Baylor Mathematics Comes a Long Way in a Short Time

Nov. 23, 2010

Follow us on Twitter: @BaylorUMediaCom

The graduate program in the department of mathematics at Baylor University is one of the youngest mathematics Ph.D.-granting departments in the country, but despite positive internal metrics, it took an external assessment like that conducted by the National Research Council to show just how far the department had come in just a few years.

Starting with three students and getting into full swing only in 2002, the mathematics graduate program at Baylor has now graduated 20 Ph.D. students in the past seven years. In addition, it has exhibited a steady growth in both quantity - 24 graduate students are fully supported - and quality, with GRE scores increasing by 22 percent over the past seven years. Moreover, Baylor mathematics doctoral students have a 100 percent success rate in job placement, with about 80 percent working in academia and the other serving in business and industry.

The recently released National Research Council report ranked Baylor sixth among mathematics departments at universities in the Big 12 Conference. In terms of scholarly research, the NRC has Baylor mathematics ranked third in the Big 12 in both "publications per faculty member" and "citations per faculty member."

What is most remarkable about the NRC ranking is that the data were gathered for 2005-06, when the young department was barely large enough to be included with the older, larger Ph.D. programs in the Big 12.

Since 2005-06, the department has only continued to grow and improve.

Active faculty researchers, teachers

In 2009, the 21 tenured/tenure-track mathematics faculty had 48 papers accepted or published in mathematics journals. This amounts to an average of 2.3 research publications per faculty member, one of the highest ratios in the United States.

Baylor's mathematics department has grown rapidly, with the addition of many excellent faculty members, each dedicated to teaching and research. In particular, the number of research concentrations in the department has nearly doubled and now includes active groups in algebra, algebraic geometry, analysis, differential equations, mathematical physics, numerical analysis, representation theory, and topology. Several mathematics faculty members have obtained grant support from various federal granting agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the Air Force and Teacher Quality Grants Program.

The department also hosts three annual lecture series. Two of the lecture series - the "Baylor Lecture Series in Mathematics" and the "Baylor Undergraduate Lecture Series in Mathematics" - bring in well-known mathematicians each year, including Fields medal winners, members of the National Academy of Sciences, and presidents of major mathematical societies. The other lecture series - "Life Experiences in Mathematics" - concentrates on inviting notable Baylor graduates, who have gone on to highly successful careers, to speak to students about the importance of mathematics.

Tradition of excellence

Along with the added emphasis on scholarly work, the mathematics department continues its tradition of excellence in teaching and dedication to helping students. For instance, the department houses one Baylor "master teacher." Three other faculty members have won national Distinguished Teaching awards from the Mathematical Association of America. Furthermore, the department currently hosts Dr. Ed Burger, who was honored by Baylor with the Robert Foster Cherry Professor for Great Teaching Award for 2010, and is one of the most outstanding, recognized and honored teacher in the United States.

Dr. Lance Littlejohn, chair of Baylor's department of mathematics, is impressed with the quality and commitment from the department's faculty in all respects.

"The department's previous chairs set the tone that excellence in teaching, research and mentoring of students was expected of our faculty," Littlejohn said. "It is wonderful that all of us are on the 'same page' when it comes to the essential duties of a university teacher/scholar. The atmosphere in the department is exceptionally collegial, friendly and professional and, I think, sets us apart from most math departments in the country."

Here's what two current Baylor graduate students say about the doctoral studies in mathematics:

Pedro Morales: "I like the openness of the professors. Here at Baylor there are lots of very good and talented teachers, always willing to help and discuss problems with you. They are very active and passionate about mathematics and willing to do deep into topics beyond the classroom. I've had lots of opportunities to attend seminars, give talks and publish papers while here."

Brian Williams: "The math department at Baylor really cares about its graduate students and it shows. Anytime a group of us has requested a class, we have never experienced any difficulty getting it offered. We also have comfortable teaching loads and large, individual offices. I've found the faculty to be very warm and engaging. I've never had any trouble getting help with a problem or finding an instructor for an independent study course. Upon arriving here, you quickly feel that the faculty is 'on your side' and really cares about your success."

In the coming years, Littlejohn said the department aims to continue to grow and to further shine in the national, and international, spotlight. The current trajectory suggests they are quite likely to achieve their goals.

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

Looking for more news from Baylor University?