M A T H E M A T I C A L S C I E N C E S N E W S L E T T E R
April 2001 Issue
Editor: G. Ludwig
In this issue:
Editor’s comments: This is the fourth of this academic year’s departmental newsletters. The editor wishes to thank all those who have contributed to this and previous issues. He relies on being supplied by its readers with newsworthy items of current interest in this Department. The amount of information received determines the frequency of this newsletter. Please send any correspondence for future issues to firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Newsletter” in the subject line. Past issues may be found on the Department’s web page (once it’s fully operational again): http://www.math.ualberta.ca/index.html
A note to alumnae and alumni: In case you did not receive the letter sent out to you requesting information as to the impact your training in mathematics and /or statistics has had on your career, we’d love to hear from you.
This will be my last input as Chair. I have enjoyed serving the Department and have no regrets. It is a time-consuming job but comes with rewards and satisfaction. You supported me greatly and I sincerely hope that we will support Tony in running the Department smoothly. I wish to thank Garry Ludwig for doing a super job as the Department Newsletter Editor.
Faculty Positions: Dr. Litvak will join us as Assistant Professor starting July first. He works in Geometric Functional Analysis. Dr. Thomas Hillen has been offered a position as Assistant Professor and he has indicated that he will accept the offer. He works in Mathematical Biology. We will interview two or three candidates in Mathematical Finance later this month. We had offered a position to Alexander Muermann, but he accepted another offer - from Wharton Business School (Penn. USA). Dr. Alexander Melnikov (from Steklov Institute) will visit us during the period May 7-14. He was to come here last week, but had to postpone his trip due to surgery to remove kidney stones. He works in Probability, has written a couple of books in Mathematical Finance and is also familiar with Actuarial Science.
Teaching Awards: Congratulations to Walter Allegretto for the Rutherford Undergraduate Teaching Award and to Laurent Marcoux for the Faculty of Science Award for Teaching Excellence. I would also like to add that these awards would not have materialized were it not for the dedicated work and the outstanding performance by the Teaching Committee.
Systems Tech: We interviewed two candidates and they both turned down our offer. We are trying again and the experience gained will hopefully help us. This task has now been put on top priority.
North-South Meeting: The North-South meeting between the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary Math. Sci. departments will take place on Saturday/Sunday April 28/29 in Calgary. The tentative program is as follows:
SATURDAY 1.00 p.m. to 4.45 p.m. Talks.
1.00-1.40 Talk by Robert Moody on the Banff PIMS Centre
1.50-2.30 Talk # 2
2.30-3.00 Coffee break
3.00- 4.45 Shorter (30 minute) talks. (If necessary, we will run two parallel sessions)
Saturday Evening - dinner (hosted by Dean of Science, U.of C.)
SUNDAY 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon. Round Table Discussion on common interests and problems, such as the impact of the Banff PIMS Centre, graduate student and faculty exchanges between the two universities, joint research collaboration, program development, course content and production, etc.
I hope that this event will be attended by many faculty members and help develop closer ties between the two departments.
Space: The GFC Facilities Development Committee has approved the allocation of space requested by the Department and accepted by the Capital and Strategic Planning Services (CSPS). This summer we will get the space presently occupied by Computing Science and the following year the space presently occupied by Engineering. Note that the CS space on the fourth floor is as large as the space we have at present on that floor. This should provide adequate space for the next three years.
Another three students have expressed interest in Industrial Internships as part of their undergraduate program, and Kevin Websdale from the Faculty of Science is working hard to connect them with suitable employers. We still have requests for IIPs from Stats Canada; so, statistics undergraduates should seriously consider the IIP program. We could also place some students with combined honours math. and physics or electrical engineering or computing programs. One interesting placement was a young lady who was essentially minoring in English. A publisher of math. aids was interested in someone with exactly her background.
The AMI is helping to sponsor an end-of-year social for our undergraduates. At this social we will make a short presentation on the Industrial Internship Program. If you are lecturing to our honours and specialization undergraduates, you will soon get an announcement to read in class. Please feel free to attend, meet some students and find out about the IIP.
