Fall 2008 Department News

July 15, 2008

Professor Chi-Kwong Li completed his term as mathematics department chair in June 2007, and David Lutzer became chair for the next three years. During 2007-08, our students and faculty continued to win academic awards, with five students completing honors theses. Professors John Drew and Dana Johnson retired during 2007-08. After extensive searches, the department was successful in hiring four new tenure-track faculty, replacing colleagues who had retired or who had left for other university positions, and bringing the department back to its authorized size of twenty tenured and tenure-track faculty and one instructor. In addition, the department continued to make progress in its special project areas -- biomathematics, CCLI, CSUMS, summer conferences, and summer undergraduate research, all with outside grant support.

Student Awards

In his final year as a William and Mary undergraduate, Ashwin Rastogi won the Jefferson, Botetourt, and William and Mary Mathematics prizes. Rastogi was a mathematics and physics double major who, during his undergraduate years, published one paper in chemistry and two in mathematics (jointly with Chi-Kwong Li). Based on his undergraduate research, he won the 2008 Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy at Charter Day in 2008. At graduation in May 2008, he won the College's Botetourt Prize (given to the graduating senior with the most outstanding academic record) and he won the William and Mary Mathematics prize, the department's highest academic honor. He will attend graduate school at Harvard, in physics.

Elizabeth Wilson won the department's Conner Prize. In addition to having an outstanding academic record, Ms Wilson was president of the College's chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honorary. She will attend mathematics graduate school at Michigan State University.

Each year the department gives the Cissy Patterson Awards to other mathematics majors with truly outstanding academic records. This year's Cissy Patterson winners were Amanda Guthrie, Andrew Hughes, Lauren Merrill, and Evan Saltzman.

Five mathematics majors completed honors theses in the spring of 2008. They (and their thesis adviser) are:

  • Tanner Crowder (Chi-Kwong Li) whose thesis title was "A study of genetic codes by combinatorics and linear algebra approaches"
  • Paul McMichael (Charles Johnson) whose thesis title was "Multiplicity lists for classes of Hermitian matrices whose graph is a certain tree"
  • Lauren Merrill (Charles Johnson) whose thesis title was "A survey of social choice failures: majority and Borda rules"
  • Jonathan Nuckols (Charles Johnson) whose thesis title was "Trees and the implicit construction of eigenvalue multiplicity lists''
  • Evan Saltzman (Lawrence Leemis) whose thesis title was "Multivariate non-homogeneous Poisson processes".
Faculty Awards and Books

Two department members were named to special professorships at the College. Professor Michael Lewis was appointed as Stephens Associate Professor in April, and it was announced that Professor Lawrence Leemis would be appointed as University Professor of Teaching at the Board of Visitors meeting in September. In addition, Professor Junping Shi received the Faculty Research Award from the College's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in spring 2008.

Professor Li was the 2008 winner of the department's Simon Prize for Teaching Excellence at graduation in May 2008. The Simon prize is awarded based on student nominations, and the winner is chosen by a committee consisting of three undergraduates, the previous year's Simon Prize winner, and the department chair.

Publication of a new faculty book as announced by Spring-Verlag as part of its International Series in Operations Research and Management Science. The title will be "Computational Probability: Algorithms and Applications" by John Drew, Diane Evans, Andrew Glen, and Lawrence Leemis. The book is related to work that won a national research prize for these four authors in 2006.

The doctoral thesis of Pal Tian, a new biomathematics faculty member who joined the department in fall 2007, was published by Springer-Verlag in the spring of 2008 as volume 1921 in the Springer Lecture Notes series. The title is "Evolution algebras and their applications".

The final report of the CBMS2005 survey was published by the American Mathematical Society during 2007-08. Funded by the NSF and coauthored by David Lutzer, Jim Maxwell, Stephen Rodi, and Ellen Kirkman, that 300 page report is a comprehensive study of the undergraduate program in mathematics and statistics at U.S. colleges and universities.

