Math
Times


Department
of Mathematics University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign 
Fall
2007

Sullivans fund mathematics chair in appreciation for educationby Robin Fossum, Senior Regional Director, University of Illinois Foundation A new chair in the Department of Mathematics will be established due to the generosity of University of Illinois alum Nancy Koerner Sullivan and her husband John 'Bruce' Sullivan of Las Vegas, Nevada. This prestigious named chair will be filled by attracting a mathematician of the highest caliber to the University of Illinois, bringing honor to the department and university, and providing a huge boost to our research program and the training of our students. The Sullivan Chair is the first such endowed chair for the department. Nancy is originally from Illinois where she grew up in Park Ridge. Her father was a local butcher who, with their mother, encouraged all three of their daughters to continue their education at a university. As it turned out, all three of the Koerner daughters were accepted and attended Illinois at the UrbanaChampaign campus. Nancy graduated from Illinois in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in LAS/Teaching of Mathematics. Following graduation she went to the University of TennesseeKnoxville where she received her Master of Science in Computer Science. While at Tennessee, she met her future husband, Bruce. Nancy and Bruce spent most of their careers in Houston, Texas, where Bruce was a pharmaceutical representative and Nancy used her academic skills first with Dow Chemical and later retired as a test specialist with Accenture. Following their retirement, Nancy and Bruce moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where they purchased a home on a golf course. Bruce enjoys golfing several days a week and Nancy is fully enjoying her retirement with Bruce and their little fourlegged friend, Tex. The Sullivans made a careful decision while deciding their estate plans. Both felt that their respective educations added much to their future careers, and it was decided to divide their estate between both Illinois and Tennessee. The department and the university are grateful to the Sullivans for this tremendous deferred commitment and look forward to having them visit Altgeld Hall many times in the future. Thank you Nancy and Bruce! First recipients chosen for Lackner Fellowship, ScholarshipThe Department of Mathematics is excited to announce the Dr. Lois M. Lackner Mathematics Fellowship and the Dr. Lois M. Lackner Mathematics Scholarship. Support for the fellowship and scholarship are provided by the Lois M. Lackner Fund for Female Students in Mathematics, which gives preference to female students of Czechoslovakian descent. The graduate fellowship of more than $12,500 will be used to support deserving students whose studies and research will benefit from this appointment. The first Lackner Fellow has recently been selected: Ida Svejdarova. The fellowship will allow her to spend more time on research in the area of combinatorics, finish her Ph.D. program sooner, and give her more freedom to attend conferences. Since she will be relieved of her duties as a teaching assistant, the department will be able to provide assistantships to additional students who would not otherwise have received them. The first undergraduate scholarship recipient has also been selected: Melissa Schwerha. She will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Melissa is a junior math major and an outstanding member of the secondary education program in mathematics. Now in her fifth semester at Illinois, Melissa has a GPA in math courses of 3.79 and an allcampus GPA of 3.88. The scholarship and fellowship were made possible by a generous gift from Dr. Lois LacknerStrong. The Office of the Provost of the University of Illinois has provided matching support for the Dr. Lois M. Lackner Mathematics Fellowship and the Department of Mathematics is providing additional support for the Dr. Lois M. Lackner Mathematics Scholarship. Dr. LacknerStrong holds three degrees from the University of Illinois: a 1957 B.S. and 1958 M.S. in the teaching of mathematics and a 1968 Ph.D. in education. Dr. LacknerStrong lives with her husband, Donald Strong, in Sun City, Arizona. The couple is very active and enjoy pistol target shooting. Mr. Strong is an expert marksman and teaches firearm safety. Dr. LacknerStrong has been a member of the renowned Sun City Poms since 2000 and currently serves as director of the group. The Poms are an acrobatic dance group of senior ladies that do splits, headstands, pyramids, leg lifts and angels. Miles named new director of undergraduate studiesJoseph Miles is the department's new Director of Undergraduate Studies, taking over from Randy McCarthy in August 2007. Miles received a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois in 1963, majoring in mathematics and chemistry, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1968. He joined the U of I Department of Mathematics in 1969. Miles says, "A lot has changed in undergraduate mathematics education here since my days as a student. Then most freshmen began with a fivehour course in analytic geometry, which we have now boiled down to about two lectures in second semester calculus, and instate students were paying tuition of seventyfive dollars a semester. On the other hand, I took Math 346, my first course in complex variables, out of Churchill's book in 1961, and today we use the seventh edition of the same book in the same course, which we now call Math 446." This is an exciting time in undergraduate education in our department, with significant recent changes in our calculus sequence and our honors program, with major changes in our linear algebra offerings to be implemented this year, and with increasingly active student organizations such as MATRIX. Miles invites old friends and new friends to stop by the Undergraduate Office in 313 Altgeld Hall for a visit and to share thoughts about further improvement of our undergraduate program. Change in managing editor for Illinois Journal of MathematicsFor the past ten years A.J. Hildebrand has served as Managing Editor of the Illinois Journal of Mathematics (IJM). His commitment to IJM and service record in this position will not soon be equaled. Under his leadership the journal has undergone a major reorganization, implementing a sophisticated system of centralized electronic processing of papers which has significantly reduced the burden on editors and allowed the processing of submissions to become more streamlined and timely. Streamlining IJM's production has an added costsaving benefit, putting subscription rates for IJM among the very lowest for mainstream mathematical journalscurrently 11 cents per page. Although operating under the auspices of the University of Illinois, IJM is supported entirely through subscription costs and receives no subsidies from the university or the Department of Mathematics. In addition, IJM provides a significant benefit to the university in the form of exchange subscriptions to several hundred journals which the Mathematics Library receives at no cost. The Illinois Journal of Mathematics was founded in 1957 by R. Baer, J.L. Doob, A. Taub, G. Whitehead and O. Zariski and quickly established itself as a preeminent journal of mathematics. Since its beginning IJM has enjoyed a rich history in published mathematical research. Perhaps its most notable published article was the proof of the Four Color Conjecture by K. Appel and W. Haken of the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign. Distinguished researchers such as A. Calderon, S.S. Chern, H. Kesten and K. Uhlenbeck have served as editors. Through the initiative of A.J. Hildebrand, IJM has recently begun a series of "special" volumes. The first two in this series are dedicated to the remarkable research influence and accomplishments of Reinhold Baer and Joseph L. Doob. The preceding paragraphs serve to highlight some of the notable achievements of A.J. Hildebrand's tenyear career at the helm of IJM. They underscore some of the more visible examples of his vision and innovation in the role as Managing Editor. They do not reveal the real workload assumed by A.J. in that role. When asked by the Search Committee of former IJM editors to write up a job description of his daytoday tasks, the document A.J. produced came to eleven pages. For his untiring devotion and work ethic, the Department of Mathematics owes A.J. Hildebrand a large debt of gratitude. Under new IJM Managing Editor Phil Griffith, some operational changes will occurthe biggest change being that the copy editing and typesetting functions will be outsourced. IJM Editorial Assistant Debbie Broadrick will remain in her position. Debbie is key to maintaining a smooth and efficient operation in the flow of information between editors, authors and referees. 
In this issue:

