Svetlana Jitomirskaya Joins SoM as Inaugural Hubbard Chair

Svetlana Jitomirskaya, Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine, and a prize-winning mathematician, joins Georgia Tech as the inaugural Hubbard Chair Professor in the School of Mathematics.

December 19, 2022

The College of Sciences is pleased to welcome Svetlana Jitomirskaya, Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine, and a prize-winning mathematician, as the inaugural Hubbard Chair Professor in the School of Mathematics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Jitormirskaya will arrive on campus in January 2023.

"The School of Mathematics is just delighted to welcome Professor Jitomirskaya,” said Michael Wolf, professor and chair of the School of Mathematics. “We had hoped that the Hubbard Chair would be transformational for the School of Mathematics, and the appointment of Svetlana to this position exceeds our wildest ambitions. Known for her penetrating insights into mathematical physics and dynamics, she adds to our already premiere presence in mathematical physics — an additional depth that rivals any other such center in North America.”

Jitomirskaya is one of seven new faculty members starting in Fall 2022 in the School of Mathematics. That number includes Wolf, who was named school chair in December 2021 and officially arrived at Georgia Tech last summer.

The inspiration for the Hubbard Chair

The chair is named for Elaine M. Hubbard (MATH 1972, M.S. MATH 1974, Ph.D. MATH 1980), who died in 2016 after a 28-year career as a mathematics professor at Kennesaw State University. Hubbard was a long-time friend and supporter of the School of Mathematics and a member of the College of Sciences Advisory Board.

Hubbard “was a true innovator — her delight in mathematics served to inspire her students,” said Paul Goldbart, who spoke at Hubbard’s memorial service six years ago and was then College of Sciences Dean. “She piloted the use of graphical calculators and gained national recognition and the Kennesaw Distinguished Teaching Award for her groundbreaking uses of technology. She spoke on mathematics education at conferences and campuses around the nation and received the Kennesaw State Alumni Association Achievement Award in 1994,” Goldbart said. “Elaine co-authored an amazing 13 textbooks on mathematics, important for their incorporation of the scholarship of teaching and learning to promote student success.”

Hubbard included a provision in her estate that established the Elaine M. Hubbard Endowed Chair for the School of Mathematics. Colleagues note that her passion was teaching, and the fund serves to support robust, leading-edge mathematics education and research at Georgia Tech. 

“Elaine Hubbard was a gentle champion of mathematics at Georgia Tech, and I believe she would be pleased by how this first result of her generosity and vision has propelled forward the school and all of its missions,” Wolf added.

‘A scientific granddaughter’ of Russia’s greatest mathematician

Jitomirskaya was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, to parents who were both mathematicians. She has described both of them as survivors, having barely escaped as young children from the German invasion of Kiev in 1941. 

Mathematics excellence runs in her family. Her mother chaired the famed Department of Analysis at Kharkov State University, and was also the only female professor of mathematics in Ukraine for some twenty years. Her father was a long-time chair of the Department of Mathematics at KhADI, an engineering school. 

Svetlana left Kharkov at 16 to study at Moscow State University, and graduated under the supervision of Yaklov G. Sinai, himself a student of A.N. Kolmogorov, whom Leonid Bunimovich, Regents’ Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Mathematics called “the greatest Russian mathematician ever.”

Jitomirskaya “brings to Georgia Tech a brilliant scientific genealogy which is really hard to match,” Bunimovich said. “She is a scientific granddaughter of A.N. Kolmogorov and her advisor Sinai is an Abel Prize winner. The spirit of this School is that mathematics is rigorously proved. In other words, mathematicians should not just prove what scientists and engineers already understood, but uncover why their ideas are right and show them the way further, and even bring in new ideas, which mathematicians must rigorously justify, especially in cases when these new ideas contradict ‘preexisting’ physics intuition.”

International recognition

Jitomirskaya was awarded the Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize from the American Mathematical Association in 2005, and the Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics awarded by the American Physics Association and the American Institute of Physics in 2020. She has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) since 2018, and was elected to the NAS in 2022. Jitomirskaya was invited to deliver a plenary lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians, held as a virtual event in July 2022.

In July 2022, Jitomirskaya was also announced as the first winner of a new award for mathematical physics: the Olga Alexandrovna Ladyzhenskaya Prize. Wolf, the Georgia Tech School of Mathematics chair, said the prize celebrates the “extraordinary mathematical contributions in the middle part of the previous century of the Russian mathematician Olga Ladyzhenskaya.” 

Jitomirskaya has also dedicated a large portion of her career to teaching. She received the University of California, Irvine Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research in 2018. She has advised many graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, who eventually found positions in the academic world.

“There is no better choice than Svetlana Jitomirskaya to occupy this inaugural Chair,” added Jean Bellissard, professor emeritus in the School of Mathematics at Georgia Tech, “as she is both a worldwide recognized expert in analysis, and widely appreciated among her students and her university for her dedication to teaching mathematics at the highest level of excellence.”

“Mathematics progresses through a sustained conversation among a community of scholars, and Svetlana will deepen and broaden that dialogue for our scholars while exciting and inspiring our students,” Wolf said.

More new faces at the School of Mathematics 

Michael (Mike) Wolf joined the School of Mathematics as chair and professor in the fall of 2022. Wolf comes to Georgia Tech from Rice University, where he served most recently as Milton B. Porter Professor. During his three-decade tenure at Rice, Wolf has held many positions, including two periods as chair of the Department of Mathematics, head of a residential college, and co-founder and co-director of the Rice Emerging Scholars Program.

“Georgia Tech’s Mathematics faculty is world-renowned for its strength and scope, and it is an honor to participate in its leadership,” Wolf said in the announcement of his new role. “Mathematics is an engine for modern science and technology — from codes for cybersecurity, to differential equations that explain black holes and the interfaces of materials, to machine learning and mathematical neuroscience, and through beautiful advances whose applications will only be revealed to our grandchildren. Mathematics is everywhere, and Georgia Tech’s mathematicians are at the frontier.”  

Three assistant professors joined Wolf in the Fall 2022 semester as new School of Math faculty: Gong Chen, Vesselin Dimitrov, and Tom Kelly; along with Academic Professionals Hunter Lehmann and Kalila Lehmann.

The School of Mathematics is also welcoming 15 new visiting assistant professors and postdoctoral scholars for the 2022-2023 academic year.

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By: Sal Barone and Renay San Miguel

Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences

Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston