Kudos Ignat Soroko!

It is with great pleasure we congratulate fellow department member Ignat Soroko, who was recently awarded the Provost Certificate of Distinction in Teaching at the Provost Distinguished Graduate Teaching Reception.


Ignat Soroko

Ignat Soroko with Provost Kyle Harper

Ignat Soroko is one of our current graduate students and he is pursuing research in geometric group theory under the guidance of Dr. Noel Brady. And he is evidently one of our more excellent instructors. Congratulations Ignat! You are an inspiration to all of us!!

OU Math Club meeting: Distinguished Lecture by Dr. David Rowe

As you all know (see blog post below) we are honored to have Dr. David Rowe visiting us; he is giving a series of three lectures.


The last lecture will be in the Math Club on Friday, October 17th.



Steiner’s Roman surface

Title of talk: “Who was Jakob Steiner and what was his Roman surface?”

Location: PHSC 201 (Physical Sciences, Room 201, 2nd floor)

Time: 4:00 pm

Please note the different date, time and location compared with the usual meeting of the Math Club.

Distinguished Lecture Series on history of mathematics.

The department is delighted to welcome back Professor (Dr.) David Rowe, an OU graduate and currently Professor of History of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at Johanes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

Dr. David Rowe

Dr. David Rowe, Mainz, Germany

Dr. Rowe will present three lectures on Tuesday, October 14th, Thursday, October 16th and Friday, October 17th. See the following link for times, location as well as abstracts for the lectures. All are welcome! Especially any and all students interested in mathematics. While all lectures are aimed at a general audience, the first lecture on Tuesday, 10/14, is a public lecture open to the entire university community.


You can find out more about Dr. Rowe at the above site and also at the Wikipedia site below. Please come one and all for this exciting lecture series!


Spotlight: A chat with Dr. Keri Kornelson

In this new and hopefully recurring feature we hope to introduce you to some of the faculty members in our department. We recently caught up with the busy yet always available Dr. Kornelson.

Keri Kornelson

Brief Bio: Dr. Keri Kornelson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics.  She received her PhD in 2001, specializing in abstract harmonic analysis.  She held a postdoctoral position at Texas A&M University and was an Assistant Professor at Grinnell College in Iowa before coming to OU in 2008.  Her research is in the areas of harmonic analysis, frame theory, and Fourier analysis on fractals.  Her work has been funded by the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Simons Foundation. She is also interested in new teaching methods, active learning, and exploring the use of technology for instruction.  You never know what you’ll get in her courses these days!

We had the chance to ask her a few questions. So here is a peek into the professional life of one of the mathematicians at OU.

1. What made you decide to pursue mathematics? What led you to becoming a mathematics professor?

     Somewhere toward the end of my Junior year as a physics major, I realized that the physics wasn’t as captivating to me as the math.  I loved the underlying mathematics, but didn’t get as excited about the physics.  I changed my major to math right away.  I still liked the applications, though, so I took a job in the aerospace industry for a while before coming to graduate school.  Being a math professor is by far the best job I’ve ever had, though.

2. What are some of the rewarding things about being a mathematician?

There is a terrific balance to this job between creating/discovering/understanding new mathematical ideas and helping others discover mathematical concepts for themselves.  It’s a mix of feeling the wonder of complete confusion when doing research and being the instructor who shows others how to persist in the face of that confusion.  You never feel too smart, or too stupid, in this job.  It’s a wonderful place to be.  

3. What are your other interests besides mathematics? Favorite band? Snickers or M&Ms?

Interests:  Playing with my geriatric dogs, gardening, cooking, being outside when the weather permits, very amateur salsa dancing.   Band:  the subdudes  Candy:  Both, of course!  In the freezer.   

 4. Who is your favorite mathematician and why?
I know many would pick someone long past that everyone recognizes — Hilbert or Noether or Bernoulli or Gauss.  My favorite, though, is my advisor, Dr. Larry Baggett.  You should check out his book  In the Dark on the Sunny Side: A Memoir of an Out-of-Sight Mathematician.   His work in abstract harmonic analysis is elegant and precise.  He calls it the perfect blend of analysis, topology, and algebra.  More recently, he made his mark in the theory of wavelets and frames, introducing generalized multiresolution analyses.  He is just an amazing mathematician, person, and friend.  I wouldn’t be the mathematician I am today without his guidance and support.

5. Discuss some of the challenges students face in graduate school and your suggestions to overcome them.

The answers to almost every challenge in graduate school are a) find a network of fellow students to support you through the tough times and b) keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Everyone gets to a point when the mathematics gets really really hard, is coming very fast, and a big test or talk is looming.  No one is born knowing this stuff, everyone has to learn it.  You have to trust that time, hard thinking, working loads of problems, trying examples, drawing pictures, and discussing problems (math and otherwise) with your network will lead you to know more than you did before.  

Your path will be different from everyone else’s, by the way.  Don’t worry about that.  Just keep walking on your path.  