Nathan Dunfield, Associate Professor Ph.D. 1999, The University of Chicago Dunfield's work focuses on 3dimensional geometry and topology, in particular on questions related to surfaces in 3manifolds, using tools from a wide range of mathematics, including hyperbolic geometry, number theory, probability, dynamics, algebraic geometry, and combinatorial group theory. He is also interested in geometric group theory, especially the mapping class groups, and experimental mathematics. After completing his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, he spent four years at Harvard University as a Benjamin Peirce Assistant Professor followed by four years at the California Institute of Technology as an Associate Professor before joining us in UrbanaChampaign. He is currently an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow. His wife, Julie Cidell, has also joined the faculty at the U of I in the Geography Department. 

Hal Schenck, Associate Professor 

R.E. Lee DeVille, Assistant Professor Ph.D. 2001, Boston University DeVille joined the department as an assistant professor and has recently moved to Champaign with his wife, Sushma. DeVille received his Ph.D. at Boston University in 2001, under the direction of Gene Wayne. Before coming to Illinois he was a VIGRE Instructor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and then a Courant Instructor at New York University's Courant Institute. His research interests include stochastic analysis, stochastic modelling, and analysis of PDE. 

Nikolaos Tzirakis, Assistant Professor Ph.D. 2004, University of Massachusetts, Amherst Tzirakis, a native of Greece, received his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Before coming to UrbanaChampaign he held a position (20042005) at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. During 20052007 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto. His research interests are in dispersive partial differential equations and harmonic analysis. He has studied the long time behavior of the Cauchy problem for certain dispersive equations and systems. Examples include the Schroedinger equation, the wave equation and the Zakharov system. In particular he is concerned with the qualitative behavior of such solutions, like asymptotic stability or behavior of higher order Sobolev norms and maximalintime theory at minimum regularity. Tzirakis is married to Zoi Rapti, a J.L. Doob Research Assistant Professor in the U of I Department of Mathematics. 

Jiri Lebl, J.L. Doob Research Assistant Professor Ph.D. 2007, University of California at San Diego Lebl was born in Prague when it was still Czechoslovakia but has lived in the U.S. since 1991. He received a Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of California at San Diego under the supervision of Peter Ebenfelt. Lebl is currently interested in CR geometry (several complex variables) and most things related. He is married to a Ph.D. chemist, Marketa, and has a 1yearold daughter Maia who, as of yet, does not hold a Ph.D. in anything. In the past Lebl was a free software programmer and was employed by Eazel (now defunct) and Red Hat, and worked mostly on the GNOME user interface project. 

Jeremy Rouse, J.L. Doob Research Assistant Professor Ph.D. 2007, University of WisconsinMadison Rouse, a native of California, received his Ph.D. at the University of WisconsinMadison in 2007 under the direction of Ken Ono. Rouse's research interests involve elliptic curves, modular forms, analytic number theory, and the relationships between them. He enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, solving sudoku, and making homemade pizza. 

Andrew Schultz, J.L. Doob Research Assistant Professor 

Sujith Vijay, J.L. Doob Research Assistant Professor Ph.D. 2007, Rutgers University Vijay received his doctorate from Rutgers University under the supervision of Professor Jozsef Beck. His dissertation dealt with arithmetic progressions, and his research interests lie at the intersection of combinatorics and number theory. He is an avid fan of Douglas Adams, Tom Stoppard, Kurt Vonnegut, P.G. Wodehouse, Calvin & Hobbes, Monty Python and pre1970 Peanuts. 

