Welcome

Welcome to the Toronto Math News Blog.

Here you will find news stories and information relevant to the Department of Mathematics.  We have stories on events, awards, community participation, achievements of our faculty, staff, students and alumni, and much more.

If you have a story to tell please let us know at outreach@math.utoronto.ca

Please note: we have recently added our archived stories to the new blog format and apologize for any date errors.  We have attempted to preserve the original story dates where possible.

Three Faculty to speak at 2018 International Congress of Mathematics in Rio de Janiero

Three of our faculty members have been invited to speak at the 2018 International Congress of Mathematics (ICM) in Rio de Janiero, Brazil:

* Konstantin Khanin will speak in the research area of Dynamical Systems and ODEs joint with Mathematical Physics
* Benjamin Rossman will speak in the research area of Mathematical Aspects of Computer Science
* Jacob Tsimerman will speak in the research area of Number Theory.

The conference will be held August 1-9, 2018.  More info on the event can be found here.

For a full list of speakers to the event, see here.

New Royal Society Fellow – Robert Jerrard

The department is proud to announce that Professor Robert Jerrard has been added as a new member of the Royal Society of Canada in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

The full announcement can be read here:

 

The ArtSci Effect Article

This past Spring (2016) Planet ArtSci sat down with the Chair of the Department, Professor Kumar Murty, to record a podcast about mathematics and how to approach mathematics, conquer the fear of it, and appreciate its creative aspects.

Recently the ArtSci Effect wrote an article based on this podcast.

The article can be found here:
http://artscieffect.utoronto.ca/features/its-all-about-math/

John Friedlander and Henryk Iwaniec to Receive 2017 AMS Doob Prize

The Department is proud to announce that Professors John Friedlander (Uoft) and Henryk Iwaniec (Rutgers) have been awarded the 2017 AMS Joseph L. Doob Prize.

The official AMS Press Release follows:

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Providence, RI—John Friedlander of the University of Toronto and Henryk Iwaniec of Rutgers University will receive the 2017 AMS Joseph L. Doob Prize. The two are honored for their book Opera de Cribro (AMS, 2010).

The prime numbers, the building blocks of the whole numbers, have fascinated humankind for millennia. While it has been known since the time of Euclid that the number of primes is infinite, exactly how they are distributed among the whole numbers is still not understood. The Latin title of the prizewinning book by Friedlander and Iwaniec could be translated as A Laborious Work Around the Sieve, where in this context a “sieve” is a mathematical tool for sifting prime numbers out of sets of whole numbers.

The Sieve of Eratosthenes, dating from the third century BC, is a simple, efficient method to produce a table of prime numbers. For a long time, it was the only way to study the mysterious sequence of the primes. In the early 20th century, improvements came through the work of Norwegian mathematician Viggo Brun, who combined the Sieve of Eratosthenes with ideas from combinatorics. Tools from another branch of mathematics, complex analysis, came into play through the work of English mathematicians G.H. Hardy and J.E. Littlewood, and of the iconic Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (protagonist of the 2016 film The Man Who Knew Infinity).

For 30 years, Brun’s method and its refinements were the main tools in sieve theory. Then, in 1950, another Norwegian mathematician, Atle Selberg, put forward a new, simple, and elegant method. As his method was independent of that of Brun, the combination of the two gave rise to deep new results.

The latter part of the 20th century saw the proof of many profound results on classical prime-number questions that had previously been considered inaccessible. Among these was a formula for the number of primes representable as the sum of a square and of a fourth power, obtained by Friedlander and Iwaniec in 1998.

With these developments, the time was ripe for a new book dealing with prime-number sieves and the techniques needed for their applications. Written by two of the top masters of the subject, Opera de Cribro is an insightful and comprehensive presentation of the theory and application of sieves. In addition to providing the latest technical background and results, the book looks to the future by raising new questions, giving partial answers, and indicating new ways of approaching the problems.

With high-quality writing, clear explanations, and numerous examples, the book helps readers understand the subject in depth. “These features distinguish this unique monograph from anything that had been written before on the subject and lift it to the level of a true masterpiece,” the prize citation says.

The two prizewinners collaborated on an expository article on number sieves, “What is the Parity Phenomenon?”, which appeared in the August 2009 issue of the AMS Notices.

