Letter from the Chair
By Jonathan Rubin
It’s easy to take things for granted when they are part of our everyday lives. Teaching in the classroom was one such given, an activity that is a core aspect of our departmental mission and yet seemed like a standard feature of our world…until 2020 rolled along. So this fall, our return to the classroom in person felt like a special privilege, one that we embraced with eagerness and excitement. The pandemic did usher in some important new developments, such as the emergence of easy-to-use video conferencing tools that are connecting research collaborators around the world and a more complete awareness of the power of videos and demos in teaching, but at this point, nothing can really substitute for an in-person meeting in a classroom with a blackboard (or whiteboard!) in a university math class!!
Our enthusiastic return to the classroom has not been the only example of a vigorous return to activity in the department. The Math Club and Actuarial Math Club have had an especially active semester, as highlighted in this fall’s newsletter. I know that the PhD students in the department have been extremely grateful for the return to in-person events both academic and social, and we are glad to share some news from both of these facets of graduate life. In addition to celebrating our steps towards normalcy, we have also been able to celebrate some extraordinary achievements: We are pleased to turn the faculty spotlight on Professor Piotr Hajlasz, our Graduate Director who was recently awarded the Sierpinski medal, and we also were fortunate to host Professor Diane Henderson from Penn State University for the 2021 Michalik Lecture in October.
I hope that you enjoy this issue of “By the Numbers” and that it reminds you of the many aspects of your own educational experience that were easy to take for granted but oh-so-valuable. We’d love to hear from you with examples of these experiences, especially in the Department of Mathematics at Pitt. And regardless of the reason, please do stay in touch, and hail to Pitt!!
Jonathan Rubin, Chair, Department of Mathematics, November 2021