Our colleague Washek Pfeffer passed away on January 3, 2021, at age 84. Václav Frantiček Pfeffer, born in Prague on November 14, 1936, changed his name to Washek Pfeffer on becoming a US citizen in 1970. He joined the UC Davis Department of Mathematics in 1966, retiring in 1994.
Washek exemplifies the ideal of the quirky cosmopolitan intellectual who would be at home at any university, anywhere in the world. One of Washek's middle school classmates who later rose to prominence, Václav Havel, the famous playwright and President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) and of the Czech Republic (1993-2003), became a close friend in the 1950s.
Washek's zest for life translated into mathematical productivity: He published over 100 research articles, including one last year. I urge you to take a moment to read Richard Gardner's obituary.
Martin Fraas has been named a 2021 Hellman Fellow. The Hellman family inaugurated the Hellman Fellows Program in 1994 to support junior faculty research by making grants to junior faculty at 14 institutions: the ten campuses of the University of California along with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Business School, Stanford University, and Williams College. Congratulations Martin!
Bruno Nachtergaele was selected as one of this year's recipients of the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Research Award. The award, given annually by Germany's Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, recognizes Nachtergaele's lifetime achievements in mathematics research and teaching.
The von Siemens award includes a cash prize and an additional stipend to fund a research stay of up to a year in Germany. Nachtergaele plans to use this support to continue his long-term collaboration on the mathematics of the fractional quantum Hall effect and other topics in mathematical physics with researchers Simone Warzel and Amanda Young at the Technical University of Munich.
Eugene Gorsky was selected as one of the winners of the UC Davis College of Letters and Science Teaching Award for 2021. The award is given annually by the College to recognize outstanding teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Gorsky and four other recipients of this year's award will be presented with the award at the College Assembly on June 2. Congratulations Eugene!
This Give Day 2021, generous donors have the opportunity to transform our students' lives. Please consider supporting one of the Department of Mathematics gift challenges.
Math Department Challenge
Thanks to a generous gift from Val Chan '92 to establish this challenge, any gift received will support outstanding academic programs, the pursuit of new knowledge, as well as our talented students and faculty. Your contribution will also allow flexibility to address the greatest needs within the department, including graduate student recruitment and community building.
Eric C. Ruliffson Scholarship in Mathematics
Help support math students and honor the memory of Eric Ruliffson (B.S., mathematics, ’68). Eric excelled at problem-solving at UC Davis, which helped him to achieve life-long personal and professional success. This scholarship was established to support mathematics students, like Eric, to help them succeed. Once 15 gifts to this fund are received, $25,000 from Erica Ruliffson Schultz and Bryan Schultz will activate on Give Day.
Rishidev Chaudhuri is an applied mathematician. He joined UC Davis in 2019 with a joint appointment between the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior. His research deals with themes such as noise and variability in the brain, computation via dynamics in recurrent networks, and more. He plans to use the Sloan Fellowship funding to study how noise and randomness might play a role in neural computation, and to develop techniques to extract structure from experimental recordings of the activity of populations of neurons, and attempt to apply the resulting data to test and refine theories of decision-making.
Laura Starkston joined UC Davis in 2018. She is a pure mathematician specializing in low-dimensional topology. Her Sloan Fellowship work will focus on several research questions relating to symplectic 4-manifolds and singular submanifolds. In addition to the Sloan Fellowship, she is the recipient of a 2020 Hellman Fellowship and a 2021 Faculty Early Career Award from the National Science Foundation.
Congratulations Rishidev and Laura!
Jesús De Loera has been awarded the Farkas Prize for 2020. The prize is awarded annually by the INFORMS Optimization Society, part of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).
The prize was awarded to Prof. De Loera "in recognition of his pioneering work at the intersection of discrete mathematics, optimization and algebraic geometry."
The Society further explains in its award announcement: "Professor De Loera's research includes fundamental results on topics including the complexity of interior-point methods for linear programming, the Hirsch conjecture for network flow polytopes, use of Gröbner and Graver bases for discrete optimization and the theory and application of triangulations. His research is noted for the successful computational implementation of methods based on complex mathematical theory, including the enumeration of lattice points in polyhedra and the application of Hilbert's Nullstellensatz to combinatorial optimization. Professor De Loera is also well known as an outstanding expositor and mentor whose infectious enthusiasm draws other researchers to work in areas where they might otherwise not dare to venture."
- Incoming graduate student Ashleigh Adams was granted the National Science Foundation's prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship. According to the Foundation, the fellowship "recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions. The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost of education allowance of $12,000 to the institution."
- Fifth-year student Jianping Pan, whose research is on algebraic combinatorics, was awarded the Professors for the Future fellowship for 2020-21. The Professors for the Future program, managed by UC Davis Graduate Studies, "is a year-long competitive fellowship program designed to recognize and develop the leadership skills of outstanding graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who have demonstrated their commitment to professionalism, integrity, and academic service."
- Katy Jarvis, a student in her final year in the graduate program whose research is on mathematical models for muscle contraction and other biological processes, received the UC Davis Dissertation Year Fellowship for 2020-21, a "12-month fellowship open to continuing doctoral students who are in the final stages of their doctoral work demonstrating strong potential for university teaching and research."
- Black Jiang and Eli Moore received a Summer GSR award from UC Davis Graduate Studies, offering financial support for their research activities during Summer 2020.
- Xiaotie Chen, Chengyang Wang and Jack Wesley received the College of Letters and Science Dean's Summer Fellowship for 2020.
From the UC Davis statement: When fall quarter instruction starts Sept. 30, the campus plans to offer most courses remotely, though some courses will also be available in person, depending on health guidelines and instructor preference. As well, in-person instruction will occur for the small number of courses that cannot be delivered remotely, such as those requiring live performance and hands-on experiences.
At this time, we anticipate that math classes will be held remotely.