April 14, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

The Southeast Geometry Seminar (SGS), is a semiannual series of one-day events focusing on geometric analysis. The 26th annual SGS was held this past February in Skiles. The School of Mathematics' John McCuan and Mohammad Ghomi organized the event, along with Joseph Fu (UGA), Vladimir Oliker (Emory), and Junfang Li (UAB). 

The first presentation of this program was given by Yuanzhen Shao (Perdue University) on "Degenerate and Singular Elliptic Operators on Manifold with Singularities". Shao was followed by Sungho Park , who studied at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and Georgia Tech. Park presented "Circle-foliated minimal and CMC surfaces in S3". 

Following Presentations included: 

  • Radial Limits of Bounded Nonparametric Prescribed Mean Curvature Surfaces by Mozhgan (Nora) Entekhabi (Wichita State University) 

  • Freeform lenses, Jacobian equations, and supporting quadric method (SQM) by Vladimir Oliker (Emory University) 

  • Stability and bifurcation for surfaces with constant mean curvature by Miyuki Koiso (Kyushu University) 

  • Unexpected non-uniqueness of equilibria for the 2D floating Ball by Ray Treinen (Texas State University) 

Abstract of these presentations can be found here

April 18, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

The largest mathematics meeting in the world, the Joint Mathematics Meetings, returned to Atlanta in early January. Over 6,000 mathematicians attended this week long event. Georgia Tech was well represented at the meeting, with over 30 paper contributions, 6 AMS special sessions hosted by several faculty members, panelists, and many more organizers of sessions and events. 

Two School of Mathematics professors had plenary roles. Michael Damron gave a series of lectures in an American Mathematics Society (AMS) Short Course on Random Growth Models. Damron was also an organizer of an AMS special session. Matt Baker was an invited speaker this year. He presented in the Current Events Bulletin on Hodge Theory in Combinatorics.

The Georgia Tech School of Mathematics is proud to have been well represented at the 2017 JMM.

April 20, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

The Simons Foundation’s Mathematics and Physical Sciences division named Matt Baker a 2017 Simons Fellow. The Simons Fellows in Mathematics program provides research leaves that allow recipients to take time away from the classroom and academic administrations, promoting intellectual stimulation and heightening creativity and productivity in their research. The recipients of this high profile award appeared in the "Science Times"  section of the New York Times this past March. 

Baker's research will cover Tropical Geometry, Combinatorics, and Dynamics. Baker was also an invited speaker at the Joint Mathematics Meeting in early January. He was also featured in the Get to know the School of Math Prof last year.

May 2, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

It’s a long way from Singapore to midtown Atlanta and Georgia Tech, but Ngoc Yen Chi Huynh (Chi to her friends) made the journey thanks to advice from an influential alumnus – who attended the same Singapore private school and went on to run a major airline. Even though she has embraced Southern humidity, sweet tea, and Saturdays at Bobby Dodd, she praises the Institute for its “international environment,” thanks to its student diversity. Huynh is graduating with a B.S. in Mathematics and will seek a Ph.D. in the field.

What attracted you to Georgia Tech?

I was able to attend United World College South East Asia (UWCSEA) in Singapore, thanks to the generosity of Robert A. Milton, a Georgia Tech and UWCSEA alumni, along with his wife, Lizanne. I learned about Georgia Tech through my many conversations with Mr. Milton. He praised the experience he had at Tech and gave me a good impression of the Institute even before I started making a list of colleges. He knew about my interest in pursuing a major in math or one of the sciences, so he suggested I should apply to Tech.

How would you describe your life before enrolling in Georgia Tech?

My high school was one of 13 United World Colleges, a system of high schools committed to creating a culturally diverse environment by allowing students from around the world to study together. As such, my high school experience was quite colorful and memorable. However, it was also a somewhat idealistic environment, so I sometimes felt I was living in a bubble. Georgia Tech was a nice change for me. It is still a very international environment, but closer to reality.

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?