Born in Toronto, John Friedlander received his BSc from the University of Toronto and his MA from the University of Waterloo. In 1972, he earned his PhD at Pennsylvania State University under the supervision of S. Chowla. His first position was that of assistant to Atle Selberg at the Institute for Advanced Study. After further positions at IAS, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he returned to the University of Toronto as a faculty member in 1980. He was Mathematics Department Chair from 1987 to 1991 and since 2002 has been University Professor of Mathematics. He was awarded the Jeffery-Williams Prize of the Canadian Mathematical Society (1999) and the CRM-Fields (currently CRM-Fields-PIMS) Prize of the Canadian Mathematical Institutes (2002). He gave an invited lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Zurich in 1994. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Founding Fellow of the Fields Institute, and a Fellow of the AMS.

Born in Elblag, Poland, Henryk Iwaniec graduated from Warsaw University in 1971 and received his PhD in 1972. In 1976 he defended his habilitation thesis at the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences and was elected to member correspondent. He left Poland in 1983 to take visiting positions in the USA, including long stays at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In 1987, he was appointed to his present position as New Jersey State Professor of Mathematics at Rutgers University. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1995), the US National Academy of Sciences (2006), and the Polska Akademia Umiejetnosci (2006, foreign member). He has received numerous prizes including the Sierpinski Medal (1996), the Ostrowski Prize (2001, shared with Richard Taylor and Peter Sarnak), the AMS Cole Prize in Number Theory (2002, shared with Richard Taylor), the AMS Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition (2011), the Banach Medal of the Polish Academy of Sciences (2015), and the Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences (2015, shared with Gerd Faltings). He was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Helsinki (1978), Berkeley (1986), and Madrid (2006).

Presented every three years, the AMS Doob Prize recognizes a single, relatively recent, outstanding research book that makes a seminal contribution to the research literature, reflects the highest standards of research exposition, and promises to have a deep and long-term impact in its area. The prize will be awarded Thursday, January 5, 2017, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta.

Find out more about AMS prizes and awards.

Contacts:
Mike Breen and Annette Emerson
Public Awareness Officers
American Mathematical Society
201 Charles Street
Providence, RI 02904
Email: paoffice@ams.org
401-455-4000

* * * *

Founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship, today the American Mathematical Society fulfills its mission through programs and services that promote mathematical research and its uses, strengthen mathematical education, and foster awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and to everyday life.

James G. Arthur to Receive the 2017 AMS Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement

2015-02-04-wolf-prize--arthur_600x400-(2)

photo credit: Diana Tyszko

The Department is proud to announce that Professor James Arthur has been awarded the 2017 AMS Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement.

The official AMS Press Release follows:

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Providence, RI—James Grieg Arthur will receive the 2017 AMS Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement “for his fundamental contributions to number theory and harmonic analysis, and in particular for his proof of the Arthur-Selberg trace formula.” Arthur is a University Professor and holds the Ted Mossman Chair in Mathematics at the University of Toronto.

James G. Arthur has made deep and lasting contributions to mathematics. The pinnacle of his work is the Arthur-Selberg trace formula, which elucidates profound connections between properties of numbers on the one hand, and geometric shapes on the other. Building on the pioneering work of Atle Selberg from the 1950s, Arthur created a whole mathematical framework and introduced many major tools. The Arthur-Selberg trace formula is developed in 16 long and difficult research papers that Arthur published between 1974 and 1988. His work on the trace formula, which continues to this day, stands at the center of a highly active research area to which many mathematicians the world over are contributing.

This work fits into a larger effort known as the Langlands Program, which Arthur’s doctoral advisor, Robert P. Langlands, inaugurated in the late 1960s and expanded in the 1970s. The Langlands Program posits a series of deep and far-reaching connections among several parts of mathematics that seem, at first glance, to be unrelated. The program has inspired an enormous amount of mathematical research, in which James G. Arthur has been one of the central figures. His work has had and will continue to have an enormous impact on several branches of mathematics.

Today, at the age of 72, Arthur continues to produce research at the highest level. Because his area of research is often considered to be among the most technically forbidding in mathematics, Arthur has worked hard to make the area more accessible by producing high-quality expository works, which have in turn stimulated more interest and new work. An example is his article “Harmonic Analysis and Group Representations,” which appeared in the January 2000 issue of the Notices of the AMS.

Arthur has a strong commitment to education. This can be seen, for example, in remarks he presented as AMS president, on the occasion of the awarding of the 2005 Abel Prize to mathematician Peter D. Lax. In his remarks, Arthur noted the stimulation such prizes provide to research at the highest levels. The prize “is of enormous benefit for other reasons as well,” he said. “The effective teaching of mathematics is essential for the future well-being of society. Talented students need to be encouraged to pursue the subject. It is equally important that young men and women see the teaching of mathematics as an honourable calling. Public recognition [of Abel Laureates] resonates the world over [and] becomes a source of pride and inspiration for students and teachers alike.” The full text of his remarks appeared in the August 2005 issue of the Notices of the AMS.

