By the Numb3rs Spring 2018 - Main


Chair's Message

Jonathan RubinWelcome to the Spring 2018 issue of “By the Numb3rs”.  (At least, I think it's spring - given this year's weather roller coaster, and this week's snowfalls, it has been hard to tell sometimes!)  In the academic world, we turn the natural calendar on its head.  For us, the arrival of the brighter skies of spring is a sign that the end of the year is upon us.  We have had our heads down, our noses to the grindstone, focused on course work, research projects, and events. But now that spring is here, we can pause, take stock, and revel in all that we accomplished this semester. For example, in this issue, you can read about our inaugural undergraduate MathFest; our 2018 Michalik Distinguished Lecture, given by Professor Martin Nowak of Harvard University, and an associated Panel Discussion on "Computational Methods for Fostering a Healthy Community"; a spotlight-grabbing research paper by alum Dr. Carey Caginalp and faculty member Prof. Gunduz Caginalp on bubbles in cryptocurrency; and a major new grant from the Sloan Foundation to Prof. Tom Hales supporting the use of computers in rigorous mathematics.

Spring is also a time of farewells here: we will hold our departmental graduation breakfast and award ceremony on April 28th, where we will fondly send our latest graduates off into the next stages of their lives, and this year in particular, we will say good bye to several long-time staff members, Diane Hall, LaVerne Kapucensko, and Carol Olczak, who will head off to the adventures of retirement; you can read more about these remarkable women in the People section of the newsletter.  We truly hope that these grads and colleagues will stay in touch with us over the years to come. In fact, a highlight of this semester for me was hearing from many of you through the alumni surveys that we administered.  Not surprisingly, but reassuringly, your responses strongly indicated that your math skills have been useful, especially your training in logic, modeling, analytical thinking, and problem solving.  I was happy to see that most of you still use mathematics in your jobs, with nearly half of all undergraduate alum respondents using math "Daily or almost daily", and that almost all respondents agree that their mathematics skills are important in their current jobs. So, we can be confident that our latest graduates are going forth equipped with valuable training that will serve them well throughout their lives.  Not that we ever doubted it!

As always, please keep in touch - we would love to hear from you!  You can use the "Stay in Touch" tab on the newsletter to provide any news you would like to share with us.  We also encourage you to visit our (newly updated!) web page for the latest news about the Department of Mathematics and for information on how to contact us.  We hope that you enjoy the newsletter, and we wish you all of the best for the spring and summer months ahead!

- Prof. Jonathan Rubin, Department Chair


Mellon Professor Thomas Hales Helps Establish New AwardThomas Hales

The inaugural Bertrand Russell Prize of the AMS, established by Pitt Mathematics Professor Tom Hales, was awarded to Christiane Rousseau of the Université de Montréal for her leadership and dedicated efforts on behalf of the Mathematics of Planet Earth project.  The Russell Prize, to be awarded once every three years, recognizes mathematical contributions that “promote good in the world” and further human values. 

Math Fest

The Department of Mathematics inaugural `Math Fest' - a celebration of all things mathematical, highlighting the math activities of our math majors - was held during the first week of April.

Math Fest 1


The Math Lounge was transformed into the `Mathenarium', an exhibition of undergraduate research posters, puzzles, a computer game merging Islamic art and math, and VR models  created by math majors.


Math Fest 2

Events over the week included talks by Dr Chikina on the `Math of Gerrymandering' and Dr Hales on `Tilings of the Plane', and an Alumni Panel, featuring three distinguished alumni: Eric Bentley, Jerry Pompa and Ross Ingram. Preceding the Alumni Panel all contributors to the Mathenarium presented their work to the alumni panel and the public.

- Professor Paul Gartside, Undergraduate Director

Math Fest 3

Math Fest 4