I learned how to balance having a long-term goal and allowing yourself to live in the moment. During my first couple of years, I was too obsessed with the life I had planned for myself after college. I concentrated on graduating early. I became unhappy because I gradually realized I might have chosen the wrong major – at the time, I was studying industrial engineering. Thanks to the advice of friends, I decided to stop worrying and take classes that actually interested me, including math. This detour helped me not only to enjoy my time in college a lot more, but also to find the major that I really want to pursue.

What surprised or disappointed you the most about Georgia Tech?

I was surprised the most by how religious a lot of my friends are and how everyone seems to be very respectful of others’ beliefs. That made for a vibrant campus scene.

The one thing that disappoints me the most is the lack of support for international students on campus. That’s despite the size of this community. I know that the Office of International Education has been working hard to create a friendly, enriching environment for international students. However, in terms of experiences outside the classroom such as summer internships and research, I do not think there are a lot of publicized sources of help for these students on the Tech campus.

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?

Two professors in the School of Mathematics: Professor Christine Heitsch, who taught Foundation of Mathematical Proof and advised me on research, and Professor Kirsten Wickelgren, who taught me complex analysis and abstract algebra. They both gave me valuable career advice. They had an impact on me because they are very successful women in a male-dominated field. They helped me believe in myself and my prospects as a mathematician.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?

My most vivid memory of Tech has to be my first football game in 2013, the Georgia vs. Georgia Tech game after Thanksgiving. This was the first time I actually experienced school spirit as I got to watch what goes on in a football game: the marching band, the cheerleaders, the color guards, etc. I was somewhat in awe because this was something I only saw in movies. Participating in the game and its traditions really made me feel like I was finally a part of Georgia Tech.

If you participated in experiential learning activities, what was the most valuable outcome of your experience?

I have been involved in a research project on RNA folding in viruses with Professor Heitsch since spring 2015. When it comes to study abroad, I was part of the Language Business and Technology (LBAT): France program in Paris and Nice in summer 2015. This was an amazing experience during my time at Tech, as I got to immerse myself in the French culture and advance my French language skills. Thanks to this program, I was able to earn a minor in French without adding to my already busy schedule. 

On the basis of your experience, what advice would you give to incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech?

I would advise incoming freshmen to not shy away from challenges, whether it is a harder version of a class or a research opportunity. What fun is there to be in a situation where you don’t have to put in any effort to be good? It’s also completely okay to not know what you want to do as a freshman. I thought I wanted to study industrial engineering when I first enrolled, but I changed my major at the end of my sophomore year. 

What feedback would you give to Georgia Tech to improve the campus experience for future students?

Because of Tech’s size, it is sometimes difficult, especially for new and international students, to navigate the administration. It would help tremendously if there were more people among the faculty who have a good understanding of the challenges for new and international students.

In addition, I think the School of Mathematics is going in the right direction by designing a curriculum that allows math majors to declare different concentrations depending on their interests and long-term goals. However, from talking to several younger math majors, many are worried about what they can do outside of class to educate themselves about mathematical research. If the school could assist them in finding these opportunities along with choosing the right concentration, we could produce even stronger math majors.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I am heading to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Ph.D program in mathematics. Georgia Tech has prepared me very well, both in terms of the knowledge I gained during my time here and the skills not taught in the classroom.


May 3, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

In mid-April, Georgia Tech welcomed over 300 students who competed at the 2017 Georgia Tech High School Math Competition. Accompanied by teachers, coaches, and parents, the participants represented 36 high schools from around Georgia and nearby states. 

With the time and commitment of Georgia Tech's faculty and staff, and students, both graduate and undergrad, the School of Math (SoM) successfully upheld this annual Georgia Tech tradition, dating back to 1958. The SoM extends a big thanks to this year's organizing committee who made this event possible: Chris Jankowski, Sharon McDowell, Sudipta Kolay, George Kerchev, Shane Scott, and Annette Rohrs. Their hard work, along with that of over 30 volunteers, ensured this event was a major accomplishment. 

