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Past MAA Distinguished Lectures

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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Fernando Gouvêa, Colby College
Monday, May 21, 2012

Fernando Gouvêa broke with convention for the lecture he presented on May 21. Mathematicians giving public lectures know, the Colby College professor explained, that the “person in the street” thinks math is all and only about numbers. To counteract this misconception and to raise awareness of the diversity within mathematics, presenters tend to steer clear of the topic.

But not Gouvêa. He devoted his historical talk, titled “Games Numbers Play,” to showing his audience that, given an inquisitive mind and perhaps a handful or two of pebbles, you can become an active observer of “the strange games that numbers play among themselves.” Doing so, Gouvêa hinted, allows you to transform mathematics into not only a source of amusement but also an endless pursuit.

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Jill Pipher, Brown University
Monday, April 30, 2012

Abstract: The role of experimentation and computation in mathematics is historical, rich, and growing and changing at a remarkable pace. Computers are more than number crunchers: They check hypotheses, make conjectures, enable discoveries, and assist in proofs. While the computer is the primary tool facilitating experimentation, it is not the only source of experimental information bringing new ideas into mathematics. I illustrate these points by describing a collection of fun examples. In the first part of the talk, I'll explain some aspects of this interaction related to my own research interests in public key cryptography. Then I'll give a quick tour of some fundamental and surprising instances of the interaction of mathematics and the computer.

​Biography: Jill Pipher is Professor of Mathematics at Brown University, and Director of the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (ICERM). She received her Ph.D. from UCLA in 1985, spent five years at the University of Chicago as Dickson Instructor and then Assistant Professor, and came to Brown as an Associate Professor.

Pipher’s research interests include harmonic analysis, partial differential equations, and cryptography. She has published papers in each of these areas of mathematics, co-authored an undergraduate cryptography textbook, and jointly holds four patents for the NTRU encryption and digital signature algorithms. She was a co-founder of NTRU Cryptosystems, Inc, now part of Security Innovation, Inc. Her awards include an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship, NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Fellowship, and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship. In February 2011, she became President of the Association for Women in Mathematics.

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