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MAA Distinguished Lecture Series

The MAA is proud to relaunch the Distinguished Lecture Series (funded by the Paul R. and Virginia P. Halmos Endowment Fund) - now in a virtual format! 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 scheduled.

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PREVIOUS LECTURES


 

Della Dumbaugh - Thursday, November 10

7PM E.T.

"Every Paper Tells a Story: Mathematics at the Monthly"

Over its 128-year history, the American Mathematical Monthly has not only featured a wide array of mathematics on its pages but also a host of other insights related to the discipline. From Nobel prize winning ideas to careers inspired by a local drugstore to mathematical menus created by students, this talk showcases the riches of the Monthly and what they teach us about the profession. This talk also includes tips for publishing in the journal today.

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About the Speaker

Della Dumbaugh is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Richmond and Editor of the American Mathematical Monthly. She feels at home in a mathematics classroom where her teaching has been celebrated by the University of Richmond, the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia, and the Mathematical Association of America. Along with her friend and collaborator, Deanna Haunsperger, she recently published Count Me In: Community and Belonging in Mathematics. She enjoys writing letters the old fashioned way, exercising, and spending time with her family.


Ken Ono - Thursday, October 20

7PM E.T.

"Arithmetic and Geometric Means form Jellyfish Swarms of Curves"

Classical work of Euler and Gauss on "Arithmetic and Geometric Means” (AGM) produces wonderful rapidly convergent sequences with common limit. Euler’s famous formula for pi is an extraordinary example. Here the speaker will introduce the AGM for finite fields, where finite directed graphs are spawned in lieu of infinite sequences. The collection of these graphs reminds one of a jellyfish swarm, as the 3D renderings of the connected components resemble jellyfish (i.e., tentacles connected to a bell head). These swarms turn out to be more than the stuff of child’s play; they are taxonomical devices in number theory. Each jellyfish is an isogeny graph of elliptic curves, and this interpretation gives a striking description of Gauss's class numbers as counts of spots on these jellyfish.

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About the Speaker

Ken Ono is the Thomas Jefferson Professor of Mathematics at the University of Virginia and the Chair of Mathematics at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has published over 200 research articles in number theory. Professor Ono has received many awards for his research, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Packard Fellowship and a Sloan Fellowship. He was awarded a Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering (PECASE) by Bill Clinton in 2000, and he was named the National Science Foundation's Distinguished Teaching Scholar in 2005. He was an associate producer of the 2016 Hollywood film The Man Who Knew Infinity, which starred Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel. Earlier this year he put his math skills to work in a Super Bowl week commercial for Miller Lite beer.


Naiomi Cameron - Thursday, October 6

7PM E.T.

"A Journey in Combinatorics with the Riordan Group"

A Riordan array is an infinite lower triangular array of numbers that is determined by a pair of generating functions meeting certain conditions. Riordan arrays can be effectively used to study many types of combinatorial problems, including the enumeration of lattice paths, plane trees and partitions. Moreover, under the right conditions Riordan arrays form a group, creating an algebraic structure out of which new combinatorial insights can be drawn. This talk will explore how the Riordan group can be used to discover interesting combinatorial identities and will also relate some well-known combinatorial problems to algebraic structure in the Riordan group. 

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About the Speaker

Naiomi T. Cameron is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Spelman College where she also currently serves as Department Chair. Her primary research interests are in enumerative and algebraic combinatorics. She shares her love of mathematics through teaching undergraduate courses, mentoring undergraduate research experiences and a variety of professional activities. She is a proud HBCU alum, having received both her Ph.D. and B.S. degrees in mathematics from Howard University.


Sara Del Valle - June 29, 2022

7pm E.T.

"How Can We Use Mathematics to Model Human Behavior?"

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the important role human behavior plays in the spread of infectious diseases and how individual decision making can have an effect at the aggregate level. In this talk, I will discuss how epidemiological models can integrate emergent behavioral dynamics and their impact on disease spread.

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About the Speaker

Sara Del Valle is a senior scientist in the Information Systems and Modeling Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She leads a multidisciplinary team focused on detecting, understanding, and forecasting infectious diseases using heterogeneous data streams and mathematical, computational, and statistical models. Her work has been covered in several top media outlets such as National Geographic, NPR Science Friday, Popular Mechanics, and the New York Times. Outside of work, she enjoys skiing, yoga, hiking, and spending time with friends and family.


Michael Lopez - June 7, 2022

7pm E.T.

"Using Data to Optimize the Rules of the National Football League"

Each offseason, the National Football League considers a bevy of rules proposals based on factors such as competitiveness, officiating, and health and safety. Using case studies from recent seasons, we explore how the league’s Football Data and Analytics team has supplemented these discussions using tools from statistics and mathematics.

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About the Speaker

Michael Lopez is a Senior Director of Football Data and Analytics at the National Football League. At the NFL, his work centers on how to use data to enhance the game of football. Michael earned a BA in Mathematics at Bates College, an MS in Statistics at UMass, and a PHD in Biostatistics at Brown, before teaching at Skidmore College for four years. He grew up the son of a long-time high school football coach, who once joked that his son’s 40-yard dash needed a calendar for timing because of how long it took.


Nathan Carter - March 23, 2022

7PM E.T.

"Mathematics in Data Science"

The exploding field of data science has some unexpected connections to pure mathematics, from simple ideas like functions and relations to more advanced ideas like proof writing.  Those connections will be our on-ramp to two fascinating open research questions in machine learning.

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About the Speaker

Nathan Carter works in the interplay between mathematics and computer science.  He mostly writes software and books, such as Visual Group Theory (MAA, 2009), Introduction to the Mathematics of Computer Graphics (MAA, 2016), and Data Science for Mathematicians (editor, Taylor & Francis, 2020).  His primary interests are logic, mathematical visualization, and data science.  He is currently serving as a Wilder Teaching Professor at Bentley University near Boston.


Alexander Diaz-Lopez - February 23, 2022

7PM E.T.

"Encryption Methods: Past, Present, and Future"

The history of cryptography, the study of techniques for secure communication, is filled with intellectual discoveries, ethical dilemmas, and massive challenges. In this talk, we will discuss some of the most important encryption methods of the past and present and then chat about what a post-quantum future might hold.

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About the Speaker

Alexander Diaz-Lopez is an award-winning teacher and math researcher currently working at Villanova University. Born and raised in the archipelago of Puerto Rico, Alexander attended the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez and then moved to the University of Notre Dame to obtain his PhD in Mathematics. He has been involved in organizing several initiatives such as Lathisms, Villanova’s Co-MaStER program, and MAA’s Virtual Programs, among others.


Pamela E. Harris - January 27, 2022

7pm E.T.

"Multiplex Juggling Sequences and Kostant's Partition Function"

Multiplex juggling sequences are generalizations of juggling sequences (describing throws of balls at discrete heights) that specify an initial and terminal configuration of balls and allow for multiple balls at any particular discrete height. Kostant’s partition function is a vector function that counts the number of ways one can express a vector as a nonnegative integer linear combination of a fixed set of vectors. What do these two families of combinatorial objects have in common? Attend this talk to find out!

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About the Speaker

Pamela E. Harris serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Faculty Fellow of the Davis Center and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Williams College. She cohost the podcast Mathematically Uncensored and serves as President of Lathisms: Latinxs and Hispanics in the Mathematical Sciences. Her research interests are in algebra and combinatorics, particularly as these subjects relate to the representation theory of Lie algebras. For fun she likes to (dead)lift heavy things and spend time with her partner Jamual, daughter Akira, and three dogs: Bubba (American bulldog), Ginger (black lab), and Scottie (beagle mix).