Mathematics Top Stories

János Kollár Endows Lecturer in Mathematics
János Kollár, a Hungarian mathematician specializing in algebraic geometry and a former professor of mathematics at the University of Utah, is a corecipient of the 2017 Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences. Established in 2002 in Hong Kong, and first awarded in 2004, the Shaw Prize honors outstanding contributions in astronomy, life science and medicine, and mathematical sciences. Kollár has donated a significant portion of his half of the prize to the U’s Department of Mathematics to establish the János Kollár Endowed Assistant Professor Lecturer at the U. Kollár says he was motivated to make the gift because the U provided such excellent working conditions during the 12 years he was here at the beginning of his career, and because several of the results that the prize committee recognized were developed while he was at the U.

Faculty Spotlight: Sean Lawley
Sean Lawley, assistant professor of mathematics at the U, believes the most interesting math often comes from trying to explain phenomena in other fields. For example, if you're seeking an answer to a question about biology, physics, or economics, the answer often leads to new and interesting mathematical theory. "Historically, much of the inspiration for mathematics has come from physics," said Lawley, "but biology is increasingly a driving force that is pushing the frontiers of math."

‘Oscar of Science’ Awarded To U. Mathematician
Christopher Hacon, University of Utah mathematician, will be award the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics at a ceremony in Silicon Valley on Dec. 3. The awards ceremony, hosted by Morgan Freeman, will be broadcast from NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA and begins at 8 p.m. Mountain Time. Live streams of the broadcast can be found on the Facebook and YouTube platforms of Breakthrough Prize and National Geographic. The $3 million prize recognizes Hacon’s work in algebraic geometry, the field that studies geometric objects defined by polynomial equations. It connects and elevates algebra, which solves polynomial equations, and geometry, which describes the shapes arising from those equations.

Faculty Spotlight: Davar Khoshnevisan
Davar Khoshnevisan, a Professor of Mathematics, was recently appointed as the Department Chair for Mathematics at the U. He started a threeyear term on July 1, 2017. “I am honored to serve as Department Chair,” says Khoshnevisan. “We have a worldclass faculty, an amazing staff, not to mention fantastic graduate students, visitors, and post docs. It will be a pleasure to work more closely with them toward our many common goals.”

2017 College of Science Research Scholar Award
The College of Science Research Scholar Award is given annually to one graduating student the graduating class who demonstrates a record of exceptional success in research and education. From the Class of 2017, we have selected Ethan Lake, a highlyaccomplished student who is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Mathematics this year.

Three University of Utah professors elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences
University of Utah professors Bradley R. Cairns, professor and chair of Oncological Sciences and senior director of Basic Science; Dana Carroll, distinguished professor of Biochemistry; and Christopher D. Hacon, distinguished professor of Mathematics, were raised to a high honor in science today with their election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Faculty Spotlight: Tom Alberts
Tom Alberts, assistant professor of mathematics, has a wide range of research interests in statistical mechanics and probability theory. Since joining the U in 2013, Alberts has worked with numerous undergraduate and graduate students, including Mackenzie Simper – who won a prestigious Churchill Scholarship in 2016 and is now at Cambridge University. “Working with students on research problems is probably the best aspect of being a math professor. A student’s curiosity about math is infectious, and it is very rewarding to see them become attached to a specific problem, gain their own intuition for it, and try out their own ideas for attacking it. Students often have a completely original perspective on old problems that, with proper guidance, can often lead to significant breakthroughs,” says Alberts.

March Madness By The Numbers
It’s probably in your inbox already – the invitation to join your teenage nephew’s March Madness bracket challenge. Favorite methods for picking winning teams abound – some people pick by uniform color, some by geography, some by which mascot could devour the other. If your preferred method is statistics, however, University of Utah senior Sean Sloan can help. Sloan is a mathematics major by day, but by night, or at least any night that the Utah Jazz play at home, he’s a basketball operations intern at Vivint Smart Home Arena. As a part of the Jazz’ analytics team, Sloan helps track players’ movements during games using a camera network above the arena, which helps calculate player statistics for each game. Front office and coaching staff then use the statistics to assess areas of weakness and strength, both for individual players and for the team as a whole.

Mathematic, Not Enigmatic
Picture a mathematician. Is it a man with wild hair scribbling incomprehensible symbols on a blackboard? Is it someone like Charlie Eppes from “NUMB3RS,” prone to episodes of preternatural clairvoyance filled with floating equations and sudden flashes of critical insight? Whoever it is, does the thought of complex math fill you with dread? If so, six graduate students in mathematics would like to change your mind. On Saturday, March 11, the students will present a program titled “Math Medley: A Taste of Modern Research” at the Leonardo museum in Salt Lake City from 24 p.m. Admission to the event and the museum’s daylong Puzzles & Pi Jubilee, is included in regular museum admission. For 10 minutes each, the students will talk about their math research, followed by a Q&A session with the audience. The topics include guiding unmanned vehicles, the randomness in cell processes and imagining an alternate universe. (See complete list of speakers and topics below)

"Field Patterns" As A New Mathematical Object
University of Utah mathematicians propose a theoretical framework to understand how waves and other disturbances move through materials in conditions that vary in both space and time. The theory, called “field patterns,” published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society A. Field patterns are characteristic patterns of how disturbances react to changing conditions. Because field patterns exhibit characteristics of both propagating waves and localized particles, field pattern theory may answer some of the questions posed by quantum mechanics, in which objects can be treated as both particles and waves. First author Graeme Milton further posits that field patterns could describe the natures of the fundamental components of matter in the universe.