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Past MAA Distinguished Lectures

Ravi Vakil, Stanford University

Abstract: Doodling has many mathematical aspects: patterns, shapes, numbers, and more.  Not surprisingly, there is often some sophisticated and fun mathematics buried inside common doodles.  Vakil will begin by doodling, and there is no telling where it could take him.

MAA Distinguished Lecture: Ravi Vakil

Biography: Ravi Vakil is Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University.  He was born in Toronto, Canada, and studied at the University of Toronto, where he was a four-time winner of the Putnam competition (``Putnam Fellow'').  He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1997, and taught at Princeton and MIT before moving to Stanford in 2001.  He is an algebraic geometer, and his work involves many other parts of mathematics, including topology, string theory, applied mathematics, combinatorics, number theory, and more.  His awards include the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the American Mathematical Society Centennial Fellowship, the Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.  He works extensively with talented younger mathematicians at all levels, from high school (through math circles, camps, and olympiads), through recent Ph.D.'s.  Vakil runs a problem-solving seminar each  fall for Stanford undergraduates, involving up to 150 students, as well as a masterclass for experts.  He is also the faculty advisor to the Stanford Math  Circle. You can read more at Prof. Vakil's Home Page.

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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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