Mathematics Alumni Newsletter

summer 2014

From Acting Department Chair Rob Meyerhoff


I was Acting Chair this year while Chair Sol Friedberg took a well-deserved sabbatical.  During this year the math department has continued to develop and to enhance its reputation, both on the national and international stages.

Our junior faculty members have been winning prestigious awards and grants at an astonishing rate. When I go to conferences, the strength of our junior faculty is a common topic of conversation. Our senor faculty members have consistently strengthened their research and published in elite journals, giving lie to the notion that mathematical research is a young person’s game. My belief is that the exciting and supportive environment in the BC Math Department has been a significant factor in the remarkable development of our faculty.  Our undergraduate students have responded well to the challenging curriculum that we have put in place for them, and our graduate students have done a tremendous amount to help create the lively, exciting, and caring environment here at the BC Math Department.

The biggest challenges facing us are related to our strength.  For example, the number of Math majors is rising rapidly and enrollments in upper-level math courses are exploding, and this creates a number of problems---last year there just weren’t enough faculty to spread around.  Two new faculty will start this fall, and we are hiring more this coming year.

I’ve enjoyed my year as Acting Chair.  It’s been an interesting learning experience and I deeply appreciate all the help and encouragement I’ve received from the math faculty, our staff, and the BC Administration.

Rob Meyerhoff
Acting Chair, 2013-14


Contact Information

Mathematics Department
Boston College

Boston College
140 Commonwealth Ave
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

From Acting Chair Rob Meyerhoff

Overview 2013-2014

Stephanie Ger '14 won the McCarthy Prize for her Scholar of the College thesis “Existence, Uniqueness and Stability of Splay States in Networks of Coupled Oscillators” supervised by Prof. Rennie Mirollo. Stephanie also was a co-winner of the Sally Award in Mathematics, and will be starting in the doctoral program in Applied Math at  Northwestern University this fall.
This fall, the doctoral program will be in its fifth year and we will have our full complement of graduate students at 25. Our entering class this year will have 6 members, including students from Cambridge University (England) and Cal Tech. So far, we have graduated one PhD: David Hansen, who finished at BC in 3 years, did a post-doc in Paris last year, and will be a Ritt Assistant Professor at Columbia University starting this fall.  We anticipate awarding several PhDs in spring 2015.
The Boston College Mathematics Society was very active.  Its career night panel featured Gary Ferreira of Merrill Lynch, Kathlenn Hass of MIT Lincoln Labs, Charles Hadlock of Bentley University, and our own Prof. Jenny Baglivo
The Fall Meeting of AGNES (Algebraic Geometry Northeastern Series) took place at Boston College in October, 2013.  Profs. Dawei Chen and Maksym Fedorchuk organized this major workshop. AGNES is held twice a year; the next four will be at Penn, BC, Brown, and Yale.

Boston College math majors are in high demand.  The BC Career Center reports that a remarkable 98% of the applications from math students for an on-campus job interview resulted in an employer invitation to interview.
Boston College is co-sponsoring the 10th William Rowan Hamilton Geometry and Topology Conference at Trinity College, Dublin. The title of this international workshop, which includes a mini-course aimed at graduate students as well as 3 days of research level talks, is “Homological Invariants in Low-Dimensional Topology and Geometry.” Profs. Martin Bridgeman, John Baldwin, Ian Biringer, Josh Greene, and Rob Meyerhoff are co-organizers.
Richard Evan Schwartz, Chancellor’s Professor of Mathematics at Brown University, was the 2014 BC Distinguished Lecturer in Mathematics.  Prof. Schwartz gave 3 entertaining and accessible lectures on “Polygonal Outer Billiards,” “Pentagrams and Rational Maps,” and “Thomson’s 5-Electron Problem.” Professor Schwartz also met with Boston College undergraduate and graduate students.


Student Honors

Paul J. Sally, Jr. Distinguished Alumnus Prize:
Brian Choi and Stephanie Ger received the Sally Award, given annually to one or more graduating seniors who have shown true academic distinction in a demanding program in Mathematics. Stephanie’s accomplishments have been mentioned above.  Brian wrote an honors thesis under the supervision of Prof. Dubi Kelmer and will be attending graduate school at Boston University in the fall.
Albert A. Bennett Award:
Benjamin T. Delwiche received the Bennett Award, given annually to a graduating Mathematics major who has shown a high level of achievement and a desire to teach mathematics. Ben will study for his M.Ed. at BC’s Lynch School of Education in the fall.
Fulbright Award:
Math and Geosciences major Brian Chung won a  Fulbright award for a year’s post-baccalaureate study in the Ukraine.


Department News

Prof. Eli Grigsby had a terrific year---not only was she promoted  and granted tenure, but she also became the inaugural winner of the AWM Birman Research Prize in Topology and Geometry.  In addition, she is co-organizing, with Profs. John Baldwin and Josh Greene, the innovative conference “Combinatorial Link Homology Theory, Braids, and Contact Geometry” at the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (ICERM) in Providence, RI. 
Prof. Maksym Fedorchuk received a  Sloan Research Fellowship, one of 20 such awards in all of the mathematical sciences. Maksym studies Algebraic Geometry, and his award brings to 3 the number of Sloan Fellowships that BC Mathematics faculty have received in the last two years.  
Prof. Dawei Chen was awarded a CAREER grant by the NSF (National Science Foundation). CAREER awards are the “National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards for faculty members beginning their independent careers.”
James P. McIntyre Prof. and Chair Sol Friedberg was elected a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.  During his year of sabbatical, he also served as Distinguished Ordway Visitor at the University of Minnesota and organized conferences at the Banff International Research Station in Canada and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley.
Prof. Martin Bridgeman spent the 2013-14 year on a year-long sabbatical partly funded by a highly competitive Simons Foundation Fellowship.  Martin has taken advantage of this opportunity to travel the world doing mathematics and lecturing.  He has visited Brazil (Visiting Professor at IMPA), India, Singapore, England (Visiting Professor at All Souls College, Oxford University), Austria, and Denmark (where he gave a Master Class at the CQM in Aarhus).
Prof. Avner Ash was a Visiting Professor at King’s College London in the spring. Among numerous projects, Avner is working with Prof. Rob Gross on the third book in their popular math series, which includes “Fearless Symmetry: Exposing the Hidden Pattern of Numbers” and “Elliptic Tales: Curves, Counting, and Number Theory” both published by Princeton University Press.
Prof. Tao Li will be giving an invited address in the Topology Section at the ICM (International Congress of Mathematicians) in Korea in August. In addition, Tao’s groundbreaking paper “Rank and Genus of 3-Manifolds” appeared in the Journal of the American Mathematical Society.
Profs. CK Cheung and Sol Friedberg (with Prof. Lillie Albert in Math Ed) are well under way in implementing their 6-year $1.6 million NSF grant “Exemplary Mathematics Educators for High-need Schools.”  Seven Noyce Teaching Fellows will start the program in the fall.
The Math Department is starting an arrangement with the Boston College Summer Experience to teach interesting, non-mainstream math to High School students during the summer.  Prof. CK Cheung is the inaugural professor leading this endeavor. 
Sadly, retired lecturer Joseph Krebs passed away in June 2014 at the age of 91.  And BC Alumnus and department friend Prof. Paul Sally Jr. passed away in December 2013 at the age of 80. We will hold them in our memories always.