6. You have been very active in increasing participation of women and minorities in the STEM disciplines. What more should we do or what should we do more of? What is your advice to someone from an underrepresented group pursuing mathematics?
Oh boy, that’s a question.  If I had these answers, I’d get a grant and just fix it.  I don’t know the answers, though, so what we should do is keep thinking about it and trying stuff.  
My advice to all students, but especially to students who look around their science, engineering, or math classroom and don’t feel like they have had the same experiences as the others, is sort of the same as I gave to graduate students.  
Find a network/study group and work together.  Help each other learn the material, and quiz each other to be sure everyone’s got it.  It takes a little while to figure out good people to study with, so don’t be frustrated if your first attempt at forming a group isn’t perfect.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Persistence is by far the biggest indicator of success.  Einstein’s claim about 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration absolutely holds true in your courses.  Do the homework, but also quiz yourself often, and mix up the problems.  That will deepen your learning.   
Maybe one more tip…use the resources.  Go to office hours, use the Math Center, ask questions in class even though it’s scary, look for videos online, work extra problems from the book.
7. Describe “a day in the life of a mathematician” as it applies to you.

My days vary a lot.  Some are mostly focused on teaching, getting ready to teach, making class activities and material, and meeting with students.  I try to do a little research most days, but some days are my true research days where that’s my main focus.  Then there are days where I help my colleagues on the projects that keep this awesome math department going and contribute to making it better and better.  

8. Tell us, if possible, a little of what is your research area and what you are currently working on.
My research is in harmonic analysis.  This often entails representing objects in terms of an agreed upon set of building blocks.  The blocks depend on the setting:  Fourier transforms use sine and cosine functions as building blocks; wavelets involve picking a fixed function and then doing shifts (translations) and stretch operations (dilations) to make all the building blocks.  I work on frames, which are sets of building blocks that have some redundancy, so you can build the same object in more than one way.  Like your friend loaning you some blocks from their set to combine with yours.
Once you pick a set of building blocks, you must figure out what to build.  Sampling theory involves a set of instructions with your blocks that tells you how many of various kinds of blocks to use, but not what you are building.  Thats what you have to figure out.   I’m working on a problem finding general solutions for certain kinds of samples right now.

OU Math Club: first meeting of the year.


OU Math Club

Please join Dr. Catherine Hall in the first organizational meeting of the Math Club. All are welcome, math majors, math minors, math lovers and pizza lovers. Oh yeah, there’s free pizza!

When: Wednesday, October 1st, 5:15 pm

Where: PHSC 1105 (Physical Sciences, 11th floor, Room 1105)

Why: Free Pizza! Cool math! Nice people!!

The IgNobel awards for 2014.

Warning!! Humor ahead!


The IgNobel mascot: the Stinker

Every year, shortly before the actual Nobel Prizes are announced, a group of enterprising scientists and science enthusiasts gathers together to honor research that would otherwise never get noticed. Research that, in their words, “…makes you laugh, then think.” These are the IgNobel awards and they have been awarded every year since 1991.


This year’s award winners:


Some highlights:

1. The prizes are awarded by the Harvard Society of Physicists and the Harvard Science Fiction association. They choose a theme and the areas in which to award prizes. Past prizes have included: the 2004 Peace Prize to Daisuke Inoue, the inventor of karaoke.

2. The prizes are handed out by actual Nobel laureates who also participate in the whole ceremony in other ways (for instance, three Nobel laureates serenaded Mr. Inoue when he won the Peace Prize).

3. This year’s ceremony (which requires sought after tickets) was held September 18th at Harvard. You can watch the ceremony here:


4. Here is the complete program:


including the famous 24/7 event in which distinguished academics deliver a 24 second lecture explaining their field followed by a 7 second clear, accurate summary.

MacArthur Foundation (Genius) Awards


The MacArthur Foundation has announced its list of prize winners this year. These awards, sometimes colloquially called “genius awards” are given to extraordinary, creative individuals in a broad variety of field. This year’s awards spans fields as diverse as history, poetry, computer science, graphic novel writing and of course mathematics.

Among the award winners we are delighted to celebrate the recognition of two mathematicians: Jacob Lurie of Harvard University who is being recognized for his entirely new conceptual understanding of derived algebraic geometry.

(Shameless name dropping: Ye old blog master ran into Jacob Lurie back in 1998; I was a 4th year grad student, he was a junior in high school and we were in the same advanced graduate class in the Ph.D program at Maryland. Needless to say he was by far the best student in the class. He started the class knowing nothing about the subject and ended the semester giving an alternate proof of theorems in the most recent published papers in the subject.)


and Yitang Zhang of University of New Hampshire who recently (see earlier blog post) made a striking advance toward the resolution of the Twim Prime Conjecture.


You can find the full list of award winners here:


The prize carried an unrestricted award (no strings attached stipend) of $625,000 given out over 5 years to help the Fellows continue on their creative journeys. Let us celebrate the amazing contributions of all 21 award winners!