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Past MAA Distinguished Lectures

Evelyn Lamb
6:30 PM - September 15, 2016

 

MAA Carriage House

1781 Church St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

 

Abstract: For two thousand years, mathematicians tried to prove that Euclidean geometry, the geometry you probably learned in high school, was all there was. But it's not! In the early nineteenth century, János Bolyai and Nikolai Lobachevsky independently discovered that by tweaking one of Euclid's postulates, geometry can look totally different. We will explore the rich world of hyperbolic geometry, one of the new and beautiful systems of geometry that results from this tweak. Our guides on the adventure will be mathematically inspired artists and artistically inspired mathematicians, including M.C. Escher, Daina Taimina, and Henry Segerman.

Biography: Dr. Evelyn Lamb is a freelance math and science writer based in Salt Lake City. She earned her Ph.D. in mathematics at Rice University in 2012 and taught at the University of Utah until 2015. She began her science writing career in 2012 with a AAAS-AMS mass media fellowship at Scientific American. It was love at first blog post, and she has been making mathematical concepts fun and accessible to a general audience ever since. In addition to math, she loves music, sewing, and the outdoors. Dr. Lamb has written for outlets including Scientific American, Slate, Nature News, and the American Mathematical Society. Her blog Roots of Unity is hosted on the Scientific American blog network, and she coauthors the Blog on Math Blogs for the AMS. Follow her on Twitter: @evelynjlamb.

If you want to read more about Evelyn Lamb's lecture, click here.

If you want to watch a video summary of Evelyn Lamb's lecture, click here.


Talithia Williams
6:30 PM - June 8, 2016

MAA Carriage House

1781 Church St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Abstract:Carol Dweck’s research on having a “growth mindset” posits the idea that by tackling a problem that is mildly difficult to solve, we can increase our brain’s problem solving ability and our overall capacity to learn. Likewise, Clifford Adelman, author of the U.S. Department of Education's Answers in the Tool Box and The Toolbox Revisited, says that the highest level of high school mathematics is the strongest indicator for college degree completion. A student’s mathematical ability continues to make a difference in their likelihood of completing college no matter what their eventual major might be. In this talk, we’ll begin a discussion about how all of us, whether math educators, grandparents, or volunteers, can begin to cultivate a mathematical mindset in the young people around us. Mathematics is a great equalizer and while the causes of America’s achievement gap are out of our hands, a potential solution is well within our reach.

Biography: Dr. Talithia Williams takes sophisticated numerical concepts and makes them understandable and relatable to everyone. As illustrated in her popular TED Talk, Own Your Body's Data, she demystifies the mathematical process in amusing and insightful ways, using statistics as a way of seeing the world in a new light and transforming our future through the bold new possibilities inherent in the STEM fields. As an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, she has made it her life's work to get people—students, parents, educators and community members—more excited about the possibilities inherent in a STEM education.

In her present capacity as a faculty member, she exemplifies the role of teacher and scholar through outstanding research, with a passion for integrating and motivating the educational process with real-world statistical applications. Her educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Spelman College, Masters' degrees in both Mathematics from Howard University and Statistics from Rice University, and a Ph.D. in Statistics from Rice University. Her professional experiences include research appointments at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the National Security Agency (NSA), and NASA.

Dr. Williams develops statistical models which emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data and has partnered with the World Health Organization in developing a cataract model used to predict the cataract surgical rate for countries in Africa. Through her research and work in the community at large, she is helping change the collective mindset regarding STEM in general and math in particular— rebranding the field of mathematics as anything but dry, technical or male-dominated, but instead a logical, productive career path that is crucial to the future of the country. She is active in her faith community and serves with her husband as a Christian marriage mentor couple, all while being the mom of three amazing boys.

If you want to read more about Talithia Williams's lecture, click here.

If you want to watch a video summary of Talitiha William's lecture, click here.


Zvezdelina Stankova
6:30 PM - May 31, 2016

MAA Carriage House

1781 Church St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Abstract: Whether designing the new tile pattern in your kitchen backsplash, trying to avoid bad investment sequences, or simply counting all possible paths from your home to work that do not cross over the local river, inescapably you are venturing into the realm of restricted patterns.

In this talk, we shall discuss several paths of pattern-exploration, and think about whether or not there is a "true" way of approaching pattern-avoidance equivalence and ordering among the array of generated ideas and methods. No matter what your math background is, you will find your own path between realistic visualization and abstract thinking, and perhaps, you will fall in love with one of our open problems.

Biography: Professor Zvezdelina Stankova (Zvezda) was drawn into the world of mathematics when, as a 5th grader, she joined the math circle at her school in Bulgaria. Three months later she won the Regional Math Olympiad. Zvezda represented her home country at two International Mathematical Olympiads (IMOs), earning silver medals.