The program to integrate a major part of the AMI into the PIMS Office was delayed a bit by Dana's maternity leave, but with Vera Toth now covering Dana's AMI responsibilities, we are proceeding with a proposal. We will be proposing to separate the Canadian Applied Math. Quarterly from the AMI, keeping both in our Department. This will allow the AMI Director (currently chief editor of CAMQ) some time to work on other projects. The degree to which CAMQ might be integrated into PIMS and/or the Canadian Applied and Industrial Math. Society is still a matter of discussion. In addition, we will be proposing that the AMI Director's (pitiful) honorarium be moved to the PIMS director, and that the AMI Director get a small reduction in teaching responsibilities. It is intended to put the AMI Director's desk into the PIMS Office Complex, while CAMQ would have its own small office, much like the Canadian Bulletin.
It has also been proposed to make the AMI "leaner" by dropping members who have not participated in any of our activities over a long period. The idea is to have an organization which is more visible and whose members are active in its development.
Ten students have been granted NSERC Undergraduate Research Awards to work with supervisors in our department this coming summer. This is the largest number of such awards we have had. (This program had been suspended for several years due to budget cuts.)
2001 Summer NSERC Student Research Program
Undergraduate Student Research Awards
R. J. Karunamuni
A. H. Rhemtulla
G. de Vries
David Ballantyne and Hubert Chan will be speaking at the AeroSense 2001 Signal Processing, Sensor Fusion, and Target Recognition conference in April. David will be speaking on "Practical application of a branching particle-based nonlinear filter", and Hubert will be speaking on "Particle filters for combined state and parameter estimation". David's talk is a joint work with John Hoffman of Lockheed Martin and Dr. Mike Kouritzin, and Hubert's talk is a joint work with Dr. Mike Kouritzin.
Bruno Remillard from the University of Quebec at Trois Rivieres has been working with the MITACS-PINTS centre. Over the course of his three month visit, Dr. Remillard has met with each of the centre's members to discuss their research and gave a talk in the MATH 659 seminar.
The Mathematical Sciences Society (MSS) is our Department's official undergraduate and graduate student group consisting of students with a wide range of interests relating to mathematics. Over the past school year we've promoted the Department and math.-related events in an effort to generate interest in the field as well as have a good time as a group. Our recent events include an AntiFreeze team (inter-club/fraternity event sponsored by the students union), three socials (with a fourth coming on April 6th; for those who are interested, email email@example.com for details), the "Math-Maze" event in QUAD during Science week 2001, an inter-club paintball tournament organized by the MSS, and our math. help provided by members in the undergraduate lounge (CAB 549); a very busy yet very successful year for us!
As a departmental association we've also become involved in the Faculty of Science CODA (Council of departmental associations). Well-established in most other faculties, Science's CODA is still in its infancy and, in turn, most decisions - which will dictate future relations between the faculty and departmental associations - are receiving considerable input from the MSS. Through CODA the MSS has also acquired a permanent seat in the Students’ Union, giving us a voice in a broader realm of university organization. This is an exciting time, laying the foundations not only for inter-departmental association communication (especially with very math.-oriented groups), but also to show off what math. students can accomplish.
And that's the MSS in a nutshell. Good luck to those reading this, who will be studying for final exams in the upcoming weeks, and, of course, to the professors writing them!
For more information, please visit our new website at
By the time you read this article, those of you who have applied for grants last fall will probably know the results of the competition. Some of you will be delighted and others will be disappointed. To help you understand the procedures involved in determining the NSERC awards and the thinking of at least one committee (GSC337, Pure and Applied Mathematics B, which I chaired for the 2001 competition) and to make you aware of other sources of funding, including the new Alberta Heritage Foundation for Science and Engineering Research (AHFSER) grants, I am writing this article.
This year the three NSERC committees dealing with mathematics and statistics met during the first week of February. The three committees met separately with separate budgets for operating grants, but the two mathematics committees met jointly with a joint budget for minor equipment grants. There were more new applicants than ever before and more “senior news” than ever with the new Canada Research Chairs taking affect. In future years there are likely to be even more of these since, in the first round, eighty percent of the CRCs nationwide were internal appointments. Because of these new applicants, the operating grant budgets were increased at the last minute by roughly ten percent.
