March 30, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

Prof Larry Rolen has a new book, titled Harmonic Maass Forms and Mock Modular Forms: Theory and Applications which is available at the AMS bookstore. Prof Rolen is also teaching a special topics course on Modular Forms this Spring 2018.

Larry Rolen is a Visiting Assistant Professor in SoM here at Tech, whose research interests lie in number theory and more specifically modular forms, harmonic Maass forms, and quantum modular forms.

March 30, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

Prof Michael Lacey of the SoM has been called to be a expert witness in a recent case where prosecuters in several capital crime trials have been accused of striking black jurors discrimenently. We had a chance to speak with Michael Lacey about this very important case, and this is what he said.

Potential reasons to strike a juror are manifold, influenced by a number of considerations. Under ideal circumstances, the reasons for striking a juror should be generally race neutral. Namely the reasons for striking a juror should be as prevalent in the pool of qualified white jurors as in the pool of black jurors. Put differently, knowing that a juror is struck should give us very little information about the race of the struck juror.

In a jury trial, there is a pool of jurors which are selected randomly from the county in which the trial is to take place. The lawyers on each side have a certain number of strikes, which they may use to remove potential jurors from the pool. Whomever is left after all the strikes are used are the jurors which will sit on the trial.

In the cases under question, Prof Lacey was called to determine if the likelihood of an all white or nearly all white jury was statistically probable given the potential jury pool in each case.

Prof Lacey uses a deck of cards and elementary counting principles to illustrate the likelihood that all of the potential black jurors in a jury selection pool are struck.

We have a deck of 48 cards, 4 of which are Red Ace cards. Draw a
hand of 12, which are the 12 strikes by the prosecution. If the hand
of 12 contains all 4 Red Aces, then the prosecution has struck all 4
qualified black jurors. These are the sorts of probabilities that a poker
player would be well acquainted with. They are easy to calculate, and
part of a standard course in statistics.

In the seven cases under question, each jury that went to trial was deemed statistically unlikely to occur for race neutral reasons. Taken together, the likelihood that the jury selection process occurred for race neutral reasons was astronomically small, Prof Lacey says.

The likelihood of the seeing these outcomes in the jury selection is approximately the chance of winning the Powerball Lottery three successive times, purchasing only one ticket with each play.

For more reading about the cases see the recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:


March 30, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

Prof Robin Thomas has long been an exemplary example for research excellence and dedication to mentoring PhD students and postdocs. Robin is a world leader in graph theory and has published over 100 research papers appearing in top journals (including the Annals of Mathematics and the Journal of the AMS). His extraordinary research record includes a number of major results any one of which would be considered as a lifetime highlight. Robin was awarded the prestigious Fulkerson prize twice and the Neuron Award for Lifetime Achievement in Mathematics (Czech Republic).
Among Robin's many notable achievements, perhaps none is more astounding than his work on the Four Color Theorem. The Four Color Theorem (4CT) was first proved in 1976 by Appel and Haken, using a computer. However, this computer proof cannot be verified by hand, and even the part that is supposedly hand-checkable is complicated/tedious. To dispel doubts about the Appel-Haken proof, Robin, along with Robertson, Sanders, and Seymour, published a new and much simpler proof in 1997.
As a possible generalization of the Four Color Conjecture (now a theorem), Hadwiger conjectured in 1943 that every graph with no K t+1-minor is t-colorable. It is easy to prove the Hadwiger conjecture for t≤3, but the case t=4 is difficult and equivalent to 4CT. In 1993, Robin, along with Roberston and Seymour, proved that the case t=5 can be reduced to the 4CT, by showing that a smallest counterexample to the Hadwiger conjecture for t=5 must be an apex graph. The proof is a tour de force, which is computer-free. This work was awarded the Fulkerson prize.
Robin was again awarded the Fulkerson prize for his work on the proof of Berge's conjecture, which consumes 179 pages in the Annals of Mathematics.
Additionally, Robin, again with Robertson and Seymour, characterized those bipartite graphs with Pfaffian orientations, hence, solving many problems of interest, such as a permanent problem of Polya, the even directed cycle problem, and the sign-nonsingular matrix problem for square matrices.

Prof Prasad Tetali, former interim chair of the SoM, had this to say about Robin:

Robin has a remarkable record as a teacher and a mentor. His tireless efforts to challenge and encourage young talents at critical early stages of their careers has had a profound impact on the lives of a large number of PhD students and postdocs.
PhD Students and Postdocs of Robin Thomas include:
  • Zdenek Dvorak (Charles University, Czech),
  • Bertrand Guenin (University of Waterloo, Canada),
  • Daniel Kral (University of Warwick, UK),
  • Chun-Hung Liu (Princeton University),
  • Sergey Norine (McGill University, Canada),
  • Dhruv Mubayi (University of Illinois at Chicago),
  • Sang-il Oum (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology),
  • Luke Postle (University of Waterloo, Canada), and
  • Xingxing Yu (Georgia Institute of Technology).

See also the CoS story here:

April 3, 2018 | Atlanta, GA
April 3, 2018 | Atlanta, GA
April 3, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

The College of Sciences has selected Matthew Baker as the inaugural Associate Dean for Faculty Development. The position was created to complement the positions of Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Associate Dean for Research. Baker is a professor in the School of Mathematics. He will begin his new role on July 1, 2018.