David Phillips, an assistant professor who joined the department in fall 2006, spent the 2007-08 academic year on leave at Columbia University's operations research department, where he help a postdoctoral appointment. He will return to the College in fall 2008.

During 2007-08, more than half of the department's faculty members were supported by competitive outside grants. Sarah Day, who joined the department in January 2006, received a three-year NSF grant to support her research. The NSF also approved a five-year extension of the department's long-term summer REU grant in matrix analysis, under the direction of Charles Johnson. Rex Kincaid received NASA grant funding to support himself and a graduate student to work on airline network schedule problems.

Faculty Retirements

Professor John Drew retired from the department after almost forty years at the College. As noted by the Board of Visitors retirement resolution, Professor Drew won the College's highest teaching award (the Graves Award) in 2003 and then he and Professor Leemis and two of their doctoral students won a national professional award in 2006 for the year's best work at the interface of operations research and computer science. BOV resulution

Professor Dana Johnson, an instructor in the department for many years, also retired in 2008. She taught a wide spectrum of courses, ranging from freshman calculus to our senior seminar for mathematics majors who plan to teach in high school. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that she won the department's Simon Teaching Excellence award not once, but twice.

New Faculty Appointments

National searches during 2007-08 led the appointment of four new tenure-track assistant professors and a one-year visiting assistant professor, all of whom will join the department in the fall of 2008. Our new tenure-track colleagues are:

  • C. Ryan Vinroot, who received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and held postdoctoral appointments in India and at the University of Arizona. His research interests are in combinatorics and representation theory. <\li>


  • Gexin Yu, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 2006 and held a postdoctoral position at Vanderbilt. His research interests are in combinatorics and graph theory.

  • David Hasler, who received his Ph.D. from ETH in Zurich in 2002 and held postdoctoral positions at the universities of Copenhagen, British Columbia, and Virginia. His research interests are in mathematical physics and analysis.

  • Tanujit Dey, who will receive his Ph.D. in statistics from Case Western University in the fall of 2008. He studies model selection problems, with published applications in econometrics and health care.

In addition, the department will have one visiting assistant professor for 2008-09, replacing Professor Ilya Spitkovsky who will be on leave. Our visitor is Hyunju Ban who received his Ph.D, from Florida Atlantic University in 2006 and who held a postdoctoral appointment in biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt. His research interests are in computational dynamics.

Special Departmental Projects

The College's mathematics and biology departments jointly hold a special biomathematics grant from NSF's UBM program. Now in its third year, it is designed to encourage undergraduates to study and pursue research in the rapidly growing area of biomathematics. A report on biomathematics activities in 2007-08 is available at Biomathematics report.

The mathematics, computer science, and applied science departments jointly hold an NSF CSUMS grant designed to promote undergraduate study and research in the broadly defined area of computational mathematics. A report on CSUMS activity during 2007-08 is available at CSUMS report.

Ever since 1990, the National Science Foundation has funded a summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) project at William and Mary, in matrix analysis and its applications. Because formal notification of the renewal funding for that award was delayed, it was impossible to organize a matrix analysis summer REU program during summer 2008. The program will resume in summer 2009.

Over the last four years, the mathematics department has cooperated with the School of Education to offer special summer programs for middle school mathematics teachers. Those programs are funded by the state and federal Mathematics and Science Partnership program. See Mathematics Education report.

William and Mary has received two NSF grants to experiment with the undergraduate mathematics curriculum, both under the leadership of George Rublein. Some years ago, the first CCLI grant led to creation of a new general education course and the second, now in progress, is attempting to bring chemical applications into the standard calculus course. See CCLI report.

The mathematics department frequently hosts national mathematics research meetings, and in summer 2008 there will be two. The first is the IWOTA conference, funded by NSF [IWOTALINK], and the second is the Whitney Problem workshop, funded by the Office of Naval Research. See Whitney Workshop report.