Mathematics Top Stories

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.

Math Student Awarded Prestigious Churchill Scholarship
Michael Zhao, Salt Lake City native and senior in mathematics pursuing an honors degree at the University of Utah, has received the prestigious Churchill Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Zhao becomes one of only 15 students nationally to receive this award and is the second Churchill Scholar for the U.

Arctic Melt Ponds Form When Meltwater Clogs Ice Pores
When spring comes to the Arctic, the breakup of the cold winter ice sheets starts at the surface with the formation of melt ponds. These pools of melted snow and ice darken the surface of the ice, increasing the amount of solar energy the ice sheet absorbs and accelerating melt. A team including University of Utah mathematician Kenneth Golden has determined how these melt ponds form, solving a paradoxical mystery of how a pool of water actually sits atop highly porous ice. Their results are published in Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans.

Alumni Spotlight: Nicholas Gibbs
Nicholas Gibbs, BS’82, Mathematics, grew up close to the U. His family’s home was just two blocks north of campus, and summer days were spent riding bicycles between classroom buildings and construction sites that would later be University landmarks.

Faculty Spotlight: Christopher Hacon
Christopher Hacon, distinguished professor of mathematics, is attempting to solve complex math problems that have stumped scholars for nearly 200 years.