View from the Chair - Judy Walker

AMS Fellows

Judy Walker

The past year has been tremendous for the department, and I am grateful for a wonderful start to my time as chair. I feel fortunate to have inherited a department that is already thriving, thanks to the leadership of our previous chair, Professor John Meakin. It seems there are exciting things happening everywhere I look.

Our two new assistant professors – commutative algebraist Wenliang Zhang and mathematical ecologist Yu Jin – are excellent mathematicians and already proving themselves to be excellent colleagues. I couldn't be more pleased to have them here. Michael Hopkins, an Omaha native who is a Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, began a three-year appointment as a Visiting Research Professor in our department. Srikanth Iyengar was awarded a Simons Fellowship and is spending the year at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley, Calif., where he is organizing a yearlong research program. Carina Curto was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship, which is allowing her to focus exclusively on her research this academic year. Petronela Radu was selected as a Fulbright scholar and will teach and conduct research at Trinity College in Dublin in the spring. Six members of the faculty were named to the inaugural class of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, a truly impressive number given our relatively small size. I hope you enjoy reading about these and other faculty awards and activities in this newsletter.

As many of you know, I was graduate chair before becoming chair. You also may know that it was in large part because of the UNL mathematics graduate program that I was so excited to join the faculty 16 years ago. Our graduate program continues to be something of which I am incredibly proud. Our graduate students write papers and give talks at professional meetings as a matter of routine, while continuing to be excellent teachers. We are relying heavily this fall on our GTAs as we work to transform two of our first-year undergraduate courses into collaborative learning experiences, with the aim of significant improvement in success rates; more information on this is in the story on page 7. Also in this newsletter is a story about Ph.D. student Katie Haymaker, who holds a University of Nebraska Presidential Fellowship this year.

Our undergraduate program continues to thrive as well. A shining example that mathematics majors can go on to do anything, Mallory Slama is currently teaching English in the Czech Republic on a Fulbright Scholarship after graduating in August with majors in mathematics and mathematics education (and a minor in Czech). The number of math majors is on the rise. The department has set a goal to convince more (or all!) UNL undergraduates that almost any field of study is enhanced by mathematics, and that many students would benefit from adding math as a second major.

I consider myself very fortunate to be part of this department, and I am humbled by the opportunity to lead it. As I write this, I can say that in the past seven days, we have held the induction ceremony for the new members of our undergraduate honor society, Pi Mu Epsilon; Mike Hopkins gave a series of lectures for our graduate students and faculty; the six faculty members who were named AMS Fellows were featured on the main UNL webpage; Carina Curto was selected as a College of Arts and Sciences “Academic Star”; and more than 1,400 high school students were on campus for the 23rd Annual Math Day. It is a true privilege to be a mathematician at the University of Nebraska.

I hope you enjoy this newsletter.