This year the University of Alberta Mathematical Sciences Department was fortunate to have three of its members on NSERC Grant Selection Committees (GSCs). Beside myself, Nicole Tomczak-Jaegermann was on GSC336 (Pure and Applied Mathematics A) and Doug Wiens was on GSC14 (Statistical Sciences). Of course, when any of our colleagues were discussed or when other conflicts arose, we were required to leave the room. So if you have any inquiries about your individual award or about on what it was based, you will have to contact NSERC. We know nothing. Any comments I will make below are for general purposes and do not necessarily apply to any particular individual.
The NSERC award is based on four criteria which, except for new applicants, all carry almost equal weight. I will now comment on each of these categories and my perception of what the GSCs (at least GSC337) look for in each category in the application. I should mention that the two mathematics committees adopted a minimum threshold of $6000, below which a zero grant was awarded.
Excellence of the Researcher. Mostly the committee looks at the quality and quantity of research publications over the last six years. According to NSERC, we are not to judge the quality of the journal, provided it is a refereed journal, but in practice, we do.
It seems the GSCs look more favourably upon a research record that is continual and ongoing rather than sporadic. Sometimes if there has been a stretch of no or little research, the committee will award a grant for only two or three years (and usually at a lower level) so that the committee can re-evaluate the candidate earlier and see whether the research will pick up, or if papers listed as submitted will in fact be accepted for publication.
2. Merit of the Proposal. It is very important to choose an (or several) appropriate project(s), and to convince the committee you know what you are talking about. If your project entails a new area of mathematics in which you have no evidence of expertise, it probably won’t be funded. There is nothing so grating to a committee member as reading an application where the project is poorly described, and the proposer is basically saying, “I’m the well known Prof., so give me money!” In the last competition one such famous individual, whose research also declined, lost his grant.
The budget must be justified. Justifiable items include travel for conferences and field trips, support for students, post-docs and visitors, equipment costing less than $7000, page charges, communications, etc. There is no penalty for asking for too much money (if you get what you asked for then you probably didn’t ask for enough); however, some of the more outrageous requests cause quite a chuckle among committee members and tend to put a somewhat unfavourable light on your integrity.
It is likely not the case that you will get sufficient funds to fully support a postdoc by yourself or fully support several graduate students. The committee will probably not believe that someone who has had only a few students in the past will all of a sudden be swamped with students and will not support such a request.
One further point. NSERC has a policy of not awarding different amounts for different years, so design your budget accordingly. For example, do not build in an inflation factor or ask for thousands more in a given year for a visitor or equipment. Your lowest annual request is your funding upper bound.
Training of Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) This criterion does not apply to new applicants with recent Ph.D.’s, nor to those just joining academia in an eligible position. For everyone else it is extremely important. NSERC believes very strongly in the procreation of the species (the community of researchers) and gives an equal weight to the same.
On the application form are spaces to indicate the number of masters, Ph.D. and postdocs currently supervised and currently co-supervised. It is very important that not all six boxes are blank. There used to be space to indicate the number of past students and postdocs supervised, but such boxes no longer exist. Therefore, in the personal data form (Form 100) it is EXTREMELY important to list all students and postdocs supervised or co-supervised in the past six years, together with what they are now doing, if known.
The training of HQP is not limited to graduate students and postdocs. Undergraduate supervision of honours students, running special programs or training sessions, etc. count as well, especially from applicants at institutions without a graduate program.
Equipment Grants. Equipment grant applications are the hardest to judge. They are also the worst funded in the sense that the budget for minor equipment grants is a fraction of the money requested. This year that fraction was 26%. Last year it was 30% and the year before 33%, so it is a decreasing function of time. At 26%, only about one-quarter of the applications can be fully funded. A way around this is to partially fund some applications; but NSERC rules allow you to do this only if you have certain cutoff levels below the fully funded level. So if various cutoff levels are part of your application, there is a greater likelihood of at least partial funding.
NSERC has no policy on what type of equipment grant applications are more meritorious, single user research oriented grants or larger multi-user departmental oriented grants. Some of each type was funded this year.
Your best bet is to show very carefully why you need the equipment you are applying for in the light of what is available for your use.
