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.

Wahl invited lecturer at KAIST CMC School

BodyFile_530fe21768651Professor Jon Wahl joins three other international invited speakers this week in Daejeon, Korea for the 2014 KAIST CMC School on Algebraic Geometry, where he will speak on “Smoothing of complex normal surface singularities.”

Congratulations to Jon for this honor, and wishing him an enjoyable trip.





Carolina Math Club

A student-led undergraduate math club was recently started by freshmen Anya Katsevich (President), David Spencer (Vice President), and several other students. So far the club has hosted mathematical talks by both Prof Karl Petersen and by undergraduate David Yavenditti. The club has also organized a panel discussion on summer opportunities for math majors, including REU programs, summer research with a professor, study abroad, and summer internships with companies. Current and former undergraduates shared their experiences of these different opportunities, and a representative from the Study Abroad Office was on hand to answer questions.

The club is planning more activities for the spring semester. For more information, see the club on Facebook and Student Life.

Thanks to Justin Sawon for serving as the faculty advisor, with additional help from Linda Green.

Triangle Lectures in Combinatorics return to Chapel Hill

The Triangle Lectures in Combinatorics is a series of combinatorial workshops held each semester on a Saturday in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, funded by the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation. The workshop this spring will be hosted by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on February 22, 2014. It will include four one hour invited talks as well as coffee breaks and ample time for discussions throughout the day. There will also be two related seminar talks on Friday afternoon just prior to the meeting.

More information about the conference can be found at its web site,

Thank you to Prof. Richard Rimanyi for being the department member on the Spring 2014 TLC Organizing Committee.

Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest

Gathering up a missed, unreported Department news item from the Fall, it is nevertheless with enthusiasm that we congratulate the sixteen Carolina undergraduate students who competed in the 35th annual Virgina Tech Regional Mathematics Contest on October 26th, 2013. Contestants at each participating school took a two-and-a-half hour exam on their own campus under the supervision of one of their own faculty members. Overall, 107 colleges participated with 726 entrants and five students scored the maximum number of points.

The top scorers from Carolina were:

  • Michael Greenberg, 16th
  • Marshall Lochbaum, 39th
  • Tyler Blanton, 65th
  • Xiaoyin (Eugene) Liu, 89th
  • Craig Gambegi, 141st

Congratulations to all and a special thank you to Professor Justin Sawon for administering the event here at Carolina.