Message from the Chair

June 21, 2022
2022-06 - Message from the Chair - Main Image

Dear All,

We have recently wrapped up a remarkable academic year. Lots of things have happened, and I would like to go over the main headlines since the last edition of the Departmental Newsletter in the format of an imaginary Q&A session:

Yes, Baylor University did achieve R1 status

and the Mathematics Department played its part in this historic achievement. Through this recognition, Baylor University has joined the very selective group of top research universities in the nation. Fittingly, I am writing this letter while at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, CA, one of the world’s leading centers for collaborative research in mathematics, where I am working with a large group of doctoral graduate students from around the world, including students from Baylor University, eager to be learning the latest advances made in the areas of mathematics in which they wish to specialize.

Dr. Dorina Mitrea stands in front of a sign that says R1

No, we did not have to resort to online instruction

for 98% of our classes, which were offered face to face. The Baylor brand continues to be very strong, a reflection of the outstanding teamwork of our faculty, staff, and students (graduate and undergraduate). The enrollment in mathematics classes this last year was over 6,000. I again want to express my deep gratitude to the teachers in the Mathematics Department for their commitment to educating, mentoring, and guiding our students. In this regard, congratulations are in place to Tommy Bryan for being the winner of an Outstanding Faculty Award for teaching for the 2021-2022 academic year. Visit here to read what this recognition means for Tommy and to see a picture of President Livingston (who presented the award) with our very own Tommy Bryan.

Yes, we have had promotions, new hirings, retirements, and other events celebrating our faculty.

Congratulations to Jameson Graber, who will be starting in August 2022 as an associate professor with tenure. To learn a bit about Jameson’s journey in research see the self-authored piece posted here.

Three new regular faculty and two postdoctoral fellows have been recently hired, and they will be joining the department on August 1, 2022. These are Christoph Fischbacher, as a tenure-track assistant professor, Mariah Barnes and Ian Grigsby, as regular lecturers, and William Erickson and Sheng Yin, as postdoctoral research fellows. Since last summer, we have also had a new office manager, Sonny Seyler, who has hit the ground running and, as anybody that has worked with her can attest, has already made such a difference. We welcome them all to the Mathematics Department at Baylor!

The end of May has marked the retirements of Manfred Dugas, Kathy Hutchison, and Randy Hall. A special colloquium celebrating Manfred Dugas 70th birthday and 35 years of service at Baylor took place on April 22, 2022, featuring a talk by Kulumani Rangaswamy from University of Colorado. Click here to learn more about this event and Manfred’s remarkable career, through an overarching piece authored by Daniel Herden and the words of some of Manfred’s (past and present) colleagues.

Kathy Hutchison’s teaching and 37 years of service were celebrated and recognized in a special colloquium talk on May 5, 2022, given by Amy Goodman. Use this link to see a poster of Amy’s presentation and read an essay written by Dana Gwynn highlighting Kathy Hutchison’s legacy in teaching and service.

We are also grateful to our colleague Randy Hall, who has been teaching calculus for many years and who is leaving Waco this summer, for the dedication he has shown to our department as well as the enthusiasm and love of mathematics he has shared with our students. Last but not least, we much value the contributions of Margaret Salinas, who is now retiring after more than 20 years of service in the Mathematics Department.

Many thanks go to all retirees for everything they have done for our students, the Mathematics Department, and Baylor University. May the next chapter in their lives be a joyful and rewarding one!

The chance to celebrate Lance Littlejohn’s 70th birthday with a special colloquium came on November 12, 2021, featuring a presentation by Fritz Gesztesy. For details, including remarks on this occasion from Lance’s colleagues, visit here.

Yes, we were able to host in-person research conferences

on the Baylor campus. Remarkably, there have been four major scientific events hosted here during Spring 2022. These were wonderful opportunities to showcase the latest advances made in a wide range of areas of mathematics by some of our very own faculty and graduate students, amongst hundreds of professional experts affiliated with institutions all over the world. Here is the list of these events:

  • 2022 Southwest Local Algebra Meeting (SLAM), February 26-27, 2022, with local organizers Daniel Herden and Mark Sepanski (see the link);
  • The 55th Spring Topology and Dynamics Conference March 9-12, 2022, organized by Jonathan Meddaugh (lead), Reeve Hunter, Brian Raines, and David Ryden (see the link);
  • The 85th Midwest Partial Differential Equations Seminar, April 29- 30, 2022, organized by Dorina Mitrea and Marius Mitrea (see the link);
  • The Baylor Analysis Fest "From Operator Theory to Orthogonal Polynomials, Combinatorics, and Number Theory", May 23 - 27, 2022, organized by Fritz Gesztesy and Andrei Martinez-Finkelshtein (see the link). This conference honored Lance Littlejohn’s life-long career in mathematics, as well as his accomplishments as the chair of the mathematics department at Baylor University, a position in which he served for over a decade. We thank him for all that he has done in this capacity!