The Alberta government has set up AHFSER with an initial endowment of half a billion dollars and a promise to add one hundred million a year for the next five years. When fully funded, there will be about 50 million dollars a year made available to Alberta scientists and engineers (including agriculture) for research, thereby effectively matching the NSERC funding for Alberta researchers.
To date there has been a Town Hall meeting and a Workshop at the University of Alberta to discuss how this money should be used and how to implement the suggestions.
No rules have come down from the AHFSER board yet, but I suspect the grants will be project oriented, not operating grants. These grants will be available to members of our Department, and when appropriate, I will meet with AHFSER and then schedule a meeting with the Department. In the meanwhile, John MacDonald from Physics is on the AHFSER board and is our closest contact.
OTHER FUNDING SOURCES
There are other sources for funding projects and research available to members of the Department. At the moment PIMS and MYTACS are the most visible, but others exist as well. At some point in the future, I will have more to say about them.
Each year the University of Alberta runs PREVIEW DAYS, which provides an opportunity for the public and prospective undergraduate, in particular, to see what the different departments of the university have to offer. Gerda de Vries and Bruce Sutherland arranged a display at the Butterdome advertising the Department of Mathematical Sciences on February 22 and 23. Graduate students Cynthia Yau and Phoebe Elliott did a wonderful job answering questions and working with students on the computer simulations and math. puzzles spread out on the table surrounding the display. Gerda and Bruce also ran a series of interactive discussions encouraging students to enroll in our math. and stats. programs. To complement the talks, a web site (http://PreviewDays.math.ualberta.ca/) has been developed. The web pages are filled with links to math. society web pages with useful information for high school students thinking about a career in mathematics and statistics. Gerda and Bruce are particularly grateful to Robert Elliott and Bob Moody for their useful input on the site's contents.
This year, the 9th Canadian Conference on General Relativity and Relativistic Astrophysics, organized by H. P. Künzle, E. Woolgar and S. Morsink (Physics). is being held on the U. of A. campus. These conferences have been held every two years since 1985 and attract normally up to 100 participants, mostly from North America, but with a few from all parts of the world.
The conference will be held from May 24-26, 2001 (Thursday to Saturday) in the Tory lecture theatres. Talks with a high mathematical content have been scheduled mostly for Thursday, May 24. More information can be found at the conference website (http://www.math.ualberta.ca/~ccgrra).
A. Pianzola and J. D. Lewis (and N. Yui at Queen's University) are the current Editors-in-Chief of the Canadian Mathematical Bulletin (CMB). The CMB is devoted to publishing papers in all areas of mathematics, not exceeding 15 pages in length. The editors would like to thank the many colleagues in this Department who have offered their advice and expertise.
A letter written to Mr. Emery Dosdall, Superintendent of the Edmonton Public School Board, on February 28, 2001.
I read with great concern the article in the Edmonton Journal entitled "Calculators in class", in which you were quoted (or misquoted, as the case may be).
Geri Lorway was described only as a math. dynamo, whatever that means. She stated categorically that there is no turning back on the use of calculators in the classroom. On the contrary, we must turn back before it is too late. Under her photograph, there was a crafty quote that what she wants to do is take the students’ focus off the calculator for a while and play with numbers. Was there a focus on the calculator, and if so, why? Who puts the calculator in the curriculum?
Our society is increasingly commercialized, and the student body is regarded as a lucrative consumer block ready to be exploited. The decision to put the calculator in the classroom is an administrative one; it is not made for pedagogical considerations.
Oh, people like Geri Lorway are trying their best to justify the use of the calculator, in largely negative ways. She was quoted as saying, "I don't care if they don't know seven times eight. One of the basics in mathematics is being able to think." Apparently, with the calculator, students no longer have to waste time learning times tables.
I do not advocate that students should kneel down, clasp their hands together and say one hundred times a day, "Seven times eight is fifty-six." One does not memorize things this way. Nobody studies the dictionary. However, we do carry in our head at least several thousand words. We learn them by using them over and over again. The same applies to times tables. If that is too much to ask, we are in real trouble. One wonders what mathematical thoughts a student can have who does not know what seven times eight is.
We have seen this fiasco before. There was a time when one only needed to be creative in writing, and not waste time learning spelling and grammar. The University of Alberta had to implement an English Proficiency Test to see if high school graduates actually knew English. It is just like telling someone that it is not necessary to learn to play the piano or the violin. One just has to sit there and compose, presumably at the same level as Beethoven.
