MSCS Surges Forward with Support from the NSF

Lawrence Ein

Lawrence Ein. Photo by Micki Leventhal

In spring 2013 the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science (MSCS) received a prestigious, five-year $2,489,045 Research and Training Group (RTG) Grant from the National Science Foundation. The principal investigator on this grant is Professor Lawrence Ein, with co-PIs Izzet Coskun, David Marker, Kevin Tucker, and Ramin Takloo-Bighash. The overall aim of the RTG program is “to strengthen the nation's scientific competitiveness by increasing the number of well-prepared U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents who pursue careers in the mathematical sciences.” In order to do this, the grant supports structured research groups comprising undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and faculty members working on vertically-integrated projects around a common theme. UIC’s research theme is algebraic and arithmetic geometry, including the related fields of number theory, model theory, and complex dynamics. The grant provides support for graduate and post-graduate education and research connected to this theme, and earmarks $80,000 for undergraduate research projects.

RTG grants are traditionally awarded only to top programs with established infrastructure and a record of outstanding research and teaching. This award recognizes the strength of MSCS, reinforcing UIC’s reputation as a leader in algebraic geometry, and making it a destination for researchers in the area.

Several exciting initiatives are already underway as a result of this grant.

At the undergraduate level, Professors Coskun and Tucker are organizing a two-week Research Experience for Undergraduates to take place this May. In February 2014, 25 students from universities across the country came to UIC to attend the Midwest Algebraic Geometry Graduate Conference, which will come to UIC again in April 2015.

In March 2014, Kevin Tucker, Zsolt Patakfalvi (Princeton University), and Karl Schwede (University of Utah) organized a Positive Characteristic Algebraic Geometry Workshop on campus, welcoming 53 participants (largely graduate students, postdocs, and young researchers) from major universities across the U.S., and in October Lawrence Ein and Alex Kuronya (Budapest University of Technology and Economics) welcomed 20 participants to campus for a workshop on Newton-Okounkov bodies. Currently, Professor Tucker is working with Claudiu Raicu (University of Notre Dame), Uli Walther (Purdue University), and Wenliang Zhang (University of Nebraska) to organize a workshop on local cohomology for February 2015.

This grant has also facilitated outreach to high schools, enabling Professor Coskun to mentor James Tao, a senior at the Illinois Math and Science Academy. Tao, who worked on counting a certain type of rational curves in space, is now a freshman at Harvard University.

The material support and intellectual excitement generated by the RTG is enabling MSCS to build on its strength by attracting talented young mathematicians. Through this grant the department has already recruited top graduate students from Princeton, Caltech, University of Indiana, UC San Diego, Michigan State and the University of Chicago. The department has also recruited two top post-docs. Matthew Woolf who earned his PhD at Harvard joined the department this year; John Lesieutre who completed his doctoral work at MIT will join UIC after completing a year at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Brooke Shipley

Brooke Shipley. Photo by Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

“We are thrilled at the outstanding graduate students and postdocs we have been able to attract through the RTG,” said Brooke Shipley, head of MSCS. “Together with the numerous conferences and other RTG activities, this will help UIC thrive as one of the premiere worldwide centers of Algebraic Geometry research.”