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.”

2015 Award Winners and Scholarship Recipients

The Department would like to congratulate the following 2015 award winners and scholarship recipients:

Frederick V. Atkinson Teaching Award (excellence in teaching by Postdoctoral Fellows):

  • Nicholas Hoell (working with Adrian Nachman)
  • Geoffrey Scott (working with Marco Gualtieri)

Daniel B. DeLury Teaching Awards (excellence in instruction for graduate students in mathematics):

  • Yuri Cher, student of Catherine Sulem
  • Ali Mousavidehshikh, student of Ragnar Buchweitz
  • Yuan Yuan Zheng, student of Stevo Todorcevic
  • Trefor Bazett, student of Lisa Jeffrey/Paul Selick

Vivekananda Graduate Scholarship (academic excellence in graduate studies for international students):

  • Benjamin Briggs, student of Ragnar Buchweitz

We thank the faculty members, undergraduate students and course instructors who took the time to submit their nominations.  We have many excellent instructors and teaching assistants who are hardworking and regularly inspire and challenge their students.

The department held a ceremony in the Math lounge on Thursday, June 11, 2015 at 3:00 p.m.  to celebrate.  At this same ceremony we also took the opportunity to honor our graduating master’s and doctoral students.  - (photos coming soon)

Congratulations once again to Nicholas, Geoffrey, Yuri, Ali, Yuan Yuan, Trefor and Benjamin!  And very best wishes to our graduating class!

UofT Math Graduate Co-Winner of 2015 CMS Doctoral Prize

Yuval Filmus, who completed his PhD in 2013 for his thesis Spectral methods in extremal combinatorics at the University of Toronto, was recently awarded the 2015 CMS Doctoral Prize along with Hector H. Pasten Vasquez (Queen’s University).

This is the first time the award was given to two recipients which speaks to the quality of both their work.

Further information on the award, this year’s recipients and the CMS can be found here:

Congratulations to both Yuval and Hector on this prestigious award.

Math Outreach Featured in Alumni Stories

RickRossUofT alumnus Rick Ross was recently featured in an article profiling alumni and in it he discusses his involvement with our Summer Math Kangaroo camp and his other volunteer activities in math, engineering and business.

The full article can be found here

Past Graduate Student Wins International Award

Congratulations to a past graduate student from the department, Logan Hoehn (2011) who was the winner of the inaugural Mary Ellen Rudin Young Researcher Award Fund.

Further information on the prize can be found here

2014 ICM Speakers

We are delighted to announce that four of our faculty members have been invited to speak at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) to be held in Seoul, Korea in 2014.

  • Professor Jim Arthur has been invited to give a plenary lecture
  • Professor Balint Virag has been invited to speak in the Special Section on Probability and Statistics
  • Professors Robert Jerrard and Robert McCann have been invited to speak in the Special Section on Partial Differential Equations

Being invited to speak at the ICM is often regarded as one of the highest honours that a mathematician can receive. It is a truly international recognition of the depth and ground breaking impact of their research.

In addition, two graduates of our doctoral program have been invited to speak as well.

  • Professor Izabella Laba received her Ph.D. under the direction of Professor Michael Sigal and will be speaking in the Special Section on Analysis and its Applications.
  • Professor Ilijas Farah received his Ph.D. under the direction of Professor Stevo Todorcevic and will be speaking in the Special Section on Logic and Foundations.

They are now faculty members at UBC and York University respectively.

Our congratulations to all the speakers!

Canadian IMO Team Strikes Gold…

… and Silver and Bronze!

This year’s Canadian IMO (International Mathematics Olympiad) had a clean-up year for medals at this year’s competition.  The team, coached by Lindsey Shorser (an instructor with the Math Department), along with David Arthur, Ralph Furmaniak, and Alex Fink, won 6 medals (one for each of the team members).  In addition, the team leader was Jacob Tsimerman, who was a former U of T undergraduate math specialist.

In total the Canadian team walked away with 3 gold medals, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals.  This success ranks Canada 5th in the world out of 100 countries which is the best standing Canada has received since it started participating in the IMO in 1981.

The full story, complete with a picture of the team and a breakdown of the medals, can be found here

Further Stories

Our congratulations go to the team, its leaders and its coaches!  Great work!