Later in the article, Geri Lorway claimed that students should learn estimation in order to tell that the answer given by the calculator is plausible. For instance, seven times eight is less than ten times ten but more than five times five. Presumably, the students have to learn enough multiplication to know that ten times ten is one hundred, five times five is twenty-five, and anything in between can be seven times eight! Of course, approximation is an important tool in higher mathematics, but one needs to know a lot of exact answers in order to be able to tell whether the approximation is good enough.
For students who have learned arithmetic properly, it will take them at most ten minutes to master the calculator if somehow they have never seen one before. Why does the school need to teach them how to use one?
However, for students who are brought up on the calculator and have managed to avoid the drudgery of long division, it will take a very long time to show them that division should not be something in which they just believe. Learning is not supposed to be easy. One works hard to acquire knowledge, and a good work ethic has to be built up painstakingly. The calculator may give an illusion that it can make learning easier, but it is just that, an illusion.
In practical applications, things are often done over and over again. Here, technology makes perfect sense. However, learning is an entirely different matter. Students are encountering concepts for the first time. Placing technology in their hands will only short-circuit the process. Why waste time practicing for the marathon when someone can give you a ride from start to finish, in record time?
In closing, I strongly recommend reading Isaac Asimov's short story titled "The feeling of power". It is anthologized in his work "Nine Tomorrows". Prophetically written some forty years ago, he described with great accuracy, not to mention acumen, the state of electronic stupor which we are fast approaching.
You had requested information about how my training in mathematics (BSc. in 1993?) and statistics (master's degree in 1996?) impacted my career, so here it goes...
While taking my M.Sc in statistics (I had completed my course work, but did not complete the thesis until a year and a half later) I began working for Statistics Canada as a methodologist (survey statistician). I advanced within this organization becoming a senior methodologist, and stayed with StatsCan for nearly four and a half years.
My wife and I moved to California about a year and a half ago ago so that she could attend Stanford University. While here, I am working for a small (~10 person) company that does statistical-legal consulting. In a nutshell, corporate America gets sued, typically for product liability. Some statistical analysis will be presented against them during the trial. Our company reviews the statistical analysis and has two major tasks - 1) explain the statistical analysis to the lawyers who will defend the case, and 2) prepare the lawyers to cross-examine the statistical expert who will present the analysis (this involves challenging assumptions to the model, investigating model modifications, etc.).
The following is a slightly condensed version of the second part of an article that appeared in Folio in 1982. This part deals with the history of the Department during the years 1945 - 1982. The third and final part is palanned for a future issue.
Most of the staff of the Department were too old for military service in the Second World War, so the disruption was much less severe than had been the case during the 1914-1918 conflict. With the great influx of veterans, many of whom needed refresher courses before beginning the regular university program, a larger teaching staff was required. The new members were Thorlief Fostvedt, Reginald Jacke , G. Dalsin and A. Roshko in 1945, Edgar Phibbs in 1947, William Bruce in 1948, Douglas Crosby in 1950, George Horton and Leo Moser in 1951, Tim Rooney in 1952, and Heinz Helfenstein and John McGregor in 1953. The increases in the size of the staff even after the veterans had graduated reflected the increased specialization of the courses taught and the beginning of the reduction in teaching loads that would free time for academic pursuits that were not directly pedagogical in nature.
The communication of mathematical ideas to undergraduates was the overwhelmingly dominant activity of the Department from its inception until the early ‘sixties. The only deviations from the norm were caused by wars, depressions, and the occasional graduate of the honours program who wanted to read for an MSc. During the early 1950s, technical competence in Mathematics was no longer deemed to be a necessary attribute of the well-educated man in Alberta, with the consequence that by 1952, the Department of Education had deleted trigonometry and calculus from the grade 12 mathematics program, leaving only algebra. Coincidentally, failure rates in first-year courses escalated, and time-consuming committees were established to consider the problems. Tests to evaluate the mathematical competence of incoming students were constructed, and a remedial program was provided for those whose background was weak. These activities were revised some twenty-five years later, at least partly as a result of the abolition of Grade 12 Departmental Examinations in the early 1970s. One attempt to ameliorate the situation in 1958 was a summer course in Elementary Mathematics from an Advanced Viewpoint, presented for high school teachers by R.V.Andree of the University of Oklahoma, and by Max Wyman; bursaries of $200 to $300 were available to the fifty teachers who attended. Wyman continued to teach this course during the regular session until 1962. We should note that Campbell, before his retirement in 1954, had managed to have trigonometry returned to the high school program.
