The Department of Mathematics celebrated Mathematics Awareness Month in April with the Milne and Gilfillan Lectures. The theme of the nation-wide math awareness month was Math Drives Careers. Careers in mathematics have received considerable attention in recent years and a number of surveys rank the job title of “mathematician” as the most satisfying occupation. In fact, mathematician was listed as the top occupation of 2014 and most hiring managers assert that quantitative skills are essential to careers across the spectrum of business and industry. The various events surrounding mathematics awareness at OSU are intended to advance interest in the mathematical sciences within Corvallis and further professional development of the department’s undergraduate students.

Milne Lectures in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science

Michael WatermanThe department welcomed OSU alumnus Michael S. Waterman (’64, ’66), one of the founders and current leaders in the area of computational biology, to present two lectures as part of the 2015 Milne Lectures in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science.

On March 30, Waterman delivered his first lecture, “DNA Sequencing in the 21st Century,” in which he presented an historical perspective of the mathematical, statistical and computational challenges of DNA sequencing. Waterman delivered his second lecture on April 1 entitled, “Using Word Counts for Alignment Free Sequence Analysis,” which discussed analyzing genetic sequences using local alignment.

A native Oregonian, Waterman is a University of Southern California Dornsife Professor and holds joint academic appointments in the Departments of Biological Sciences, Mathematics, and Computer Science. He earned his PhD in Probability and Statistics from Michigan State University. He received both his bachelor and master’s degrees in Mathematics from OSU (then Oregon State College). He has received a Doctor Philosphiae Honors Causa from Tel Aviv University in 2011 and from Southern Denmark University in 2013.

Professor Waterman is a recently announced 2015 Laureate of the Dan David Prize, an international prize headquartered at Tel Aviv University, for achievements having an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact on our world. Each recipient receives an award of $1 million in recognition of outstanding research in the past, present and for the future.

Support for the Milne Lectures comes from a generous gift from the Milne family as well as support from the College of Science’s Departments of Mathematics and Statistics, the College of Engineering‘s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and from the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing at OSU.

F.A. Gilfillan Memorial Lecture

Mathematics Awareness Month ended with the Gilfillan Memorial Lecture, “Blending Scientific and Mathematical Curiosities,” presented by Mathematics Professor Edward Waymire on April 28. The lecture engaged audience members by sharing his enthusiasm and curiosity about natural phenomena from science when phrased in mathematical terms.

The F.A. Gilfillan Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Science was established by the family of Francois A. “Doc” Gilfillan to honor his life, service and contributions to Oregon State University, the College of Science and to the field of pharmaceutical chemistry. Doc Gilfillan served as the Dean of the College from 1938 to 1962 and as acting president of OSU from 1941 to 1942.

This is the second time the Gilfillan lecture was given by a mathematician. Ronald P. Guenther was the first OSU mathematician to receive the Gilfillan award in 1995.

In his talk, Waymire traced his path in mathematics from learning multiplication tables as a child, thanks to the efforts of his grandfather, to his present stature among the nation’s leading probabilists, and a passionate teacher, mentor and advocate for strengthening support of mathematical research and education.

2016 Mathematics Awareness Month

Next year, the celebrations will include the Regional Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Section of the Mathematical Association of America on April 2, 2016. The purpose of the Pacific Northwest Section is to advance collegiate-level mathematics on a regional level as well as to provide professional development and networking activities for section members and mathematics students. 

The eighth annual Northwest Undergraduate Mathematics Symposium (NUMS) will be embedded within the larger annual meeting. The NUMS conference not only gives students a welcoming and supportive venue to communicate their scholarly work, it also serves to prepare our most talented students for the presentation competition at the national MathFest held each summer. Up to 200 students, from nearly every school in the region, are expected to attend.