News  
From the department chairGreetings to alumni and friends of the Department of Mathematics! We've received an enthusiastic response to the new format of Math Times. Please keep in touch and continue to tell us what you've been doing. We'll keep you connected with current news about the Department of Mathematics at the University of Illinois and provide articles of interest. The current issue contains a focus on private support and its importance to the department. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we have recently added several new endowments which will be used to support named chairs, professorships, scholarships, and fellowships, supplementing our existing complement of valued endowments. Some of these are described in this issue, along with other news about exciting departmental activities. I am very proud of our faculty, students, staff, and alumni, who together make the math department a vital place! Sheldon Katz Wetzel and Jerrard receive Pólya AwardJohn E. Wetzel and Richard Jerrard (professors emeriti of the U of I Department of Mathematics), the late Joel Schneider, and Ralph Smallberg received a 2007 George Pólya Award given for articles of expository excellence published in the College Mathematics Journal. Their winning article was "Straw in a Box," College Math. J. 37, no. 2 (2006) 93102. According to the citation from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), "The authors lead us through the many geometric, algebraic, numerical and computational twists and turns seeking a more accurate solution to an ambiguously worded multiple choice question on the New York Board of Regents exam that asks for the longest straw that could fit into a 3 inch by 4 inch by 8 inch box." The Pólya Award, established in 1976 by the MAA, is named after the renowned teacher and writer George Pólya. Collaboration tying elliptic cohomology and string theoryby Matthew Ando, Associate Professor The guiding idea of algebraic topology is to connect problems in topology to problems in other areas of mathematics. Exploring such relationships typically sheds light both on topology and on the mathematics to which it is connected. Part of what makes elliptic cohomology exciting is that it not only connects topology with several areas of mathematics, but also with physics. How it connects these things remains mysterious, but the hope is that probing this mystery will give some access to rich and previously hidden structure in topology. For example, elliptic cohomology has a strong relationship to number theory, via the theory of elliptic curves (from which it gets its name). Recently, Ando and his Illinois colleague Professor Charles Rezk, working with Professor Mike Hopkins of Harvard University, used the connection to number theory to prove a conjecture about the elliptic cohomology of certain topological spaces called "string manifolds." The special role of string manifolds, and the conjecture they proved, descend from work of the physicist Edward Witten, who in the 1980s showed that there should be a rich interaction between elliptic cohomology and the physics of string theory. In the intervening twenty years, there have been huge advances in both elliptic cohomology and string theory. Ando and Sharpe will use their respective expertise in mathematics and physics to come to a better understanding of the relationship between elliptic cohomology and string theory. Ando and Sharpe met when Sharpe was a postdoc in the Mathematics and Physics Departments at Illinois, working with Professor Sheldon Katz. The wealth of activity which makes such encounters possible is an important feature of the scientific environment at the University of Illinois. Did you know...Of the graduate students who successfully defended Ph.D. theses last spring or summer...
200 probabilists spend week at SPA 2007Dawn broke on August 6th to find over 200 probabilists in UrbanaChampaign. The 32nd conference on Stochastic Processes and their Applications (SPA'07) was held in Altgeld Hall the week of August 610. The SPA meetings are yearly international events held under the auspices of the Bernoulli Society for Mathematical Statistics and Probability and are cosponsored by the Institute for Mathematical Statistics (IMS). The conference was organized by Robert Bauer, Renming Song, and Richard Sowers (U of I Mathematics Department), Sean Meyn (U of I Electrical and Computer Engineering Department), and Tom Kurtz (Departments of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of WisconsinMadison). There were 15 invited speakers, about 20 special sessions, and 150 contributed talks. The conference hosted a number of honors; the Ito Prizes and Levy Lecture (both supported by Elsevier), and IMS Medallion Lectures. The conference also hosted the inaugural Doob Lecture, given by Marc Yor of the University of Paris VI, who summarized some of Doob's insights and pointed out that his work is still a motivation for new research. The Doob Lecture will be held