Robert Joseph and Myra Ficklen Joy Excellence Fund

From the Spring 2014 issue of the Carolina Arts & Sciences magazine: Student’s work in fluids lab inspires math gift.

The Joy endowment will support math undergraduates — as well as graduate and postdoctoral students — with stipends, research materials, equipment and conference and symposia expenses. Those resources will supplement their classroom experience and inspire them to use what they have learned to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

A special thank you from all of us in the Department to the Joys for this important support of Carolina Mathematics.

Mathematics students selected as UNC Phillips Ambassadors

Two students from the mathematics department have been selected as UNC Phillips Ambassadors for study abroad in Asia. Benjamin Director, a mathematics and economics double major, with a minor in business administration, will study at the National University of Singapore Business School in the fall. Daniel Holmgren, a computer science major with a minor in mathematics, will study through the National University of Singapore – Honors University Scholars Exchange program.

The Phillips Ambassadors is a program of UNC’s Carolina Asia Center, in association with the study abroad office. Phillips Ambassadors are selected twice a year and receive $5,000 each. Selection is based on strong communication skills, intellectual curiosity and engagement, academic achievement, evidence of generous service to the campus and wider community, and a previous record of leadership.

Phillips Ambassadors choose from more than 50 UNC-approved academic programs in Asia that are approved by the College of Arts and Sciences and UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Scholarship recipients enroll in a global studies course designed uniquely for them. Led by Carolina faculty, the course challenges students to explore their study abroad locale in significant detail and seek understanding of the region in a global context.

A distinguishing feature of the program is an emphasis on what is called a “Give Back,” or sharing of one’s study abroad experience in Asia with the Carolina community and a student’s hometown. In accepting the scholarship, students agree to fulfill a Give Back related to their study abroad experience. Give Backs range from published articles, classroom presentations at a student’s hometown high school, photo and art exhibits, musical performances, to group projects focused on Asia.

The Phillips Ambassadors Program is made possible through a generous gift from Carolina alumnus Earl N. “Phil” Phillips, an entrepreneur and former United States ambassador, and his family.

“Our goal with this gift has been to encourage more students to spend their study abroad experiences focused on Asia — an increasingly vital region of the future,” said Phillips, who splits his time between High Point and Chapel Hill.

Congratulations to Benjamin and Daniel for this honor.

Carolina Mathematics professors connect research to Flight 370 investigation

Department Chair Rich McLaughlin and Professor Roberto Camassa appear in a recent campus update highlighting their work in the Joint Fluids Laboratory. Congratulations to them and all of their collaborators in the lab.


Carolina students in the 2013 Putnam Competition

The results from the latest annual William Lowell Putnam Competition, held this past December include strong performances from a number of Carolina undergraduates.

Four of our students ranked in the top 10% of this year’s 4113 contestants. Michael Greenberg scored 40 points (out of a maximum of 120 in what is famously and always a difficult test), ranking him 136th. Joining him on our official school team, Eugene (Xiaoyin) Lu scored 30 (ranked 266th) and Marshall Lochbaum scored 29 (ranked 333rd). Also performing exceptionally, first-year David Spencer scored 31 (ranked 208.5th).

Also scoring on the exam were Tyler Blanton, Justin Price, and Otis Skipper. As usual, over half of the entrants scored 0, so anyone with a positive score is to be congratulated!

Overall, our Carolina team was ranked 13.5th, one of our strongest showings. Importantly, none of these students are seniors, so we look forward to another great performance next year.

Congratulations to all of these students for a job well done. Thank you to Justin Sawon for serving as the faculty mentor to the team.

Mathematics at the 2014 UNC Science Expo

Last weekend, the Department of Mathematics had another great showing at the annual UNC Science Expo. The department hosted a variety of booths and activities outside (on a prototypically gorgeous Carolina spring day), as well as special demonstrations in the Joint Applied Math and Marine Sciences Fluids Lab.

The corn starch walk is always a particular favorite, appearing in the University Gazette’s special photo gallery of the Science Expo.

Thank you to Jeremy Marzuola for organizing the department’s participation in this important campus-wide event. Our pictures of the event were taken by Marzuola, department chair Rich McLaughlin, and graduate student Claudia Falcon.

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Donaldson gives 2014 Alfred Brauer Lectures


Sir Professor Simon Kirwan Donaldson, who recently became a permanent member of the Simons Center at Stony Brook, gives the Alfred Brauer Lectures in Mathematics this week, titled “Canonical Kähler metric and algebraic geometry.” The first of these three lectures was held yesterday afternoon, followed by a reception, with the remaining lectures today and tomorrow.

Professor Donaldson became internationally famous with his 1983 D. Phil. thesis “The Yang-Mills equations over Kähler manifolds,” which proved stunning new results about distinguishing differentiable structures on four-manifolds. This seminal work revolutionized the approach to geometry in dimension four, and led to his receiving the Fields Medal in 1986 (before he reached the age of 30). Through articles, books, and over 40 thesis students, he has influenced complex and symplectic geometry, in particular with recent work on Kähler metrics on manifolds, the topic of his Brauer Lectures.

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Professor Donaldson (left) speaks with Professor Varchenko (right) at the reception following the first of his three lectures.

Besides his Fields Medal, Donaldson has among other honors won or shared the Crafoord Prize, Polya Prize, King Faisal Prize, and Shaw Prize. A Fellow of the Royal Society since 1986, he is also a Foreign Associate Member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the French Académie des Sciences.

The Alfred Brauer Fund was established by the Department of Mathematics in 1984 on the occasion of Dr. Brauer’s ninetieth birthday , and the Alfred Brauer Lectures began in 1985. The most recent Brauer Lecturers have been Peter Sarnak, János Kollár, Andrew Majda, Jeff Cheeger, Shing-Tung Yau, Percy Deift, Charles Fefferman, Claire Voisin, Alex Eskin, Gérard Laumon, Alexander Lubotzky, and Vaughan Jones.

A special thank you to Jon Wahl (pictured left below with Donaldson on right) for once again organizing this year’s Brauer Lectures.

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Marzuola wins NSF CAREER award

CrystalcuspProfessor Jeremy Marzuola has been named a recipient of a Faculty Early Career Development “CAREER” award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

As the NSF describes, “The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”

Titled Nonlinear PDE Models in Mathematical Physics and Experiment, Marzuola’s CAREER award provides him with $440,000 of research support over five years, allowing him to explore the mathematics of a variety of physical model systems, including but not limited to crystal surface evolution (as in the image here, from a recent paper by Marzuola and Jon Weare).

Marzuola is the fourth Carolina Mathematics faculty member to win a CAREER award while a member of the Department, joining Peter Mucha in 2007, Jason Metcalfe in 2011, and Laura Miller in 2012. Additionally, Rich McLaughlin won a CAREER award at Utah in 1997 and brought the grant with him when he moved to Carolina, making Marzuola our fifth overall recipient of this prestigious award affiliated with the Department.

Congratulations to Jeremy on this outstanding recognition.