By 1960, Sputnik had returned mathematics and the physical sciences to respectability. But it takes more than respectability to make a department grow. The post-war “baby boom” came of university age, and in response to this pressure, the Department grew from twenty-three members in 1962 to fifty-one members in 1970. With the student population stabilizing at around 19,000 the ‘seventies became a time of relatively slow growth. By 1982 there were fifty-four members in the Department. The number would have been larger if the ten-member Department of Statistics and Probability had not been formed in 1981.
Notwithstanding the explosive increase in the number of students coming to the university in the late ‘fifties and early ‘sixties, Keeping managed to reduce the average number of classroom hours per staff member. The time and energy thus freed could be directed toward other kinds of scholarly activities. For example, William Sharp was very interested in the modernization of the honours program; one of his projects was the development and presentation in 1962 of a special first course in calculus to talented students who were interested in mathematics, now that the number of first-year students justified such an endeavour. At about the same time, a first-year introduction to some aspects of modern algebra was instituted. This first-year honours program enabled gifted students to begin a serious study of mathematics immediately upon entering university. During the next decade, several courses for honours students were revised, and several new courses developed, with the consequence that our graduates became very well equipped for graduate school. Sharp was soon persuaded to go to the University of Toronto where he remained until his death in 1972 in a mountain climbing accident. A peak in the Rockies now bears his name.
Among the department members active in research during the years immediately prior to 1961 were max Wyman, Leo Moser, T.V. Narayana, Lee Lorch, and Henry Lowig. These were the men who first attracted students who had graduated from other universities to come here to do their graduate work. Narayana was known for his work on tournaments. Lowig was cited by Bourbaki (a famous consortium of French mathematicians who attempted to place all of mathematics on a rigorous, axiomatic foundation) for an important theorem on the cardinality of the vector basis of a separable, infinite-dimensional Banach space. Lorch and Wyman were experts in Special Functions of Mathematical Physics, while Moser was famous for the problems he posed, particularly in number theory and combinatorics. The nucleus of people necessary to start a PhD program was in place. In the subsequent twenty years, some sixty-five mathematicians earned PhD degrees and some 117 were granted MSc degrees; two of the latter were non-thesis degrees, a degree introduced in 1979 based only on course work.
An effective graduate program requires that the staff and students keep abreast of current developments. A regular colloquium, and a library with a comprehensive collection of current journals and recent books are the two principal means to that end. Shortly after his arrival in Edmonton, Moser started a regular colloquium to encourage department members to disseminate the results of their research. Later, when more money became available, speakers from outside the University could be invited. For example, Paul Cohen of Stanford University spoke in the colloquium shortly after he had proved that the axiom of choice is independent of the other axioms of set theory, and Paul Erdös, who was a source of an immense number of problems and solutions to problems in number theory, was a perennial visitor.
The library serves two purposes for a mathematician. Newton’s way of recognizing the work of his predecessors was to state that “if I have seen further, it was by standing upon the shoulders of Giants”. It is even more important that a mathematician not recreate already known results. In order that the library serve the Department well, its holdings must be extensive and accessible. In 1961, the accessibility of the Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry sections of the library was, to the majority of its users, greatly improved by locating those sections in the basement between the Mathematics and Physics building (now the Physics building) and the Chemistry building. The mathematics portion of the science library accompanied the Department in its move to Campus Towers in 1966. When the Department returned to campus with its move to the Central Academic Building four years later, a deputation of mathematicians succeeded in convincing President Wyman and the University Library Committee that our library should remain physically proximate. This concession has substantially enhanced the usefulness of a very good mathematics library.
