Van Vleck Notes

Department of Mathematics
University of Wisconsin


  1. From the Editor
  2. From the Chair
  3. New Faculty
  4. Van Vleck Visiting Assistant Professors
  5. Visiting Faculty
  6. Sabbaticals and Leaves
  7. Faculty Dinner Recognizes Retirees
  8. Honors and Awards
  9. Special Lectures
  10. Conference News
  11. Staff News
  12. Student and Instructional News
  13. Undergraduate Student News
  14. Graduate Student News
  15. Graduate Student Awards
  16. Other News
  17. Alumni News
  18. Death Notices
  19. Alumni Address Correction form

From the Editor ...

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The Department of Mathematics is completing the third year of its VIGRE Program and underwent a very successful site review by NSF Division of Mathematical Sciences program directors and an external reviewer last October. This means that we will receive support of $1 million from NSF for the years 2002-04 bringing the total support to $2.5 million for the years 1999-2004. This money has been crucial for support of research and other scholarly activities by undergraduates, for recruiting top students to our graduate program and for allowing current graduate students to concentrate on their academic work (in particular, research for theses), and for attracting some of the best new mathematics PhDs to Madison for postdoctoral work. We have been very successful in all three of these categories.

Last fall VIGRE postdoc Dan Knopf organized a Minimal Surfaces Lab for undergraduates, According to Dan, ``the primary goal of this Lab is to help participants learn how to do research. The students who take part will have the opportunity to work in a collaborative setting, develop their creativity, learn how to communicate problems and results to others, and learn how to use computing and library resources effectively.'' This was a great learning experience for our undergraduate math majors. VIGRE postdocs Rebecca Field and Chris Raymond assisted and helped mentor students, with Chris providing an applied math viewpoint to abstract problems. More than a dozen students participated in the Lab. Next year we plan an undergraduate research lab in a topic yet to be chosen.

Our VIGRE seminar this academic year was divided into two parts. In the fall semester we had weekly talks by current faculty who were asked to describe their research area in a way that was understandable to non-experts. The purpose was to introduce first and second year graduate students to the research directions of our faculty, as a way of helping them get to know faculty and to decide on what area of mathematics to concentrate. In the spring semester we focused on how mathematics impacts and is used in other fields and why a Math PhD student might consider taking a minor in that field. We had talks by Dieter van Melkebeek of the Computer Science Dept. on ``Quantum information processing,'' Anthony Ives of the Zoology Dept. on ``Population dynamics of midges in Lake Myvatn, Iceland,'' and Chris DeMarco of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept. on "Falling Dominos in Networked Systems." Doug Arnold, the Director of the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) gave a talk on industrial mathematics and opportunities for mathematicians in industry. One of our current graduate students (James Hamblin) talked about his work on group theory with fifth graders; Abbe Herzig, a former math graduate student who is getting a PhD in math education and is on the faculty of Rutgers University, told us about a study she did about graduate students entering and leaving mathematics. Our final seminar was by Kevin Strobel (PhD 1994, P. Rabinowitz) of the Aegon Insurance Company (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) who gave a talk on ``Mathematics in Actuarial Science.''

In summary, it has been a very successful year, not only for our VIGRE program but for all our programs. Next year is looking very good, with many acceptances by top graduate school prospects-including some with VIGRE fellowships, and several excellent postdocs-including three new VIGRE postdocs. And we have hired two outstanding new faculty members that you can read about inside. Enjoy!

From the Chair

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This is currently my third and final year as Chair of the Department of Mathematics. I have been very fortunate to serve during a very positive period at the University of Wisconsin, and in these three years we have managed to do a number of things in different categories. Most importantly we have been extremely successful at hiring high quality colleagues in areas of central relevance in mathematics. Given the large number of retirements that we have experienced, this is a hugely important development.

This year we hired two very brilliant young mathematicians: Xiuxiong Chen, currently at Princeton University and Alexander Kiselev, currently at the University of Chicago. Both of them have been hired as associate professors. Xiuxiong is a differential geometer who has established himself as a world leader on the geometry of Kaehler manifolds; his contributions have been recognized by an invitation to deliver an address at this year's ICM. Alexander is an exceptionally talented analyst with interests in applications and he is a recipient of both a Sloan Fellowship and an NSF Career Award. We are delighted by the prospect of having them join our faculty this coming Fall.

This year our department has also been involved in a number of interdisciplinary cluster hiring initiatives, in the areas of string theory, molecular biometry and computational sciences. The idea behind these initiatives is to hire faculty that will work across departmental boundaries, and establish research groups of an interdisciplinary nature. We expect that the benefits from these efforts will be considerable.

In these pages you will read about a number of awards and distinctions that have been bestowed upon math faculty. This is simply a reflection of the tremendously high quality of our department, which we have worked hard to maintain. In particular we have some very brilliant graduate students finishing up this year, who have been very successful on the job market. The painstaking job of graduate admissions has been coordinated by Jim Kuelbs the past few years, and he has been doing a terrific job. Our graduate students are stronger than ever.

