Peter Mucha is a Recipient of the Inaugural Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Award

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is pleased to announce recipients of the Inaugural Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Award:

  •    Peter Mucha, Ph.D., Bowman and Gordon Gray Professor of Mathematics,

Department of Mathematics

  •  Gail Henderson, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Social Medicine
  • Aravinda de Silva, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
  • Stephanie Gupton, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology

The award recognizes a faculty member or advisor who has engaged in exceptional mentoring of postdoctoral scholars as evidenced by the following:

  • Has advocated for postdoctoral scholars.
  • Has been accessible and provided open lines of communication to postdoctoral scholars.
  • Has created a supportive environment for research; has shown respect for the postdoctoral   scholars’ goals, and assisted them in fulfilling those goals.
  • Has provided guidance in research career and assisting the postdoctoral scholars in building a professional network through generous sharing of contacts.
  • Has demonstrated a sustained commitment to creating a productive working environment that enhances the overall postdoctoral experience.

The recipients are welcome to join us for the National Postdoctoral Appreciation Week luncheon on Friday, September 23, 2016 at noon, in the lobby of the FedEx Global Education Center.  Each recipient will be presented with a plaque in recognition of being selected as an outstanding mentor during our Annual Postdoctoral Awards for Research Excellence in November.



Idris Assani Consults on Africa STEM Projects for the World Bank


The article below is posted on the UNC College of Arts & Sciences website.

UNC mathematics professor Idris Assani has been a consultant on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) projects in Africa for the World Bank since 2013.

He will travel to Benin (his home country), Cameroon and Burkina Faso in November to check on the progress of the Africa Centres of Excellence, a project led by the World Bank in partnership with the Association of African Universities.

The centers partner with existing universities to strengthen their capacity to deliver high quality training and applied research and to encourage students to pursue STEM degrees.

“The World Bank provides them with financial support to help them enhance their STEM, health or agricultural research to have an impact on the development of the region,” Assani said. “In Burkina Faso, for example, one of the projects they’ve been working on involves water management — recycling, waste management, the impact on agriculture and environment. There is another center in Nigeria focused on health that has made major contributions to fight against the Ebola virus.”

There are about 40 centers throughout Africa, with World Bank funding for the project set to end in 2018. Assani said one of the reasons he was attracted to the project was its emphasis on results and sustainability.

“We help them develop concrete and effective evaluation plans, then we visit to make sure the plans are happening,” he said. “The financing is based on results. … If only 10 or 15 percent manage to sustain themselves, I’ll be happy.”


Assani called the centers a “landmark project for the World Bank.”

He came to UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1988, after completing two years as a postdoctoral fellow in the department of mathematics at the University of Toronto in Canada. In 1986, he completed his “Doctorate es Sciences” at the University of Paris 6 in France. In 2012, he became an inaugural fellow of the American Mathematical Societyand also served on its selection committee that year.

“This is a great opportunity for Africa,” he said. “I came from Benin to North America to do research, and there are many people with the brain power to do that.”

Assani strongly believes that the mathematics department should be involved in global outreach. He brought two students from Ghana to UNC who graduated with master’s degrees between 2008 and 2011. He also organizes the Ergodic Theory Workshop every year since 2002 with continuous National Science Foundation support, and invites many scholars from all over the world, including Africa and Latin America. While mathematics might seem to be an abstract concept, he believes that the skills developed in training can be crucial in addressing complex problems.

“The analytical mindset can help you get significant results and structure solutions, and that’s what most of these countries need,” Assani said.

Read more about the African Centres of Excellence.

Nancy Rodriguez discusses Women in Science

Mathematics Professor, Nancy Rodriguez was featured in the Women in Science Wednesday series, produced weekly by UNC Research.  July 20, 2016, the University Gazette did an article on Nancy as she discusses Women in Mathematics.

Political Ties Award

We would like to congratulate Skyler Cranmer, Elizabeth Menninga, and Peter Mucha on their receipt of the *Political Ties Award* for their article, “Kantian fractionalization predicts the conflict propensity of the international system,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Vol. 112, No. 38) last fall. The Political Ties Award is given by the Political Networks section of the American Political Science Association (APSA) for the best article published on political networks the prior year. This award will be officially awarded at the PolNet Business Meeting at APSA, on Thursday, September 1, 2016.