This year's competition conducted 4 exams, covering a wide range of material, including algebra, geometry, combinatorics, number theory, and basic calculus. Each school was allowed to send up to five teams with five students on each. The competition was fierce, and the top scores in the individual and team levels were very close.  

The winning teams were: 

First: Northview High School Team A  

Second: Chattahoochee High School Team A   

Third: Chamblee Charter High School Team A   

Fourth: GSMST Team E   

Fifth: Walton High School Team A   

This year's individual winners were: 

First: Kalen Patton, from Chattahoochee High School  

Second: Lawrence Zhou, from Trickum Middle School  

Third: Joshua Ani, from Chamblee Charter High School  

Fourth: Hari Pingali, from Lambert High School  

Fifth: Irene Zhou, from Northview High School  

May 4, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Charles Wang was enjoying success in science long before he set foot on Georgia Tech’s campus. When he was at at Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia, his Science Bowl team made three appearances at the national finals.

Now, as he departs Tech, he’ll be leaving with two Bachelor of Science degrees, in Chemistry and Computer Science. He will have almost as many credits as a mathematics major after discovering a love for math during his time at Tech. He’ll pursue that newfound passion as a Ph.D. student in math at the University of California, Berkeley.

Wang is also the recipient of the 2017 Love Family Foundation Scholarship, the highest award for a graduating senior, and the Robert A. Pierotti Memorial Scholarship, presented to a College of Sciences senior who excels in academics and research.

An interview from Wang’s high school days hinted at such stellar achievement. Wang said he started doing Science Bowls because his classmates “just kind of dragged me into it, and once I started, I couldn’t really stop.”

What attracted you to Georgia Tech?

Georgia Tech has been very affordable thanks to the HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarship.  I’ve been able to acquire an excellent education without much financial hardship. I also took classes at Tech during high school, which helped me make the transition between high school and college. Georgia Tech is also very good academically. 

How would you describe your life before enrolling in Georgia Tech?

I participated in Science Bowl and Science Olympiad in high school, and I took AP science and chemistry courses at Georgia Tech. I have always been fairly certain that I wanted to go to graduate school, and attending Georgia Tech has confirmed this for me. My hobbies include playing instruments (violin, piano, guitar), singing, and outdoor activities such as hiking. 

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?

The most important academic lesson has been to prioritize and enjoy learning, rather than optimizing every little detail to try to boost my grade. Ironically, when I worried less about my grades, I seemed to do better. It took me a while, but I realized this approach applied generally to life. I tend to worry so much about optimizing every little detail that I didn’t have time to stop and enjoy things.

Georgia Tech exceeded my expectations in a particularly important way: I have always been impressed by the willingness and availability of professors to meet with me.

What surprised or disappointed you the most about Georgia Tech? 

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to interact with professors. While Georgia Tech is a large school, I have never felt lost in the crowd. I could always get help if I needed it.

My only complaint is something always seems to be under construction on campus, but this is a minor nuisance.

I’m sure I could find things to be disappointed about, but I don’t really feel the need to look for disappointment.

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?

During my second year, Art Janata and Mira Josowicz invited me to join their research group. This was my first research experience, and I learned a lot – 99% being stuck and frustrated, and 1% success – that motivated me to pursue graduate studies.

Ying Xiao, a graduate teaching assistant for a  computer science class, created extremely challenging homework problems for my algorithms class and expected nothing but the best from each student. Because of his efforts, I discovered my interest in math.

Although I never took a class with Sung Ha Kang, she helped me with many problems and gave me a lot of good advice for school and life in general.

Josephine Yu has been my teacher and research mentor for almost two years. Her tireless, patient instruction and supervision has helped me overcome many obstacles, and her constant support has encouraged me to do things I never would have imagined.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?

I have two particular memories.

The first is publishing my first paper. It was the culmination of about a year of work and frustration, and I was overjoyed to see my efforts pay off. The sense of closure that came with submitting the paper was extremely rewarding.

The second is receiving my acceptance to do a Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley,  which has always been one of my dream schools.

If you participated in experiential learning activities, what was the most valuable outcome of your experience?

