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MAA Distinguished Lecture Series

The MAA sponsors a variety of public lectures, many of them held at the MAA Carriage House. Whether a Gathering 4 Gardner event or part of the NSA-funded Distinguished Lecture Series, the lectures feature some of the foremost experts within the field of mathematics, known for their ability to make current mathematical ideas accessible to non-specialists. The presentations provide a fabulous and fun learning opportunity for both professionals and students, as well as anyone interested in learning more about current trends in mathematics and the relationship between mathematics and broader scientific, engineering and technological endeavors.

Abstracts and speaker biographies will appear on this page as lectures are added to the events calendar.

Slidecasts and video clips of MAA public lectures are available here.

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​Wednesday, December 5, 2012

“I want to get weird with pi,” MAA visiting scholar James Tanton told the crowd that packed the MAA Carriage House on December 5 for the organization’s third annual Martin Gardner Celebration of Mind event.

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Karen Saxe, Macalester College
Thursday, November 1, 2012

Abstract: On November 6, 2012, voters will go to the polls to choose our next president. We vote, but how are our votes tallied to give the winner? In 1787, the Constitutional Convention established our rather unusual electoral college which necessitates an assignment of representatives to the states; how is this allocation done?

MAA Distinguished Lecture: Karen Saxe

Biography: Karen Saxe is Professor of Mathematics at Macalester College, and current Chair of the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science. After receiving her Ph.D. at the University of Oregon, she held a FIPSE post-doctoral fellowship at St. Olaf College before joining the faculty at Macalester. Her teaching skill has been recognized with the Mathematical Association of America North Central Section's Distinguished Teaching Award, and with the Macalester College Excellence in Teaching Award. She is current Editor of the MAA's Anneli Lax New Mathematical Library, and is on the editorial board of the MAA's Math Horizons. Karen has been a resource in Minnesota on redistricting, consulting with city governments, and recently served on Minnesota Citizens Redistricting Commission, created to draw congressional districts following the 2010 census. This election season semester she is team-teaching a course on Math and Democracy with a political scientist.

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Michael Dorff, Brigham Young University
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

“I just happen to have with me today this bucket filled with soap solution, water, and some glycerin,” Michael Dorff told listeners at the start of an MAA Carriage House lecture on October 10.

The Brigham Young University professor and director of BYU’s Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics stood in front of a table draped in plastic and crowded with skeletal Zometool creations and deconstructed Slinkies.

“This is a very hands-on presentation. I’m not sure the MAA is used to this this,” he joked. 

Used to it or not, MAA was pleased to host Dorff’s talk, entitled “Shortest Paths, Soap Films, and Minimal Surfaces.” Currently spending a sabbatical as a visiting mathematician at the MAA, Dorff is a coauthor of a book recently published by the organization.

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Jesus De Loera, UC Davis
Thursday, September 20, 2012

Abstract: Convex polyhedra are familiar objects. Cubes and pyramids are common in kindergartens. Polyhedra, in their high-dimensional versions, are widely used in applied mathematics. Their beauty and simplicity appeal to all, but very few people know of the many easy-to-state but difficult-to-solve mathematical problems that hide behind their beauty.This lecture introduces the audience to some fascinating open questions on the frontiers of mathematical research and its applications.

MAA Distinguished Lecture: Jesus De Loera

Biography: Jesus De Loera received his B.S. degree in Mathematics from the National University of Mexico in 1989, a M.A. in Mathematics from Western Michigan in 1990, and his Ph.D in Applied Mathematics from Cornell University in 1995. An expert in the field of discrete mathematics, his work approaches difficult computational problems in applied combinatorics and optimization using tools from algebra and convex geometry.

He has held visiting positions at the University of Minnesota, the Swiss Federal Technology Institute (ETH Zurich), the Mathematical Science Institute at Berkeley (MSRI), Universität Magdeburg (Germany), and the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics at UCLA (IPAM). He arrived at UC Davis in 1999, where he is now a professor of Mathematics as well as a member of the Graduate groups in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics.

His research has been recognized by an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, the 2010 INFORMS computer society prize, and a John von Neumann professorship at the Technical University of Munich. He has received over three million dollars in national and international grants. He is associate editor of the journals SIAM Journal of Discrete Mathematics and Discrete Optimization. For his dedication to outstanding mentoring and teaching he received the 2003 UC Davis Chancellor's fellow award, the 2006 UC Davis award for diversity, and the 2007 Award for excellence in Service to Graduate students by the UC Davis graduate student association. He has supervised seven Ph.D students, five postdocs, and over 20 undergraduate theses.

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Robert L. Devaney, Boston University
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Abstract: We will describe some of the beautiful images that arise from the "Chaos Game."  We will show how the simple steps of this game produce, when iterated millions of times, the intricate images known as fractals. We will describe some of the applications of this technique used in data compression as well as in Hollywood.  We will also challenge members of the audience to "Beat the Professor" at the chaos game and perhaps win his computer.

MAA Distinguished Lecture - >Robert L. Devaney

Biography: Robert L. Devaney is currently Professor of Mathematics at Boston University and President-Elect of the Mathematical Association of America. He received his undergraduate degree from the College of the Holy Cross in 1969 and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1973 under the direction of Stephen Smale. He taught at Northwestern University and Tufts University before coming to Boston University in 1980.

His main area of research is dynamical systems, primarily complex analytic dynamics, but also including more general ideas about chaotic dynamical systems. Lately, he has become intrigued with the incredibly rich topological aspects of dynamics, including such things as indecomposable continua, Sierpinski curves, and Cantor bouquets.

He is the author of over one hundred research papers in the field of dynamical systems as well as a dozen pedagogical papers in this field. He is also the (co)-author or editor of fourteen books in this area of mathematics.

In 1994 he received the Award for Distinguished University Teaching from the Northeastern section of the MAA and in 1995 he was the recipient of the MAA Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished University Teaching. In 2005 he received the Trevor Evans Award from the MAA for an article entitled Chaos Rules published in Math Horizons.

In 1996 he was awarded the Boston University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award. In 2002 he received the National Science Foundation Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars. In 2002 he also received the ICTCM Award for Excellence and Innovation with the Use of Technology in Collegiate Mathematics. In 2003 he was the recipient of Boston University's Metcalf Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2004 he was named the Carnegie/CASE Massachusetts Professor of the Year. In 2009 he was inducted into the Massachusetts Mathematics Educators Hall of Fame. And in 2010 he was named the Feld Family Professor of Teaching Excellence at Boston University.

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