Author Archives: kasmana

How Svitlana Mayboroda’s Landscape Function is Improving LED Lighting

Some mathematics research can take a long time — decades if not centuries — to be used in an application.  One of the amazing thing about Svitlana Maybroroda’s recent work on the mathematics of waves is that it is already being applied to improving the efficiency of LED lighting.  Read about her work and its applications in this new article at Quanta.

Ancient Trig Tables Decoded!

Plimpton 322 is an ancient Babylonian tablet that has been only now deciphered after a great deal of effort.  It turns out, it is a remarkably accurate trigonometric table!  This breaks the record for both the oldest and the most accurate ancient table of its kind.

Some of the difficulty in deciphering the old mathematical reference comes from the fact that the ancient Babylonians counted in base 60.  (This is, in fact, the reason we use numbers like 360 and 180 to describe angles.  They are were nice round numbers to the Babylonians!)

To learn more about this fascinating discovery, check out the original paper which is available as a free download as long as you are using a computer on the CofC campus.

In Memoriam: Cathleen Morawetz

Another famous mathematician has died, but in many ways this is a less tragic story than the last death we announced on this blog.

Cathleen Morawetz, who was a president of the American Mathematical Society and professor at NYU, died this past weekend at the age of 94.  Her contributions to the mathematical study of waves and shock formation continue to be influential.  In fact, as this article in the New York Times describes, just weeks before her death she attended a conference where younger researchers were using the inequalities that she had proved.

The article also recalls an interesting anecdote about this woman who succeeded as a mathematician at a time that this ran contrary to society’s expectations:

In an interview with the journal Science in 1979, Dr. Morawetz recalled that when her children were young — a time when few women pursued professional careers — people often asked whether she worried about them while she was at work.

Her reply: “No, I’m much more likely to worry about a theorem when I’m with my children.”

Sad News: Maryam Mirzakhani has died

Maryam Mirzakhani, the Stanford mathematician who was the first woman to win a Fields Medal when it was awarded to her just three years ago at ICM 2014, has died of cancer.  This is a tragedy for the world of mathematics as well as for her family and friends.  For more information, see this news story.

Kudos 2017!

Congratulations to the following CofC Math students, alumni and faculty:


Each year, a student who recently took calculus at CofC is awarded a $100 prize in the Harrison Randolph Calculus Contest.  This year, it was Bach Nguyen who won the prize based on his answers to the test that was administered on April 14th.

The prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship covers the cost of tuition, fees, room and board and books up to $7,500. The College was one of just a handful of schools around the country with three or more honorees, one of whom was math major John Cobb.

Congratulations to Katelynn Honeycutt and Spencer Wilder whose research poster “Validity of Nonlinear Beam Models for Axial Flow” won an award of merit at the SSM Poster Session.

The recipients of the 2017 Outstanding Student award from the math department are Arianna Tolerton, Christopher Johnson, Elyana Crowder, Emanuel Valencia, Emma CollinsIsabel Johnston, Katelynn Huneycutt, Kaya Tollas, Na Duong, Payden Shaw, Sonia Kopel, and Spencer Wilder.

Isabel Johnston and Emanuel Valencia are the recipients of the 2017 Susan Prazak Endowed Award for Future Teachers of Mathematics.

Sonia Kopel won this year’s Ewa Wojcicka Mathematics Award.

Christopher Johnson was the recipient of the A. Scott Ward Award (yes, it really is the “A Ward Award…) for Excellence in the Mathematical Sciences.


Tyler Perini (’16) who worked with Amy Langville when he was an applied math major here at CofC is now a PhD student at Georgia Tech studying operations research.  We are proud to congratulate Tyler on his NSF Graduate Research Fellowship of $34K in stipend and $12K in cost-of-education allowance for five years.

Hau Chan (’10) will be joining the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Fall of 2018. Before joining UNL, he will hold postdoctoral positions at the USC Center for Artificial Intelligence and the Harvard Innovation Science Laboratory.


Martin Jones received the 2017 Norine Noonan Award from the School of Sciences and Mathematics for his contributions to the school and community as a teacher, scholar and activist.

Stephane Lafortune was awarded a Collaboration Grant from the Simons Foundation.  These grants funded by mathematician (and Wall Street wizard) Jim Simons aim to foster research by increasing collaborative contacts between mathematicians.

You’ve Got to Read this Inspirational Interview with Mathematician Sylvia Serfaty

Check out this fantastic interview with Sylvia Serfaty that recently appeared in Wired Magazine.  It has great quotes like these:

We do a disservice to the profession by giving this image of little geniuses and prodigies. These Hollywood movies about scientists can be somewhat counterproductive, too. They are telling children that there are geniuses out there that do really cool stuff, and kids may think, “Oh, that’s not me.” Maybe 5 percent of the profession fits that stereotype, but 95 percent doesn’t. You don’t have to be among the 5 percent to do interesting math…

 The fun is in the struggle with a problem that resists. It’s the same kind of pleasure as with hiking: You hike uphill and it’s tough and you sweat, and at the end of the day the reward is the beautiful view. Solving a math problem is a bit like that, but you don’t always know where the path is and how far you are from the top. You have to be able to accept frustration, failure, your own limitations….

It’s really beautiful to observe, as you progress in your mathematical maturity, how everything is somehow connected. There are so many things that are related, and you keep building connections in your intellectual landscape. With experience you develop a point of view that is pretty much unique to yourself—somebody else would come at it from a different angle. That’s what’s fruitful, and that’s how you can solve problems that maybe somebody smarter than you wouldn’t solve just because they don’t have the necessary perspective….