By the Numb3rs Fall 2015


Chair's Message

Ivan YotovIn this issue of By the Numb3rs you can read about recent developments in the Department of Mathematics as well as some accomplishments by our students and faculty. The annual Michalik Distinguished Lecture in Mathematics Sciences will feature Dr. Martin Hairer, Regius Professor of Mathematics, University of Warwick, UK.  He will be presenting a lecture titled “Taming Infinities”.  We are delighted to announce that Dr. Bard Ermentrout is part of a team of scientist that has been awarded a $6.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.  In addition to Dr. Ermentrout’s new grant the department has received a large number of new grants highlighted in the research section of our newsletter.  Be sure to read the abstracts of the new and inventive ideas shaping math and its future.

Our graduate students Scott Zimmerman and Jilong Hu were award the Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowships, which are awarded to Ph.D. students of exceptional promise and ability. The actuarial math students hosted the second annual career fair.  Many of students who attended have received offers for internships and full-time positions as a direct result of their participation in the fair.

Dr. Paul Gartside and Dr. Jonathan Rubin have stepped in as Co-Directors of the Undergraduate Program. Dr. Daniel Hockensmith is the new Director for the Math Assistance Center and Matthew Rager is our new payroll manager.  We bid our dear friend Drew Porvaznik former payroll manager, a bitter sweet congratulation on his retirement.  We are so pleased for Drew’s success, but saddened by his departure. 

This term we have organized many interesting events funded by the Mathematics Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh, , including conferences on Nonlinear PDEs and Numerical Analysis and Applications. 

An important addition to our web site is a new alumni page. Please fill in any exciting news you would like to share with us. As always, please keep in touch. We would love to hear from you. Visit our web page for information on how to contact us and for the latest news about the Department.

Edmund R. Michalik Distinguished Lecture in the Mathematical Sciences Benefactress Martha Michalik has Passed Away

Martha Michalik was well recognized in Pittsburgh for her participation in many civic and cultural organizations throughout her life. And her generous donation has allowed the Department of Mathematics to hold the Edmund R. Michalik Distinguished Lecture series for the past 10 years.  We are very greatful for this donation and saddened to hear of her passing. More>

This year's lecture will be Wednesday December 2, 2015 featuring Prof. Martin Hairer of the University of Warwick. The lecture is free and open to the public.  More>

Prof. Bard Ermentrout receives grant from US Brain Initiative: Cracking the Olfactory Code

Prof. Bard Ermentrout is part of a group that has received a grant that is funded through the US Brain Initiative: Cracking the Olfactory Code.  It involves 7 investigators from 6 institutions for a total of 6.3 million dollars. More>

Below is lay description of the research they propose to work on.

cracking the olfactory codeAlmost universally, from flies to mice to dogs, animals use odors to locate valuable resources, such as food, shelter and mates. The mechanisms by which  cracking the olfactory codeanimals use their olfactory systems to find odor sources is not well understood; moreover, no engineered devices come close to replicating the performance of animals in these tasks. In fact, people still rely on animals to perform difficult chemical detection tasks: dogs to search for contraband in airports and find lost children, pigs to find truffles and rats to detect landmines.This interdisciplinary project will demonstrate how animals solve these problems, enabling us to use this knowledge to solve real-world problems. Mathematical models and algorithms emerging from the proposed research have the potential to be of significant importance to national security and law enforcement, as the project’s results may lead to improved methods for the detection of explosives, olfactory robots to replace trained animals, and advances in robotic control. Finally, the project could directly inform  the development of technologies that interfere with the ability of flying insects (including disease vectors and crop pests) to locate their odor target, thus opening a new door for developing ‘green’ technologies to solve problems that are of global economic and humanitarian importance.