Over the course of his career, Arthur has received many honors. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the AMS. He received the Canada Gold Medal in Science and Engineering in 1999, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Ottawa in 2002, and the Wolf Prize in Mathematics in 2015. He has given several addresses at International Congresses of Mathematicians, including a Plenary Lecture at the 2014 Congress and a Plenary Lecture at the first Mathematical Congress of the Americas in 2013.

Arthur’s dedication to cultivating and supporting scholarship and research has led to his appointment to several senior administrative roles internationally. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the International Mathematics Union (1991-1998) and the Academic Trustee for Mathematics on the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Advanced Study (1997-2007). He also served as president of the AMS from 2005-2007. One of his lasting legacies as AMS president is the establishment of the AMS Einstein Public Lecture in Mathematics, delivered annually by an outstanding mathematician with a flair for communicating with the general public.

Presented annually, the AMS Steele Prize is one of the highest distinctions in mathematics. The prize will be awarded Thursday, January 5, 2017, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta.

Find out more about AMS prizes and awards.

A photograph of Arthur is available upon request to paoffice@ams.org.

Contacts:
Mike Breen and Annette Emerson
Public Awareness Officers
American Mathematical Society
201 Charles Street
Providence, RI 02904
Email: paoffice@ams.org
401-455-4000

* * * *

Founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship, today the American Mathematical Society fulfills its mission through programs and services that promote mathematical research and its uses, strengthen mathematical education, and foster awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and to everyday life.

In Memorium: Professor Harriet Botta

Written by Debby Repka (Lecturer at University of Toronto)

DSCN1182Harriet Botta, Professor of Mathematics at York University, died on June 23, 2016. She was the wife of  the late Peter Botta,  Undergraduate Coordinator in the Mathematics Department for many years. Harriet’s high intelligence and gift for mathematics made her unique. There were very few women of her generation who had the courage to pursue this subject; in fact, women were directed away from the sciences. Harriet faced great adversity as she entered the job market. She was told by the then Chair of the Department at the University of Toronto that she shouldn’t apply for a position here because she would be taking a job away from a male who had to support a family.  Despite her disappointment, she persevered and eventually was hired by York University. No department chair today would dare turn away a talented woman scientist, and this is thanks in part to the determination of Harriet and a few other female pioneers to remain academic mathematicians.

Harriet had a special relationship with her husband Peter. Finding a soulmate was not an easy task given the prejudice of most men of her generation against smart women. Peter was progressive beyond his time and wished to share his life with someone who could appreciate his scientific interests. Together they had a rich intellectual life, engaging in lively discussions on a wide range of topics. They were generous in these explorations, opening their home to all those who wanted to join in. Both Peter and Harriet were avid readers, so they had a broad perspective on many issues, challenging friends to think beyond their preconceptions. Often these conversations took place around the dining room table, while Peter served rarefied treats like blini and caviar and, on other occasions, heartier fare like the sausages and flapjacks of the lumberjack breakfasts of his youth.

Harriet deeply appreciated Peter’s achievement of moulding the members of the administrative staff in the Department into a family. With his encouragement, they established harmonious relationships that extended beyond the office, and their long-lasting friendships will endure into the future. Because of the spirit of cooperation and the dedication that Peter fostered, he was able to bring about important innovations in the undergraduate mathematics program. To honour his legacy, Harriet established a fund that, each year, treats the administrative staff to lunch in an elegant restaurant. Her thoughtful gift makes a continuing vital contribution to the Department. She will also be remembered by her many friends among the faculty.

What her friends and colleagues will recall most about Harriet is that she was a true lady. She was raised in an era in which good manners were inculcated in young people, and she never abandoned her high standards. While the society around her became more and more crass, she retained an air of refinement and sophistication. Even towards the end of her life, when her physical suffering was great, she never lost her dignity.  To quote Plutarch:  “The generous mind adds dignity to every act, and nothing misbecomes it.”

2016 Daniel B. DeLury Teaching Assistant Award Winners

We are happy to announce that this year’s winners of the Daniel B. DeLury Teaching Assistant Awards for graduate students in mathematics are:

  • Tracey Balehowsky
  • Beatriz Navarro Lameda
  • Nikita Nikolaev
  • Asif Zaman

The selection committee consisted of Mary Pugh, Abe Igelfeld and Peter Crooks.

Nominations were made by faculty members, course instructors, and undergraduate students.

The awards recipients will receive a monetary award and a certificate during our awards/graduation reception scheduled for Thursday, May 26 at 3:10 p.m. in the Math lounge.

Congratulations Tracey, Beatriz, Nikita and Asif!