One fact which readers of this newsletter should be aware of is the excellent staff that we currently have in Van Vleck Hall. They are a remarkable group of individuals who deserve our thanks for all their hard work. In particular I would like to single out the dedicated and excellent service provided by Gen Novara, who is our Departmental Administrator. Chairs come and go, but she has provided enormously competent oversight for all departmental affairs for a number of years.

Although you will have read about some ominous budget problems here at Wisconsin don't let that worry you too much. The morale is high and we consider this simply a momentary and cyclical period of difficulty. Given the central role that our department plays at the University of Wisconsin and our sustained excellence, I am confident that we will weather these transient difficulties very successfully. Of course during these times the generosity of our former students and friends is especially appreciated and I can only conclude this brief statement by thanking all of those who made gifts to our department.


           Alejandro Adem

           UW-Madison Math Dept Chair

Alumni News and Comments

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Argimiro A. Arratia Q.
[PhD 1997, D. Joseph] of the Mathematics Department of Universidad Simon Bolivar in Venezuela, is now Managing Editor of the ``Boletin de la Asociacion Matematica Venezolana.'' This bulletin of the Venezuelan Mathematics Society, which comes out twice a year, was begun in 1994.

Rick Ball
[PhD 1974, J. Harvey] is now Chair of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Denver.

Oliver Eng
[PhD 1996, G. Benkart] has given $5,250 to the Department of Mathematics in order to establish the ``Mathematical Game and Puzzle Fund.'' Games and puzzles purchased through this fund are kept in a cabinet in the 9th floor conference room. Selection of puzzles and games is currently being handled by Jim Propp.

Thomas Hawkins
[PhD 1968, R. C. Buck] of the Mathematics Department of Boston University has been awarded the first Albert Leon Whitman Prize by the American Mathematical Society. This prize is given for notable exposition on the history of mathematics. The citation [Notices AMS, April 2001, 416-417] cites among many other publications, his book ``The Emergence of the Theory of Lie Groups; An Essay in the History of Mathematics 1869-1926,'' Springer-Verlag, 2000.

Jonathan Kane
[PhD 1980, A. Nagel] has been elected as Chair-Elect of the MAA/Wisconsin Section for 2001-02.

Mark Lawrence
[PhD 1995, R. Brualdi] is Group General Manager, Risk Management of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) in Melbourne, Australia. There he is responsible for ANZ's risk management framework, overseeing its global strategies, policies and processes.

Jennifer Szydlik
[PhD 1995, J. Harvey] has been promoted to Associate Professor of Mathematics at UW-Oshkosh.

Send your news for next year's newsletter to the editor:

Death Notices

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Burton H. Colvin [PhD 1943, R. Langer] died on August 24, 2001. Dr.  Colvin taught at the University of Wisconsin before going to work at the Boeing Aircraft Company in the early 1950's. In 1972 he became Head of the Applied Mathematics Division of the National Bureau of Standards, now National Institute of Standards (NIST) and Technology. From 1986 to 1991 he was Academic Affairs Director of NIST. He was the recipient of the Commerce Department's two highest awards, its Gold and Silver Medals. In 1980 he received the President's Meritorious Rank Award. He was also active in the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Address Correction and Alumni News
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Department of Mathematics Annual Fund Drive

Please accept my contribution in the amount of $ _____________ (enclosed) which is designated for:

UW Foundation Accounts (Department of Mathematics)

[¯] Dept. of Math. General Fund - Serves as the department's general account.
[¯] R. Creighton Buck- awards an Undergraduate Prize for Creativity in Mathematics.
[¯] Wallace J. Hilliard Fund - provides support for the Wisconsin Emerging Scholars Program (WES).
[¯] Elizabeth Hirschfelder Fund-for Graduate Women in Mathematics, Chemistry & Physics.
[¯] Mark Ingraham Math Scholarship Fund - provides a scholarship for a mathematics major above freshman standing.
[¯] David and Janet Kirkbride Scholarship in Mathematics - provides a semester's tuition for an outstanding undergraduate student studying mathematics.
[¯] John Nohel Prize in Mathematics - a prize for the best Ph.D Thesis in applied mathematics.
[¯] Wolfgang Wasow Memorial Lecture Fund-supports a lecture by an eminent mathematician in the Distinguished Lecture series.
[¯] Van Vleck Math Talent Search - provides funds for our annual math talent competition.

For donations to the above funds, please make checks payable to UW Foundation and send them to:

UW Foundation
c/o David Simon
P.O. Box 8860
Madison, WI 53708-8860.

All contributions are tax deductible; many corporations have a matching grants program.

Van Vleck Notes

is published by annually by the
Department of Mathematics of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
480 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1388

Phone:(608) 263-3054
Fax: (608) 263-8891 Home Page:

Richard A. Brualdi, editor (

Diane Reppert, technical editor (