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July 27, 2022 |
SoM Chair Mike Wolf
A few weeks ago, I moved into the chair's office at the School of Mathematics. Of course, I have much to learn about the school, its people and programs, but I was excited to be offered the position because of the tremendous strength of the school and especially the promise and potential of SoM at the moment.
The Beauty of Mathematics
Let me take a step back. I don't have to tell this audience that mathematics is a wonderful subject. Mathematics has an unparalleled richness and complexity that comes from millennia of human thought and discourse across cultures; math has a scope of effect that touches all scientific and engineering disciplines, and now math reaches ever further into the social sciences as well.
While perhaps somewhat less visible than the research in the other sciences, mathematics is beautiful and signif- icant - in this issue, you may read of the breakthroughs of Alex Blumenthal on Batchelor's law, Jinyoung Park on the expectation conjecture, and Svetlana Jitomirskaya on quantum mechanics, as well as the ongoing pioneering efforts of Rachel Kuske to harvest unused vibrational energy in bridges.
About the School of Mathematics
The school is increasingly prominent: you will also read in this edition of the ProofReader of our rapid ascent in the U.S. News rankings: not only did the school jump from 26 to 21 in the most recent poll, but we were also ranked in four specialized areas, which is in itself a testament to the breadth and depth of the program. Faculty gained a great deal of international recognition: there are few math departments that can claim three invited addresses (here by Jen Hom, Michael Loss, and Konstantin Tikhomirov) at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) for work they did while at the school. In addition, our incoming Hubbard Chair Svetlana Jitomirskaya delivered a plenary address at the ICM and was recently awarded the inaugural Ladyzhenskaya prize by the International Mathematics Union.
The Impact of SoM
At the same time that mathematicians drive mathematics forward, they influence vast numbers of students at all levels. Just about all Tech students take a math course and most take several: as one cumulative measure, last year the school awarded roughly sixty-five thousand credit-hours for undergraduate and graduate classes. Beyond the numbers, the instruction is first-rate: please take note of all the pedagogical awards garnered by the faculty.
The school also reaches beyond its own students with several outreach programs: there are articles in this issue on the Atlanta Science Festival and the High School Math Competition. Not mentioned here is the longstanding Distance Learning program which sends Georgia Tech courses to high school students across Georgia who have progressed beyond calculus and are ready for more.
Also in this newsletter, you'll see a reflection of the contributions of our wonderful staff, who with little celebration just make everything work. Both Kimberly Stanley and Lea Marzo were recognized for their efforts beyond what any of us had the right to expect. It is greatly empowering to a new chair to inherit a staff that is both effective and invested in the future of the school.
The Future of SoM
There are of course challenges. Our excellence invites competition from other programs, so we must constantly try to advance our research presence, defending our strengths and growing into newly important areas. The student body is growing in size and diversity and we need to find ways to make sure that all are supported as they reach towards their ambitions. What can be wonderful about mathematics is that, ideally, it is only the truth and significance of what you say that matters, rather than what your background is. But to fully realize that ideal, we must be welcoming and encouraging to all, including mathematicians of exceptional potential from groups we haven't focused on as much as we could. That goal of broad and comfortable participation from all corners of society is both the imperative of today and also the promise of mathematics for the future.
Share Your Story!
I am trying to learn from as many people from the School of Mathematics community as I can. I ask the alumni to please share your stories of what you did with your mathematics education: our students greatly benefit from having models of where their studies can take them. More broadly, if you wish to partner with us as we move forward, please get in touch: I would love to hear your ideas. It's a wonderful time to join the School.