Lorch realized very soon after he arrived in 1959 that the mathematics library needed many more books and journal subscriptions if it was to adequately serve the needs of a research department. He was soon made chairman of the Department’s library committee. His frustrations with these duties were epitomized in his committee report to the Department one month into the 1962-1963 academic year: “We have already spent $7,500 of our $5,000 allotment (for books and new subscriptions)”. This might not have been regarded as responsible behaviour in some quarters, but the situation was truly desperate, and he did succeed in his attempt to instill a sense of urgency in the Department toward the growth of the library. When the financial stringency in the University eased in subsequent years, the library was one of the principal beneficiaries. Unfortunately, these good times for the library were not to last. Ceilings put on university expenditures combined with the explosive increase in the amount of new knowledge, and the skyrocketing cost of books and journals in the ‘seventies and ‘eighties (and later) have brought new pressures to bear on library budgets.
a. Colloquium (Hans Brungs)
The following colloquia were held during the second term:
i. January 18: A. Muermann, London School of Economics, “Pricing catastrophe insurance derivatives – financial pricing versus actuarial pricing”.
ii. February 15: A. Litvak, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, “Asymptotic theory of convex bodies”.
iii. March 1: I. Gasparis, Oklahoma State University, “A continuum of totally incomparable, hereditarily indecomposable Banach spaces”.
iv. March 8: E. Kaniuth, Universität Paderborn, “Primitive ideal spaces of group algebras of nilpotent discrete groups”.
v. March 15: E.M. Krause, Universität Münster, “Riemann’s period relations and Mumford’s construction of degenerating Abelian varieties”.
vi. March 29, Norden E. Huang, Nasa Flight Center, “The future of spectral analysis”.
b. Algebra Seminar (Bruce Allison, Benjamin Klopsch)
The Algebra Seminar met on Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. this term. The seminar consisted of talks by faculty, students and visitors on various topics in algebra. This term we had talks by several local faculty members and postdocs, as well as by Ted Hurley (Galway), Jairo Gonçalves (São Paulo), Stephen Donkin (London), Olaf Neisse (Augsburg) and Jun Morita (Tsukuba).
After five talks on Henstock integration the Analysis Seminar has wound down for the term.
An appeal: Does anyone else think it would be a useful thing to run a seminar for graduate students (or faculty!) on the techniques of good writing in mathematics?
d. Differential Equations and Dynamical Systems Seminar (Michael Y. Li)
The following is a list of speakers and their topics:
i. Jan. 26., Ming Mei, PDF, U of A, “Stability of Traveling Waves for Reaction-Diffusion Equations with Time Delays”.
ii. Feb. 2., Michael Li, U of A, “A Criterion for the Stability of Matrices”.
iii. Feb. 9., Frank Nani, U of A, “Some Mathematical Criteria for the Persistence and Annihilation of HIV During AIDS”.
iv. Feb. 16, Frank Nani, U of A, “Mathematical Modeling of Pharmacological Drug Dynamics in Central Nervous System”.
v. Feb. 23, Xinzhi Liu, Waterloo, (Jointly with the AMI Seminar), “A New Method for Nonlinear Problems”.
vi. March 2, Herb Freedman, U of A, “Mathematical Models of Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Part I”.
vii. March 9, Yuming Chen, NSERC PDF, U of A, “The Equilibria of a Differential Equation Related to Neural Networks and Their Stability”.
viii. March 16, Lynn Erbe, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, “Averaging Techniques for the Self-adjoint Equations on a Measure Chain”.
ix. March 23, Herb Freedman, U of A, “Mathematical Models of Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Part II”.
x. March 30, Todd Oliynyk, U of A, “Static Spherically Symmetric Einstein-Yang-Mills Equations”.
e. Differential Geometry Seminar (Peter Antonelli)
The Geometry Seminar has enjoyed the following recent lectures:
i. February 8: W. Krawcewicz , U.of A., “Equivariant degree methods in the study of symmetric bifurcation problems”.
ii. March 1: W. Krawcewicz , U.of A., “Some computations of the secondary equivariant degree with application to a steady-state symmetric bifurcation”.
iii. March 8: B. Voorhees, Athabasca University, “Ordinary Differential Equations with Star Structure”.
iv. March 15: A. Bona, University of Calgary, “Raypaths in anisotropic, non-uniform media”.