Yes, our graduate and undergraduate programs are thriving, and our students continue to distinguish themselves.

Out of the total of 35 students enrolled in our graduate program this year, 10 are graduating. It is therefore incredibly exciting to think about the opportunities lying ahead for them! Six of these are completing their PhD degrees: Larry Allen, advised by Rob Kirby, Chian Chua, advised by Tao Mei, Henry Ickes, advised by Johnny Henderson, Alan Mullenix, advised by Jameson Graber, Mads Reynolds, advised by Jonathan Meddaugh, and Jonathan Stanfill, advised by Fritz Gesztesy. See here for more details. In addition, Blake Allan, Nina Garcia Montoya, Matt Jaynes, and Jordan Smith are earning masters degrees. Best wishes to them all as they plan the next steps in their careers!

On May 6, 2022, we had our traditional end-of-year luncheon during which a number of our senior mathematics students have been recognized. These are Nolan Craft, the recipient of the Beth Wilson Award, Chazney Markle, the recipient of the outstanding mathematics major award, Colby Shoults and Christina Ware, the recipients of the outstanding mathematics education major award. Also, this year’s outstanding graduate student instructor award went to Cordell Hammon. More on this here.

We are also proud of the 2021 Baylor University Putnam Exam Team, consisting of Joshua Mercurio, Qiance Tang, Alexander Newton, Hunter Handley, Ethan Rama, Avery Voight, and Clyde Kertzer (faculty coaches: Daniel Herden, Paul Hagelstein, Marius Mitrea, and Andre Martinez-Finkelshtein). For a picture of the Putnam Team visit here.

Vria Burrell, president, Warren Burrus, vice-president, and Dylan Bonin, treasurer, spearhead the Mobius Math Society in our department (with Steve Cates, Brian Simanek, Jeonghun Lee, and Brian Simanek serving as faculty advisers). On Saturday, October 12, 2021, the members of the Mobius Math Society represented us in the 110th anniversary of Baylor's historic Homecoming parade, one of the oldest and largest collegiate homecoming parades in the nation. Continue reading here about this experience, from the personal perspective of some of the participants.

No, mathematicians are not boring.

An exciting event of a singular nature took place on December 4, 2021, namely there was the chance to meet a professional mathematician in a public forum. Our colleague Jon Harrison was the protagonist in the series ``Meet the Scientist’’ organized by the Mayborn Museum, an occasion he used to talk to visitors about quantum chaos and its connections to slinkies, Facebook, billiards, and internet security. For more on this, click here.

On March 31, 2022, our faculty and students had the chance to listen to one of our alumni, Alexandra Pasi, who earned a PhD from the Math Department in 2021 and went on to co-found Lucidity Sciences. Her presentation Making Meaning: Advancing Your Career in Industry with the Art and Science of Mathematical Story-Telling, was a wonderful occasion to elaborate on the role of mathematicians in the corporate world, eloquently described by Lexi, in her own words, as "understanding the interplay of mathematical formalism, technical pragmatism, and human desire at every juncture to weave a story of order and meaning out of the chaotic landscape of data and possibility." More information on this hugely successful, well attended event, that brought together undergraduate students, grad students, and faculty, click here.

Yes, Vivienne Malone-Mayes was a faculty member of the Math Department at Baylor.

The 2022 Research Symposium of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), recently held in Minneapolis, MN, hosted a special session titled "Blackbird, Fly: The Legacy of Vivienne Malone-Mayes and African-American Women with AWM." This event, which I have co-organized, featured talks giving national prominence to the first African-American woman who has served as a faculty in the Math Department at Baylor, and who later went on to serve on the Executive Committee of AWM. From the broader perspective of the role mathematics plays in the context of science, I am reminded of one thought-provoking quote, coming from another African-American mathematician, Katherine Johnson (more about her life can be found here), who wrote
"We will always have STEM with us. Some things will drop out of the public eye and go away, but there will always be science, engineering, and technology. And there will always, always be mathematics."

Yes, we do need your support!

As always, the family of our alumni, donors, and friends of the Mathematics Department plays a vital role in making this institution as dynamic and successful as described above. A touching tribute to the life and generosity of Ralph and Jean Storm and a brief history of the endowed chair position made possible by their donation to the Mathematics Department, has been diligently put together by Fritz Gesztesy, who currently holds the Ralph and Jean Storm Chair. A full account of this enthralling portrait of the benefactors of this endowment, both Baylor graduates and passionate Baylor supporters throughout their lives, can be found here.

Lastly, I would like to thank Reeve Hunter for keeping our online News rubric up-to-date, and for his expert help. As in the past, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why
Bernard Baruch
Dr. Dorina Mitrea stands at MSRI below a plaque with Baylor University written on it. Out the window we see a view that looks out over Berkeley and down to the San Francisco Bay.
Dr. Dorina Mitrea wrote this letter from the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, CA. The view from MSRI looks down over Berkeley and all the way to the San Francisco Bay.
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