By the Numb3rs - Spring 2021

Letter from the Chair

By Jonathan Rubin

Dear Readers,

A graph is a collection of nodes connected by links or edges. One such graph, which is vital to our psychological well-being, is the human social interaction network. Because of COVID-19, many of the edges in this network were severed, and it has been easy at times to feel like we are a set of isolated nodes, each of us cut off without links to others. Thankfully, this semester brought ample reminders that, far from being isolated nodes, we are all part of the Pitt mathematics community, and that even without opportunities to connect in person, we are in fact connected through a strong set of links, virtual and intellectual, reflecting our common goals and interests.

Correspondingly, this semester’s newsletter highlights a variety of ways that our community connections came to the fore in recent months. We in the Department of Mathematics are grateful for the outpouring of support for our 2021 Pitt Day of Giving campaign, which complements a generous donation from the Painter family to fund undergraduate research; inside, you will find more information about the project, the Painter family endowment, the fund-raising totals and our inaugural class of researchers. You can also read about an inspiring Alumni Colloquium given by Mel Currie, a native Pittsburgher who earned MA and PhD degrees in Mathematics from Pitt before going on to a distinguished career at the NSA. Learn more about the new “Science Revealed” public lecture series that I co-organize and our inaugural event, which featured faculty member Tom Hales and drew an audience of nearly 100 on-line participants. Finally, although it could not take place in person, our virtual MathFest reminded us of the power of research to connect groups of students and faculty in shared quests for knowledge and discovery.

As the semester switches over from “is” to “was”, we congratulate all of our graduates who persevered through the unique challenges of the current times. In this newsletter, we are happy to share a link to our departmental graduation video and to celebrate the awards garnered by our graduates, who will forever remain connected to us as part of the Pitt Mathematics community. Several of our faculty and ongoing graduate students achieved honors and new research funding too, and we are also pleased to highlight these, as well as a career update from Connor Stout, as featured in our Alumni Spotlight. And we look forward to maintaining and strengthening our links with all of you, both virtually and in person, as we all continue to discover news ways to connect over our shared interests, experiences, and affinity for Pitt Mathematics. Stay in touch, and hail to Pitt!!

Jonathan Rubin, Chair, Department of Mathematics, May 2021