I participated in undergraduate research for four years (two in chemistry, two in math) and studied abroad in Hungary with the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program.

For my chemistry project, I studied the deposition of atomic gold clusters onto polyaniline. I gained experience in experimental design, mechanical engineering, and electrochemistry.

For my math projects, I studied a family of polytopes, which can be thought of as generalizations of polygons in higher dimensions. I learned a lot of math during this project, including how to write scientifically and use literature effectively.

My math classes in Hungary were crucial in my decision to study mathematics rather than chemistry, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of living in Hungary for a semester.

On the basis of your experience, what advice would you give to incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech?

Georgia Tech offers many amazing opportunities, but they’re not going to come to you. You have to go after what you want in order to get it.

The undergraduate years are the best for exploration, academically and socially.

It’s not enough to do well in easy classes and excel at easy tasks. Get out of your comfort zone as often as possible – without burning out – and don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know how to do something.

What feedback would you give to Georgia Tech to improve the campus experience for future students?

We all have to remember that people who perform badly are not bad people. We should strive to be understanding and tolerant of everyone.

One thing that helped me was feeling that other people believed in my ability to succeed. The support of others helped me overcome self-doubt.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I will go to graduate school to pursue a Ph.D in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Georgia Tech has prepared me by giving me a very good education in math and giving me many opportunities to perform research; attend seminars, conferences, and workshops; and take interesting and challenging classes. 


May 18, 2017 | Atlanta

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was revised on July 21, 2017, to reflect that additional funding was provided by the College of Sciences.

Two Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs will take place in the School of Mathematics from May 22 through July 12, 2017.

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), REU programs provide opportunities for undergraduate students to work closely with faculty and other researchers on a real-world research topic. Students are granted stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel. The College of Sciences provided additional funding for the 2017 REUs .

Altogether, 20 math students from nine universities are participating.

The program organized by School of Mathematics Professor Michael Lacey aims not only to provide research experience to undergraduates, but also to train postdoctoral fellows to design a program of research study, select students, and supervise students’ research over an extended period.

Projects will center on one-bit sensing and fluid dynamics. The program will culminate in a capstone poster session on July 12, 2017 at 2-5 pm in Room 005, Skiles Building.

The Georgia Tech postdoctoral fellows in Lacey’s REU program are Robert Kesler, Michael Northington, and Andre de Souza. They will be mentoring seven students from Alabama and Georgia Universities:

  • Amadou Buh, Perimeter College at Georgia State University
  • Korynn Claiborne, Alabama State University
  • Samuel Hood, Morehouse College
  • Bryson Kagy, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Allison Madson, Georgia Tech
  • Jade Redding, Alabama State University
  • Emily Smith, Agnes Scott College

In the second program, organized by School of Mathematics Professor Igor Belegradek, 13 math students will work with Georgia Tech researchers on a variety of research topics. The students are expected to help achieve the research outcomes envisioned by the principal investigators.

This REU will also culminate in a capstone poster session in July 12, 2017, time and location to be determined. Additional funding comes the College of Sciences

In this program, students from Georgia Tech are joined by peers from California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Virginia universities:

  • Ken Adams, Georgia Tech
  • Santana Afton, College of William and Mary
  • Nicholas Barvinok, University of Michigan
  • Catherine Chen, Georgia Tech
  • Nhu Do, Mount Holyoke College
  • Sam Friedman, University of Michigan
  • Andrea, Martinez, Georgia Tech
  • Rose McCarty, Georgia Tech
  • Hunter Vallejos, Georgia Tech
  • Yandi Wu, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jun Xiang, Georgia Tech
  • Queena Zhou, Georgia Tech
  • Yihan Zhou, Georgia Tech

Mentors are seven Georgia Tech mathematics professors and one postdoctoral fellow, Caitin Leverson. Mentors and their research projects are:

  • Mohammad Ghomi, Unfoldings of Convex Polyhedra
  • Christian Houdre, Estimation of the Chvátal-Sankoff Constant
  • Sung Ha Kang, Video and Image Restoration with Atmospheric Turbulence Distortion
  • Caitlin Leverson, Augmentations of Legendrian Knots and Links
  • Doron Lubinsky, Asymptotics for Special Toeplitz Determinants
  • Dan Margalit
    • Generating Sets for Big Mapping Class Group
    • Implementation of the Fast Nielsen-Thurston Classification 
    • Kernel of the Magnus Representation
  • Robin Thomas 
    • Colin de Verdiere Invariant of Graphs 
    • Extremal Function for Bipartite Linklessly Embeddable Graphs
  • Josephine Yu, Matroid Theory and Tropical Geometry

June 26, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Geometric group theory – the study of the symmetries of objects – is a relative newcomer to the math world, having truly become its own area of study in the late 1980s. Georgia Tech School of Mathematics Professor Dan Margalit figured that a different approach is needed to teach undergraduates about the theory. That’s why he has co-edited a new book, “Office Hours With A Geometric Group Theorist” (Princeton University Press).

The print version of the book publishes on July 11; a digital version is available now.

“What is most novel about the book is that, unlike most math textbooks, the tone is very informal,” Margalit says. “The different chapters – or ‘office hours’ – are all written by different authors.” Margalit wanted his authors to explain these concepts to his students in an accessible, relatable way.

Margalit, who edited the book with University of Arkansas Associate Professor Matt Clay, says geometric group theory has many important applications within mathematics, such as the award-winning University of California, Berkeley mathematician Ian Agol’s groundbreaking work into the possible shapes of three-dimensional spaces. Real-world applications include the coordination of robots as they move on factory floors, the creation of secure cryptosystems, and even the design of more efficient blenders.

But that’s not why Margalit studies geometric group theory. “There is beauty and depth in the symmetries,” he says, “that one can only appreciate by taking the time to learn the subject.”

As an example, he points to an illustration from the book – a Farey graph. The swirling and folding loops look like something created with a Spirograph toy from the 1970s, but Margalit sees art in its symmetries. “There are many facts about matrix multiplication that you can understand just by considering this beautiful object,” he says.

Dan Margalit received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and did postdoctoral work at the University of Utah before arriving at Georgia Tech in 2010. He researches the intersection of low-dimensional topology and geometric group theory, focusing on the symmetries of surfaces.


July 10, 2017 | Atlanta

Eight high school students today begin a four-week summer job doing mathematics. The interns will be computing sunrise and sunset times, a classic trigonometry and geometry problem, as part of the Mathematics Employment Experience for High School Students (MEEHS), a summer program at Georgia Tech.

School of Mathematics Assistant Professor Kirsten G. Wickelgren created the program to introduce high school students to mathematics as a career option. "Employing high school students to do math is a direct way of to communicate this option," Wickelgren says. The experience could attract talented students to pursue higher math or mathematics research in their careers. 

Participating students from Creekside High School, Fairburn, Georgia, are John Igieobo, Ashauna Pearson, Steven Sanchez, and Dae'Shawn Taylor. They will be accompanied by mathematics teacher Alicia Scott.

From Westlake High School, Atlanta, Georgia, are Tatyana Cook, Micah Dabney, Naomi Davis, and Aaron Woolfolk, accompanied by mathematics teacher Latricia Gladden.

The students will be based in the School of Mathematics during the first week of the internship, July 10-14. They will complete the final three weeks in their respective high schools.  

Funding for the program comes from Wickelgren's NSF CAREER grant and from the Georgia Intern Fellowships for Teachers (GIFT) a program implemented by the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC). CEISMC's Douglas Edwards and Marion Usselman are assisting Wickelgren in organizing this summer internship. 

July 12, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Thanks to all who nominated their talented students to recieve one of the endowed awards this year. There were superb students which made selecting the awardees a real challenge to a small committee of faculty. The SoM will be recommending the following students to the OSFA for a final decision.

Charles Wang for the Peirotti Award

Chi Huynh for the Wartell Award

Thanks again for nominating your talented students. 


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