annually at SPA meetings and is supported by the Illinois Journal of Mathematics. Joseph Doob was one of the founders of the IJM and was one of the titans of probability theory. His publications and books laid much of the foundation of modern probability. An NSFsupported roundtable on future directions in probability was also held at the conference. Organized by Ed Waymire (from Oregon State University) and Philip Protter (Cornell University), this discussion framed some of the current challenges facing probability, both from a funding and curricular standpoint and from the (real or perceived) dichotomy between pure and applied research. The conference dinner was an occasion for the probability community to say goodbye to Frank Knight, who was a faculty member at the U of I for many years and who passed away this year. Frank's contributions to the theory of Brownian motion and stochastic processes were deep and powerful. David Heath (emeritus, Carnegie Mellon) and Ed Perkins (University of British Columbia) remembered Frank both as a person and as a mathematician. Support for the conference was provided by a number of federal agencies (the Army Research Office, the National Science Foundation, the National Security Agency and the Office of Naval Research) and the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications. A number of University of Illinois units also provided support (the Center for Advanced Study, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Coordinated Science Laboratory, the Office of the Provost, and the Department of Mathematics). The organizers would like to thank all who both supported and attended the conference. For more see http://www.math.uiuc.edu/SPA07/. Halberstam and Selfridge honored at Number Theory Fest 2007An international conference on number theory was held on the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign campus May 1620, 2007. The meeting celebrated the 80th birthdays of Heini Halberstam and John Selfridge. Halberstam has been a member of the U of I Mathematics Department since coming in 1980 from the University of Nottingham, where he had been head of the mathematics department and dean of the faculty. He was department head here for 71/2 years, and retired in 1996. Selfridge served on the faculties of the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign and Northern Illinois University and had been chairman of the NIU Department of Mathematical Sciences for several years. He also served as Executive Editor of Mathematical Reviews from 1978 to 1986, where he spearheaded the computerization of the MR operations and laid the foundation for the development of MathSciNet. The U of I Department of Mathematics traditionally hosts a regional number theory conference annually and occasionally hosts an international conference. Number Theory Fest 2007 was the fifth such large meetingthe others being the Ramanujan Centenary (1987), Bateman Retirement (1989), Halberstam Retirement (1995), and Millennial Conferences. At the 2007 meeting there were 157 registered attendees (from at least 16 countries), 22 plenary lectures, and 69 contributed lectures. Among the plenary speakers were Kevin Ford and Alexandru Zaharescu from the U of I Department of Mathematics. Support for the conference was provided by the National Science Foundation, the National Security Agency, the Number Theory Foundation, and the U of I Mathematics Department. The conference organizers were Bruce Berndt, Harold Diamond, and Kevin Ford of the University of Illinois and Michael Filaseta of the University of South Carolina; A.J. Hildebrand of the University of Illinois was the conference coordinator. Number Theory Foundation funds conferences, projectsThe Number Theory Foundation (NTF) is a philanthropic organization created by John Selfridge, one of the honorees at the Number Theory Fest 2007 meeting. Selfridge has been the principal donor to NTF as well. The NTF has been in operation since 1999. Its purposes, according to its charter, are "to advance the science of number theory through scholarly investigation, study, and research" by making grants "for educational, scientific and charitable purposes." In practice, most grants of NTF are in support of conferences on number theory, although some have been made to individuals for number theory projects. For example, The Prime Pages http://primes.utm.edu was created with the assistance of an NTF grant. The NTF has several connections with the University of Illinois. The University of Illinois Foundation (UIF) provides oversight and counsel for its operations, and Robin Fossum of UIF participates in meetings of the NTF Board. Paul Bateman, Harold Diamond, and Bruce Reznick of the U of I Math Department serve as members of the NTF Board. Also, the U of I Math Department hosts the NTF website and NTF was one of the supporters of the recent Number Theory Fest conference. Read more about the Number Theory Foundation on the web at http://www.math.uiuc.edu/ntf/.