The Associate Dean for Faculty Development in the College of Sciences is responsible for developing, implementing, and assessing programs that enhance the instructional, research, and career opportunities for faculty. Key areas of responsibility include faculty hiring; mentoring of faculty; faculty retention, promotion, and tenure; and diversity, equity, and inclusion at the faculty level.

“I’m delighted that Matt is willing to be the first holder of this important leadership position,” College of Sciences Dean and Sutherland Chair Paul Goldbart says. “As a mathematician of global renown, an educator celebrated for the clarity of his lectures, and a faculty member with demonstrated accomplishments in service to Georgia Tech and the worldwide mathematics community, Matt is well positioned to advance our deep commitment to the professional development of faculty members as thriving, fulfilled researcher-educators who have extraordinary impact.”

Baker joined Georgia Tech in 2004 as an assistant professor of mathematics and was promoted to full professor in 2011. As a pure mathematician, he is treasured by the international mathematics community for the depth, power, and creativity of his research in some of the most demanding aspects of pure mathematics, such as algebraic and arithmetic geometry. His accomplishments have been recognized by numerous awards, including his election as a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2012 and selection for the Simons Fellowship in Mathematics in 2017.

As an educator, Baker is deeply committed to enhancing students’ experience, even in the most challenging mathematics courses. This has brought him awards for teaching excellence from both Georgia Tech and the University System of Georgia. Baker is also a thoughtful and effective leader, as he demonstrated during his service as Director of Undergraduate Studies in the School of Mathematics. 

“I’m honored to have been selected, and I look forward to being part of the College of Sciences leadership team,” Baker says. “I am eager to build upon the faculty-mentoring activities that Associate Dean for Research Julia Kubanek has introduced in recent years. I hope that my unique perspective as a mathematician is helpful in addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion – and of fairness and transparency in hiring, promotion, retention, and salary considerations. I look forward to supporting the needs of our diverse, accomplished, and ambitious faculty.”

April 5, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

Joseph Rabinoff and Matthew Torres are two of Georgia Tech’s 2018 CTL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award winners. Jointly supported by the Center for Teaching and Learning and BP America, the award recognizes the excellent teaching and educational innovation that junior faculty bring to campus. 

JOSEPH RABINOFF: Helping both students and faculty
Joseph Rabinoff was recently promoted to associate professor in the School of Mathematics. Because many undergraduates take the fundamental mathematics courses he teaches, Rabinoff has had a broad impact on Georgia Tech undergraduates.

Students say Rabinoff makes mathematics relevant and engaging, especially the introductory classes he teaches. For his part, Rabinoff seeks to ensure that all students, whatever their majors, understand and even appreciate the material.

Rabinoff was heavily involved in developing the curriculum and course materials for Math 1553, Introduction to Linear Algebra. This is an engineering core course that is taken by thousands of Georgia Tech students every year. He created lecture slides, interactive demonstrations, and online homework problems. With colleague Dan Margalit, Rabinoff wrote a free online textbook for the course, “Interactive Linear Algebra.”

Beyond the classroom, Rabinoff spearheaded the creation of the School of Mathematics’ course repository and has been the main contributor to its infrastructure and content. The repository contains up-to-date curated materials that a new teacher can just pick up and use.

The students are the most exciting part about being at Georgia Tech, Rabinoff said in a 2016 Q&A. “Some students are extremely hard-working and talented. I derive a lot of pleasure from interactions in class and office hours,” he said.

In turn, students praise Rabinoff for his enthusiasm, engaging lectures, friendliness, accessibility, and, yes, his “super” “Rabinoffice” hours, which one students says “are fantastic during exam weeks.”

“It is an honor to be recognized with this award,” Rabinoff says. “The students I see every week in class and in office hours are great kids, and all of the effort is for them.  Pedagogy is special in this way: The reward is not abstract; it is visible every time I see in a student's face that a light went on in their head. I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to teach in a place like Georgia Tech.”

MATTHEW TORRES: Teaching life skills
Matthew Torres also was recently promoted to associate professor, in the School of Biological Sciences. Although he always knew he would be a scientists, he never thought about being a teacher. At Georgia Tech he has recognized that, “first and foremost,” he is a teacher.

Having embraced the role of an educator, his dedication is obvious to students and colleagues. Students regard him not only as an excellent teacher, but also as someone who believes in them and sees their potential. Students say Torres’s mentorship goes beyond biology: Torres helps them develop critical skills that will serve them throughout their lives – such as written and spoken scientific communication, self-reflection, and how to confront failure productively.

Colleagues say Torres is a natural teacher, taking every opportunity to teach and mentor students in Georgia Tech and beyond. He gives students personal attention and invests time and resources to ensure student learning. A colleague describes Torres as “dedicated, caring, thoughtful, and highly successful in both teaching and research.”

Torres regularly invites undergraduates to do research in his lab, participating in work to address chemical biology questions that Torres’s research seeks to answer. These undergraduates are listed as coauthors on publications. In running his lab and in his teaching, Torres instills open communications and mutual respect as values that advance everyone’s progress.

Community engagement is important to Torres. He has volunteered to mentor high school students from the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology. He routinely gives laboratory tours to local high schools focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“Winning this award is fantastic, but I’m also very lucky,” Torres says. “Lucky enough to have had wonderful students – undergraduate, graduate, and beyond – willing to join me on a journey in pursuit of greater understanding and scientific progress. Such a journey can’t happen because of a teacher alone – it takes bright, receptive, and brave students to help guide the way.”  


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