Iyengar organizes MSRI year

Srikanth Iyengar

Srikanth Iyengar

"Collaboration campus" is the best way to describe the environment that UNL Department of Mathematics faculty member Srikanth Iyengar finds himself in at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI).

Located on the University of California, Berkeley campus, this non-profit organization was established in 1982 for "the advancement and communication of fundamental knowledge in the mathematics and mathematical sciences" and is funded by revenue streams from the National Science Foundation, government agencies, academic sponsors, private foundations and individual contributions.

Iyengar is at the MSRI as part of his research leave, for which one semester is supported by a fellowship from the Simons Foundation.

On any given day, approximately 60 to 85 highly respected mathematicians with a broad range of areas of expertise can be found working at MSRI, the duration of their stay typically ranging from one to four months, or up to one full year.

"This includes a number of graduate students and early career faculty. For them, this gives an opportunity to interact with senior mathematicians; conversely, it gives the established researchers a chance to become familiar with the work of many of the mathematically ‘younger’ researchers. This is invaluable for both parties," Iyengar said.

While at MSRI, Iyengar said he is "working on developing new techniques and is enjoying participating in extended discussions which are broadening his experience of the field." The time to work in-depth on problems without as many of the interruptions one experiences in everyday academic life is one of the greatest draws for participants – giving them the gift of time.

David Eisenbud (University of California, Berkeley), UNL’s Iyengar Ezra Miller (Duke University), Anurag Singh (University of Utah) and Karen Smith (University of Michigan) make up the commutative algebra organizing committee whose formal proposal to MSRI to host a program was accepted and runs August 2012 through May 2013. The five organizers invited approximately 110 participants to take part in the program.

Iyengar said these individuals were selected based on "scientific merit, balance of disciplines within commutative algebra, broad spectrum of experience levels and diversity in every sense of the word."

MSRI is known for its dedication to aiding researchers at all levels of their development, thus postdocs work alongside graduate students and Ph.Ds. Iyengar is taking advantage of the opportunity to work with people he admires in the field, notably Aldo Conca, David Eisenbud, Joseph Lipman, Daniel Murfet and Anurag Singh.

"David (Eisenbud) is one of the leaders in the field, with expertise in a wide range of topics in commutative algebra and algebraic geometry. Over the past 40 years, he has developed many beautiful ideas, and I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to learn from him," Iyengar said.

Not only is MSRI a place where new connections can be made, but also it is a place where former colleagues can reconnect. Iyengar said he has been fortunate to reunite with former colleague UNL emeritus faculty member Roger Wiegand. He feels privileged to have had the chance to work with Wiegand again on a project for an extended period of time.

Thus far, Iyengar said he has taken the opportunity to attend some of the seminars in a parallel program on cluster algebras, running concurrently with the commutative algebra program, and also the weekly Eisenbud Seminar in the Department of Mathematics at the University of California.

When he returns home, Iyengar hopes to take with him new connections he has drawn to his existing work. He is taking advantage of the time and resources provided at MSRI and said he hopes to be able to share with the UNL community an expanded knowledge of the field of commutative algebra and beyond.

– Stephanie Vendetti