This semester, we have a homepage for our seminar at
It contains titles and abstracts of all talks given this semester. The following is a list of these seminars:
The Mathematical Biology Seminar meets on Tuesdays from 15:00 to 16:00 in CAB 235. During one of our earlier meetings, Dr. Herb Freedman presented his work on chemotherapy strategies to treat cancer. Recent seminars have featured graduate students. PhD student Gustavo Carrero spoke on some theoretical aspects of monitoring the diffusion of small nuclear proteins by fluorescence recovery after photo bleaching. MSc student Jungmin Lee is modelling the transfer of certain influenza viruses between pigs and humans, and spoke to us on a coupled model with two hosts. Finally, M.Sc. student Ibrahim Agyemang presented his work on a model of ODE equations describing the interaction between agriculture, industry and the ecosphere.
Dr. Jack Tuszynksi from the Department of Physics was scheduled to present the seminar "Models of microtubule polymerization in vitro" in the MITACS-MMPD seminar. Unfortunately, this talk had to be cancelled due to illness, but it will be rescheduled shortly.
i. Quantum Computation Study Group
The Quantum Computation Study Group meets every Thursday at noon in the Theoretical Physics Institute Umezawa Reading Room. Participants come from the Computing Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, and Physics departments in about equal numbers. Discussions have covered interpretive issues in quantum mechanics, quantum algorithms, and complexity models. To date, Jim Hoover (CS), Jonathan Oppenheim (physics), and Eric Woolgar (MS) have shared duties as discussion leaders.
The Chairmanship has been decided. Tony Lau will be our new Chairman as of July 1. We wish him the best of luck in heading such a diverse department as ours.
Congratulations to Walter Allegretto for winning the Rutherford Undergraduate Teaching Award.
Congratulations to Laurent Marcoux for winning the Faculty of Science Award for Teaching Excellence.
Jim Timourian retired (retroactive to) July 2000.
Sudarshan Sehgal will be officially retiring as of July 1, 2001. But he will stay with us part-time for some time to come.
Zev Ditzian as well will be retiring at the end of June but staying on part-time.
Robert Elliott will be leaving us at the end of the academic year. He’ll move to the University of Calgary where he’ll join the Faculty of Management as the Royal Bank Professor of Finance. Their gain is our loss.
We welcome back Herb Freedman who will come out of retirement to become Associate Dean of Science (Research).
Alexander Litvak will join us as Assistant Professor starting July 1. He works in Geometric Functional Analysis.
Dr. Sharma was recently transferred from the University Hospital to the Mount Pleasant Care Centre (Room 125, 10530 - 56 Avenue). He will likely be there for a while. He welcomes all visitors.
Vera Toth joined our office staff on Monday, March 12, as a temporary replacement during Dana McCallum's maternity leave. Vera will be with us until approximately January 25, 2002.
Dana McCallum recently had a daughter, Madison Laura, born on Saturday, January 27, 2001. Weight: 6 lbs. 9 oz. Length: 20 in. Congratulations.
Valerie Welch is the proud grandmother of Hannah Elizabeth Welch, born April 2, 2001.
Weight: 8 lbs. 5 oz. Congratulations.
Mr. Hongtao Yang, one of our Ph.D. students, supervised by Walter Allegretto and Yanping Lin, presented a paper at the 4th Global Finance Conference in Chicago last April. He was informed some time ago that his paper was selected as being one of the ten best presented at the meeting and that it will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Global Finance Journal. Well Done Hongtao!
A sample of mathematical humour found on the internet:
A student, needing some learning, goes to the pharmacy and asks what kind of knowledge pills are available. The pharmacist gives him a pill for English literature. The student duly swallows it and gains new knowledge about English literature.
"What else do you have?" he asks.
"Well, I have pills for art history, biology, and world history" replies the pharmacist.
The student swallows them and becomes very knowledgeable in these subjects as well.
The student is really impressed by this and asks, "Do you have a pill for mathematics?"
The pharmacist goes back into the storeroom and brings back a whopper of a pill and plunks it on the counter.
"I have to take that huge pill for mathematics?" inquires the student.
The pharmacist replies: "Well, you know, math. has always been a little hard to swallow."
Courtesy of W. Krawcewicz