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Pólya Lectureship

George Pólya embodied the high quality of exposition which the Mathematical Association of America seeks to encourage. To further this goal, the Board of Governors of the Association established the George Pólya Lectureship. This Lectureship will be held by an individual representing the high expository standards set by George Pólya. A new Pólya Lecturer will be appointed every year, with a term of two academic years. The first year of the term overlaps the term of the previous Pólya Lecturer and the second year overlaps the term of the next Pólya Lecturer.

Each Section is eligible to have a Pólya Lecturer speak at one of its meetings once every five academic years on a rotating basis, with all travel expenses borne by the Association. Thus, if a Section is eligible during the 2016-2017 academic year, for example, they must host the Lecturer during either the Fall 2016 or Spring 2017.

Each year, the Pólya lecturers will be notified as to which sections are eligible for a visit during that year. Sections should contact the lecturer directly to coordinate a visit.

Section Eligibility for the Pólya Lectureship:


Nebraska/SE South Dakota


Allegheny Mountain
New Jersey


Metro New York
North Central
Pacific Northwest


Rocky Mountain







It is customary for the section to waive any registration, banquet and social fees for the lecturer. The Pólya Lecturer will pay his/her own travel expenses and will be reimbursed by the Association. Should, by accident, a section invite two Pólya speakers, it will be asked to reimburse the Association for the more expensive trip.

Each section is asked to be a thoughtful host. In the crush of meeting details and the distribution of duties amongst section officers and local arrangements faculty, it is sometimes easy for responsibilities to fall through the cracks. Please be sure to consider your visitors' arrangements for travel, lodging, meals, local transportation and registration. In the days of "Saturday night stay overs", it is especially cordial that the section considers Saturday evening dining arrangements. At least give visiting speakers options ("a ride would be great" or "I'll catch a cab") for airport pickups, get-togethers at meals, etc. Be sure to communicate fully about the schedule of events at your meeting.

2016 - 2017 Pólya Lecturers

Ken Ono is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Mathematics in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Emory University. His research interests are combinatorics and number theory. Ken is a great mentor and on his website, he says "I am actively involved in the mentoring young mathematicians of all ages". Ken is very successful mathematician who has been extremely active, through his REU, in involving undergraduates in high level mathematics. He is also an excellent speaker, who works hard to make his talks understandable and interesting to a wide audience of mathematicians. He has won numerous fellowships and awards, both for his research and teaching.

Erica Flapan is the Lingurn H. Burkhead Professor of Mathematics at Pomona College. She is the author of "When Topology Meets Chemistry: A Topological Approach to Chemistry" (2000), which was the one of the first books to discuss these exciting applications of mathematics to molecular structures. She is also the co-author of "Number Theory: A Lively Introduction with Proofs, Applications and Stories" (2011) which makes number theory accessible and applicable. Her research includes a variety of topics that have direct applications to the topology and symmetry of molecules, including DNA. She is also interested in questions related to the application of knot theory to graphs in 3-space. She is an AMS fellow, and currently has an NSF research grant. Known for her ability to give excellent talks at a variety of levels, she received the MAA Haimo Teaching Award in 2011.

2017 - 2018 Pólya Lecturers

Carlos Castillo-Chavez is a mathematical epidemiologist and a Regents Professor of Mathematical Biology at Arizona State University. He has won awards by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mentor Award and Fellow (2007),the Stanislaw M. Ulam Distinguished Scholar by the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory (2003), the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Distinguished Scientist Award (2001), the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (1997), and the Presidential Faculty Fellowship Award from the National Science Foundation and the Office of the President of the United States (1992–1997). Carlos served from 2010-2015 on President Barak Obama’s national medal of science committee and is a fellow of SIAM, AMS and AAAS Carlos is the executive director of the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute and the Institute for Strengthening the Understanding of Mathematics and Science as well as the founding director of the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center at ASU. He previously taught at Cornell for 18 years.

View the list of past Pólya Lecturers

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