring, whilst working in a completely different environment and culture. All three agreed it was inspiring to teach students willing to work long hours throughout the two-weeks, committed to getting the most out the workshop.  And, getting the opportunity to travel somewhere new and make new friends was an added bonus. The AIMS program does accept proposals for 3 week course topics to offer to students, and Marjorie, Ethan and Nicky all agreed that once they earn their PhDs they would like to propose a course in their research field and be able to return again to Ghana in the future.

Faculty Highlights

Associate Professor Lewis Bowen will give a series of distinguished lectures this fall at Princeton University: The Minerva Distinguished Visitor Lectures. Professor Bowen was both an undergraduate and graduate student in our department and returned to U.T. in Fall 2012. His area of expertise is at the cutting edge of the interaction of ergodic theory and group theory, which roughly speaking tries to understand properties of transformation of a space which preserve certain analytic features. Professor Bowen is spending the fall semester in residence at Princeton University as a Minerva Distinguished Visitor.

In August, Professor Alessio Figalli received the Stampacchia Gold Medal from the Italian Mathematical Union. This international award is given once every three years to mathematicians aged 35 or younger who have made a significant impact on the field of Calculus of Variations and its related applications. Professor Figalli is only the second mathematician in the US to ever receive the Stampacchia Gold Medal; the first ever US-based recipient, Ovidiu Savin, received his PhD from U.T. Austin.

This summer, Professor Jeffrey Vaalar retired from the Mathematics Department, and we announced the hiring of three new faculty members. Stefania Patrizi joined the Department for the Fall Semester as an Assistant Professor. Her research focuses on partial differential equations with applications across many areas of mathematics and science. Professor Patrizi received her Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Sapienza University of Rome and was a postdoctoral fellow in the International Collaboratory for Emerging Technologies, a part of the U.T. Austin|Portugal Program, as well as a postdoctoral fellow at the Weierstrass Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics in Berlin. 

Additionally, Joe Neeman and Ngoc Tran will join our faculty as Assistant Professors upon completion of Visiting Professorships at the University of Bonn. Professor Neeman received his PhD in Statistics from UC Berkeley, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow here at UT. He works in probability and its applications, especially to computer science. Professor Tran received her PhD in Statistics from UC Berkeley, and was a
Simons Postdoctoral Fellow here at UT. She works on problems in stochastic geometry, tropical geometry, discrete optimization, and data analysis.

Please join me in welcoming Professors Patrizi, Neeman, and Tran to our faculty! 


As you can see, the Department of Mathematics continues to make an impact across the many fields of mathematics.  We are able to do so, in part, thanks to the committed support of our alumni and friends; you help distinguish the Mathematics Departments from its peers. If you’ve already made a gift to the Math Department this year, thank you for being a part of this ongoing tradition of excellence. And if you haven’t yet made a gift, I ask you please consider following this linkand making a gift to the Department of Mathematics today.

Alan W. Reid
Chair, Department of Mathematics
Pennzoil Company Regents Professor of Mathematics