As a freshman at Sofia University, Zvezda won a competition to study in the U.S. where she completed her undergraduate degree at Bryn Mawr College in 1993. Zvezda completed her first math research in enumerative combinatorics at two summer programs in Duluth, Minnesota. The resulting papers contributed to her Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Woman, awarded by the Association for Women in Mathematics. In 1997, Zvezda received a Ph.D. from Harvard University, with a thesis on moduli spaces of curves, in the field of algebraic geometry. She also earned a high school teaching certificate in Massachusetts, and later, in California. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) and UC Berkeley in 1997-1999, Zvezda co-founded the Bay Area Mathematical Olympiad and created the Berkeley Math Circle (BMC). She trained the U.S. national team for the IMOs for six years, including the memorable year of 2001 when three of the six team members were BMCers, and the U.S. tied with Russia for second overall in the world. Since 1999, Zvezda has worked at Mills College in Oakland, CA. Starting in the fall of 2016, she will be joining the Math Department at UC Berkeley.

Zvezda’s inspiring style and passion to teach were recognized by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA): in 2004 she received the first Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College or University Mathematics Faculty Member. In 2011 MAA honored her with the highest math teaching award in the U.S., the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. Individuals who receive this award are recognized for their teaching effectiveness and for their influence beyond their own institutions. Zvezda was featured in the Salutes Program of the ABC 7 News in spring 2011. In 2012, she was listed in Princeton’s Review of "300 Best Professors."

In 2015-2016, Zvezda introduced a new middle school math program based on a new textbook series, which she translated, adapted, and co-authored. Zvezda’s most enduring passion remains working at the BMC with young students motivated to discover new mathematical wonders. She spends a lot of time with her daughter and son, studying with them foreign languages and playing the piano, and teaching them mathematics the “Bulgarian’’ way.

If you want to read more about Zvezdelina Stankova's lecture, click here.

If you want to watch a video summary of Zvezdelina Stankova's lecture, click here.


Thomas Hull
6:30 PM - November 10, 2015

MAA Carriage House

1781 Church St.
Washington, D.C. 20036

Abstract: Origami, the art of paper folding, has been practiced in Japan and all over the world for centuries. The past decade, however, has witnessed a surge of interest in using origami for science. Applications in robotics, airbag design, deployment of space structures, and even medicine and bioengineering are appearing in the popular science press. Videos of origami robots folding themselves up and walking away or performing tasks have gone viral in recent years. But if the art of paper folding is so old, why has there been an increase in origami applications now? One answer is because of mathematics. Advances in our understanding of how folding processes work has arisen due to success in modeling origami mathematically. In this presentation we will explore why origami lends itself to mathematical study and see some of the math that has allowed applications to become so fruitful.

Biography: Thomas Hull, an Associate Professor of mathematics at Western New England University, is considered a leading expert on origami mathematics as well as an accomplished paper folder. He has written origami instruction books, numerous origami-math research papers, and authored Project Origami (AK Peters/CRC Press), a book on incorporating the mathematics of paper folding into college-level math classes. He received his Ph.D. in graph theory from the University of Rhode Island, and his research papers on origami-math were helpful in generating interest in the subject during the 1990s. He has been invited to speak on origami-math to audiences all over the USA as well as Japan, Puerto Rico, and Europe. His most popular origami creations are the PHiZZ unit, which has infected the fingers of procrastinators world-wide, and the Five Intersecting Tetrahedra model, which was voted by the British Origami Society as one of the top 10 origami models of all-time. Visit his web page at http://mars.wne.edu/~thull/

If you want to read more about Thomas Hull's lecture, click here.


Douglas N. Arnold
6:30 PM - October 29, 2015

MAA Carriage House

1781 Church St.
Washington, D.C. 20036

Abstract: Mathematics is everywhere, and the golf course is no exception. Many aspects of the game of golf can be illuminated or improved through mathematical modeling and analysis. We will discuss a few examples, employing mathematics ranging from simple high school algebra to computational techniques at the frontiers of contemporary research.

Biography: Douglas N. Arnold is the McKnight Presidential Professor of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota. He is a research mathematician and educator specializing in computational mathematics. He also has a strong interest in mathematics in interdisciplinary research and in the public understanding of the role of mathematics.

Arnold's research interests include numerical analysis, partial differential equations, mechanics, and in particular, the interplay between these fields. From 2001 through 2008, he served as director of the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications. Under his leadership, this interdisciplinary mathematical research institute grew to be the largest mathematics research investment in the history of the National Science Foundation.

Arnold received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Chicago and in the following years served on the faculty of the University of Maryland and Penn State University before moving to the University of Minnesota and assuming the position of Director at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications.

Among Arnold's priorities are efforts to increase public understanding of mathematics and its role in society, and he is frequently cited in print and broadcast media. In 2007 he coauthored an award winning video, Möbius Transformations Revealed, which went viral on YouTube, garnering about two million views.

Read more about Douglas Arnold's lecture here.


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