Virginia Math Bulletin 2020

Virginia Math Bulletin 2020

Presenting the seventh issue of the Department newsletter: 2020 Virginia Math Bulletin.

View from the Chair

I write at the conclusion of an extraordinary year for our department. As 2020 began, we were gearing up to host the AMS sectional, which was to start on March 12. Early indications were that large gatherings were a major contributor to the spread of the pandemic, so we hastily cancelled the event, which was to bring 700 participants to Charlottesville. Soon, the university cancelled classes and students were abruptly sent home. Faculty members and graduate students were tasked with quickly finding a way to hold classes online. The learning curve was steep, but we came together to reinvent our modes of teaching. Now we reach the conclusion of a semester with the majority of instruction still being delivered remotely. The transition was, and continues to be, challenging, as many of us have put forth extraordinary time and effort while facing increasing demands caring for children and family members. Still, we have managed to thrive in ways that seemed out of reach in the dark days of March. Read ahead for an article by Leo Petrov on the ways we have managed to adapt to the new normal for teaching, research, and for our final exercises.

This year we are welcoming two new faculty members, Peter Humphries and Christian Reidys. Peter will start in the spring as his arrival in Charlottesville was delayed by the closure of the US embassy in Australia. Christian is one of the key figures in the new Biocomplexity Institute at UVa. Below, you will find profiles of them along with six new postdocs. The expanded postdoc roster includes two that are part of our multiyear program for transforming calculus instruction, and two that are supported by the Research Training Grant (RTG) – see last year’s Bulletin for a profile of the RTG grant.

This past summer we initiated a major new program for research experiences for undergraduates (REUs), combining Ken Ono’s long-running program in number theory with a new program in Geometry, Topology, supported by the RTG grant. Despite the challenges of working remotely, the program was very successful – see the article below by Ken Ono and Tom Mark. Other highlights of this Virginia Math Bulletin include an article on our new bridge program, by David Sherman (our new Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). Our Bridge to the Doctorate currently supports three post-baccalaureate students as they prepare for entry into a Ph.D. program. Sadly, it was impossible to conduct the Gordon Keller math majors dinner. We had planned to host UVa graduate and McShane Prize winner Adrew Booker, who was in the news for work leading to the long-sought integer solutions to $x^3 +y^3+z^3 =33$ and $x^3 +y^3+z^3 =42$. We anxiously await the return of our normal activities, so that we can host Andrew and our majors once again.

In the meantime, with seminars and colloquia now delivered remotely via Zoom, we find that it is possible to participate remotely in lectures all over the world. I hope that our community of graduates and former members of the department will take this opportunity to reconnect with us by taking part in our online events. We’d love to hear from you as we move forward with another year of teaching, exploration, and discovery.

John Imbrie

Professor of Mathematics, Chair

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Last updated: Sunday, December 20, 2020