Alumni News  
Alumna Profile: Peggy Ruffby Jim Dey When Peggy Ruff enrolled at the University of Illinois in fall 1971, she planned to teach mathematics. Thirtyplus years later, the 53yearold Ruff is vice president for logistics at Tate & Lyle Ingredients America in Decatur, Ill. Ruff discovered that the classroom didn't suit her tastes. But she completed her bachelor's degree in math and figured, correctly it turned out, that she eventually would find a job that suited her. "I didn't know what I wanted to do," Ruff recalls. She started working as a parttime clerk and steadily moved up the corporate ladder. In her current position, one she has held since 1998, Ruff supervises roughly 100 employees responsible for serving customers and distributing Tate & Lyle products both domestically and internationally. The company produces food ingredients from corn, potatoes, and tapioca, and Ruff said its products make their way into "virtually everything on the grocery store shelf." "Logistics doesn't make it, and we don't sell it. But we're involved in everything else" she said. It's a big job, one that Ruff loves. "I get to solve problems," she said. Ruff credits her success to knowledge and confidence gained studying math. "I don't sit in my office and do polynomial equations. But I do use the problemsolving process I learned at the U of I," she said. Ruff likes to share the details of her success with U of I math students because she wants them to know that they have more career options than they might realize. She's spoken at meetings of MATRIX, an organization of mathematics majors, and at career information nights in the College of Liberal Arts and Science. She's also had fun connecting with other LAS graduates as a member of the LAS Alumni Association board and describes her association with the U of I as "very rewarding." Ruff grew up in a workingclass family in Decatur, and she said that it "never crossed my mind" that she would have a career as a corporate executive. But her math education taught her that all things are possible. "My opportunities at Illinois taught me how to think and how to analyze problems and projects," Ruff said. "I absolutely felt like I could do any assignment or any job they would ask me to do." 
Peggy Ruff Education: 1975 B.S. Mathematics, U of I. Career: Vice President for Logistics, Tate & Lyle Ingredients America, Decatur, Illinois. 
Alumni EventsActuarial Science Alumni Homecoming Event Oct. 27 Department of Mathematics to host alumni reception in San Diego 

AfterMath


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posted 10/06/07