We regret to announce the passing of Joe Burton Linker, Jr., a long time, strong supporter of UNC Mathematics.

Joe Burton Linker Jr., 92, born in Durham NC, raised in Chapel Hill NC.  He passed away on 7/21/2016.  He was a resident of Carol Woods Retirement Community to which he came after having been away from Chapel Hill for 47 years.  He was the son of math Professor Dr. Joe Burton Linker and Ione Markham Linker.

In 1944 he graduated from UNC-CH with a BS in Physics, then was immediately commissioned Ensign USNR receiving technical radar training at Harvard and MIT and was assigned pacific sea duty as radar officer on the naval cruiser as World War II came to an end. Returning to graduate school after active duty he was an Instructor in UNC’s Department of Mathematics as he took graduate physics courses pending entering NC State Engineering School.  In 1949 he completed his MS in Electrical Engineering degree and began his technical career at General Electric’s Electronics Laboratory in Syracuse NY.  He was honored to be made of member of Eta Kappa Nu, a member of Sigma Xi, and later, a Senior Member of IEEE.  He was soon licensed as a professional Engineer in New York.  He was a graduate of General Electric’s high recognized 3-year graduate Advanced Engineering “ABC” Course.

In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the J. Burton Linker  Distinguished Professorship in Mathematics (100550) at UNC-Chapel Hill,  with checks payable to the Arts and Sciences Foundation, Campus Box 6115, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-6115, or at

Professor Chris Jones selected as the Martin Kruskal Lecturer for 2016

Congratulations to Professor Chris Jones for being selected as the Martin Kruskal Lecturer for 2016.

The SIAM Activity Group on Nonlinear Waves and Coherent Structures (SIAG/NWCS) awards this prize for a notable body of mathematics and contributions in the field of nonlinear waves and coherent structures. The prize honors Martin David Kruskal for his fundamental contributions in many areas of mathematics and science, including his single most celebrated contribution, the discovery and theory of solitons.

The members of the selection committee were Mariana Haragus (Chair), Alejandro Aceves, Peter Miller, and Robert Pego. They wish to recognize you for your “outstanding contributions to the stability analysis of traveling waves and seminal work on geometric singular perturbation theory and spectral theory.” Their citation continues: “As an inspiring mentor of young researchers, he has made a mark in the applied mathematics community.”

The prize will be awarded at the 2016 SIAM Conference on Nonlinear Waves and Coherent Structures (NW16), to be held August 8-11, 2016, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As part of the award, he is invited to present a plenary lecture, the Martin Kruskal Lecture, at NW16.

UNC Math Undergrads present their research at UNC Celebration for Undergraduate Research Poster Session

Several of our math undergrads got to show off their research at the annual UNC Celebration of Undergraduate

Research, hosted by the UNC Office of Undergraduate Research.  This year the following undergrads presented:


Matt Chancey

Matt Chancey, working with Physics Professors J. Silano, N. Parikh, and H. J. Karowski”, presented “Fission Fragment Damage Studies”

Grace McLaughlin2

Grace McLaughlin, working with Professor Laura Miller, presented:  The Effects of Moon Jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) Upside-Down Jellyfish (Cassiopeia) Motion on Stratified Density Layers”.

Gabi Stein

Gabi Stein, working with Professors Roberto Camassa, Rich Mclaughlin, and graduate student Claudia Falcon, presented: “Validity of Theory for Spheres Falling in Stratified Fluid:  Does Diffusion Play a Role?”.

Mitchell Underwood

Mitchell Underwood, working with UNC math postdoctoral scholar, Daniel Harris, presented “Droplet Generation by Cylinder Extraction from a Free Surface”.


Grace McLaughlin, supported last summer from a competitive SURF fellowship from the UNC Office of Undergraduate Research won first prize for her poster.

This coming summer, David Spencer, who will be working with Professor Jason Metcalfe, has been awarded a summer

SURF fellowship.


Congratulation to all of our scholars!