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Past MAA Distinguished Lectures

David Bressoud, Macalester College

Abstract: What is the role of proof in mathematics? Most of the time, the search for proof is less about establishing truth than it is about exploring  unknown territory. In finding a route from what is known to the result one believes is out there, the mathematician often encounters unexpected insights into seemingly unrelated problems. I will illustrate this point with an example of recent research into a generalization of the permutation matrix known as the "alternating sign matrix." This is a story that began with Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), matured at the Institute for Defense Analysis, drew in researchers from combinatorics, analysis, and algebra, and ultimately was solved with insights from statistical mechanics. This talk is intended for a general audience and should be accessible to anyone interested in a window into the true nature of research in mathematics.

MAA Distinguished Lecture: David Bressoud

Biography: David Bressoud is DeWitt Wallace Professor of Mathematics at Macalester College. He served in the Peace Corps, teaching math and science at the Clare Hall School in Antigua, West Indies before studying with Emil Grosswald at Temple University and then teaching at Penn State for 17 years, eight of them as full professor. He chaired the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Macalester from 1995 until 2001. He has held visiting positions at the Institute for Advanced Study, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Minnesota, Université Louis Pasteur (Strasbourg, France), and the State College Area High School.

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Rüdiger Thiele, University of Leipzig
August 8, 2007

Nowadays, the idea of function pervades mathematics, and math students readily recognize the notation f(x) as representing a function. But it took centuries for mathematicians to go from the use of algebraic expressions for describing certain curves to the general notion of formulas (or functions) as stand-alone objects of considerable mathematical interest in themselves. Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) played a fundamental role in making the function one of the central objects of mathematics.

On Aug. 8, an audience of Euler enthusiasts at the MAA's Carriage House Conference Center heard mathematician and historian Rüdiger Thiele of the University of Leipzig speak about Euler's work on functions. Thiele's lecture, titled "How Euler Changed Analysis," focused on Euler's efforts to broaden and apply the notion of a function in a variety of mathematical contexts.

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Bernd Sturmfels
May 17, 2007

Abstract: Gröbner bases are a fun method for solving algebraic equations. See how it works, why it is useful, and what you should do with the change in your pocket.

MAA Distinguished Lecture: Bernd Sturmfels

Biography: Bernd Sturmfels received doctoral degrees in Mathematics in 1987 from the University of Washington, Seattle, and the Technical University Darmstadt, Germany. After two postdoctoral years at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, Minneapolis, and the Research Institute for Symbolic Computation, Linz, Austria, he taught at Cornell University, before joining UC Berkeley in 1995, where he is Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science. His honors include a National Young Investigator Fellowship, a Sloan Fellowship, and a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship. Sturmfels served as von Neumann Professor at TU Munich in Summer 2002, as the Hewlett-Packard Research Professor at MSRI Berkeley in 2003/04, and he was a Clay Senior Scholar in 2004. A leading experimentalist among mathematicians, Sturmfels has authored or edited 13 books and about 150 research articles, in the areas of combinatorics, algebraic geometry, symbolic computation and their applications. He currently works on algebraic methods in statistics and computational biology.

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Trachette Jackson, University of Michigan
March 13, 2007

Abstract: It is now appreciated that cancers can be composed of multiple clonal subpopulations of cancer cells which differ among themselves in many properties, including, growth rate, ability to metastasize, immunological characteristics, production and expression of markers, and sensitivity to therapeutic modalities. Such tumor heterogeneity has been demonstrated in a wide variety of tumors, including those that originate in the prostate. In an effort to assist in the understanding of recurrent prostate cancer and the cellular processes which mediate this disease, I will present a mathematical model that describes both the pre-treatment growth and the post-therapy relapse of human prostate cancer xenografts. The goal is to evaluate the interplay between the multiple mechanisms which have been postulated as causes of androgen-independent relapse. At the end of the the talk, I will also comment on possible causes of tumor heterogeneity including the Cancer Stem Cell Hypothesis.

MAA Distinguished Lecture: Trachette Jackson

Biography: Trachette Jackson is an associate professor at the University of Michigan. She received a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics in 1998 from the University of Washington. Her research interests focus on applying mathematics to modeling the growth and control of cancer. Professor Jackson has held post doctoral positions at Duke University, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications at the University of Minnesota, and the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory of the Environmental Protection Agency. She is the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and the Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Foundation. At the University of Michigan she received the Amoco Faculty Undergraduate Teaching Award. She is currently a Co-PI on an NSF grant for a program that will allow undergraduate students to develop knowledge and acquire skills in research areas that are at the interface of Biology and Mathematics. Professor Jackson is a frequent invited lecturer at conferences and universities.

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Doron Zeilberger, Rutgers University

Abstract: I will present five combinatorial gems where alternating paths play a major role.

MAA Distinguished Lecture: Doron Zeilberger

Biography: Doron Zeilberger is a Board of Governors Professor of Mathematics at Rutgers University. He is widely known for the development of "WZ" (Wilf-Zeilberger) Theory and Zeilberger's algorithm that are used extensively in modern computer algebra software. Zeilberger was the first to prove the elusive result in combinatorial theory known as the alternating sign matrix conjecture. Among his honors are: the MAA Lester R. Ford award for a paper in the American Mathematical Monthly; the American Mathematical Society Steele Prize for seminal contributions to research (co-recipient with Herb Wilf); the Institute of Combinatorics and Its Applications Euler Medal for "Outstanding Contributions to Combinatorics;" the Laura H. Carnell Professorship at Temple University; in the spirit of Paul Erdos, challenge cash prizes from Richard Askey, George Andrews and Ron Graham; and Persi Diaconis's favorite living mathematician!

The citaton for the Euler Medal describes him as "a champion of using computers and algorithms to do mathematics quickly and efficiently." In his opinion "programming is even more fun than proving, and, more importantly it gives as much, if not more, insight and understanding."

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