This year, there were 10 recipients of the Theoretical Physics Fellowship and 38 recipients of the Mathematics Fellowship, coming from colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.

Prof. Csaba Csáki, physics, was one of the recipients of the Theoretical Physics fellowship. Csáki researches particle physics beyond the standard model, which describes electromagnetic, weak and strong interactions. The standard model describes how these interactions make up the basic building blocks of the universe.

“We have some really good reasons to believe that there may be other phenomena that are not going to be described by the standard model. For example, dark matter is not described by the standard model,” Csáki said.

Csáki will spend his one year sabbatical with researchers from around the world.

“In the fall, I’m going to Israel for six weeks and in the spring, I’m going to Japan for six weeks. I have collaborators in both of those places,” Csáki said.

Prof. Eun-Ah Kim, physics, also received the Theoretical Physics fellowship. Kim’s prior research experience includes collaborating with the University’s computer science department to apply artificial intelligence tools to correlated quantum matter research.

Kim will conduct research at Harvard University during her sabbatical.

“Being free from day-to-day responsibilities and teaching will help me think more bold and creative thoughts. Spending a full year at Harvard will help me sprout and nurture new collaborations with colleagues at Harvard and MIT, applying machine learning tools and data science approaches to quantum matter data,” Kim said.

Prof. Michael Stillman, mathematics, was a recipient of the Mathematics fellowship. Stillman researches computational algebraic geometry. He hopes to incorporate his research about mathematics into real world applications, such as string theory and biology.

“The Simons will allow me an extra semester to go to the [other] top centers of research in these areas, where many other mathematicians have the same interest in structure. This is far more interesting math and structure than the basic math one learns up through calculus,” Stillman said.

Prof. Alex Townsend, mathematics, was a recipient of the Mathematics Fellowship, as well. Townsend researches computational mathematics and numerical linear algebra.

Townsend will be traveling to Australia during his sabbatical where he will be exploring accurate methods for solving differential equations.

“I’ve been developing, what we call, a spectral method—which is a very accurate method for solving differential equations—for a few years. One of the collaborators that I have in Australia also develops the same techniques,” Townsend said.

The other two Cornell faculty members who received the Simons Fellowship, Prof. Laurent Saloff Coste, mathematics, and Prof. Eanna Flanagan, physics, did not comment.

2022 was a remarkable year with six Cornell faculty members receiving the Simons Fellowship—there were no Cornell recipients in 2021, one in 2020, and two in 2019. Overall, the Simons Fellowship will give Cornell physics and mathematics faculty an opportunity to conduct innovative research with collaborators from other universities and around the world.

]]>The Ruth I. Michler Memorial Prize is awarded once a year to a woman recently promoted to associate professor or an equivalent position in the mathematical sciences. The Michler Lecture Series invites the winner to speak to faculty members and graduate students.

The prize is provided by the Association for Women in Mathematics, a nonprofit founded in 1971 that encourages women to pursue careers in the mathematical sciences and to promote equal opportunities for women and girls in the field.

Winners of the prize receive a fellowship that allows them to spend a semester conducting research in the Cornell mathematics department. The applicants are provided with $50,000 as a part of the prize, as well as a $3,000 supplemental housing and subsistence stipend.

With this fellowship, Akhtari will pursue her research on classical Diophantine equations, with a focus on index form equations and the structure of rings in algebraic number fields.

Cornell will hold this lecture at 4 p.m. in Malott Hall 532 and is open to the Cornell community. The public can access the talk virtually.

An ever-changing institution, Cornell saw the course of numerous historical events throughout Nerode’s time at the university — spanning an array of national-scale events, including the Vietnam protests and the Cold War to the Willard Straight Hall Takeover.

Nerode also witnessed the founding of a diverse range of majors, such as Asian American, Near Eastern and American Indian and Indigenous Studies, among others, all of which were instrumental in improving Cornell’s diversity, he told The Sun. Nerode also saw the founding of the Women’s Resource Center and Student Disability Services in addition to various additional cultural housing options.

While at Cornell, Nerode co-launched the Department of Computer Science in 1965. In the mathematics department, he served as its chair from 1982 to 1987 and has advised generations of Ph.D. students. He also served as the director of the Mathematical Science Institute.

Throughout his 60-year tenure at Cornell, Nerode has borne witness to considerable changes in Cornell’s appearance and how it operates. “The buildings were more separated and it was extremely attractive to have all the empty space around the buildings,” he said.

Administratively, Nerode believes that Cornell has experienced the same changes that every other major university encounters. Nerode remarked on the increased support for students and government involvement in the form of research grants and regulations that arose during his tenure at Cornell.

The university, although still of substantial size back then, operated in a bottom-up manner, Nerode told The Sun.

“All the faculty in all departments met in the auditorium to decide the future of the university. It is now top-down, but that is also the case everywhere else,” Nerode said.

While reflecting on his time at Cornell, Nerode brings back stories from his youth, particularly the lasting influence of his family background.

Growing up in India, Nerode’s childhood completely contrasts with his stationery life now — he was always on the move, since his father was an itinerant yogi. Most yogis were not married and did not bring their families along on their travels, but Nerode’s father was an outlier. This gave Nerode the unique experience of attending around 50 grammar schools during his adolescence.

“I learned how to acquire new subjects because I had to walk into class and pick up everything that the people had done before,” Nerode told The Sun.

Nerode’s high school experience in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was not only different from India, but also very distinct from high schools today. Nerode remarked that “there was no such thing as an academic advisor for people going to college.”

Any information about colleges was from the news. At the time, there was significant coverage on researchers at the University of Chicago working on the Manhattan Project. As a 14-year-old, Nerode wanted to become a physicist, so he headed off to the University of Chicago “with $17 in my pocket and a small suitcase.”

Soon, however, Nerode realized that physics was not for him.

“The professor got up for the first session and said look to your right, look to your left, one of you won’t be here next semester,” he said. “I found that to be the attitude of physicists towards students: to cut down the number of students as much as possible and deal only with the ones that they wanted to. I just did not find that a very humanistic thing.”

Nerode’s outstanding performance at Chicago led him to him receive his bachelor’s degree in 1948 at the mere age of 16 and his Ph.D. at 24.

In the summer of 1957, Nerode visited Cornell to meet with some of the world’s top scholars in mathematical logic. He gave lectures and met with famous researchers, the two most prominent ones being Kurt Gödel and Alfred Tarski. After spending time with Gödel at Princeton and going to Berkeley to study with Tarski, Nerode wondered where he would go the following year.

A miracle came in the form of an unsolicited letter from Cornell. When he visited in 1957, he dubbed it the most beautiful place he had ever seen: “I didn’t have any hesitation at all and no hesitations since then,” Nerode said.

Nerode’s own teaching style has also evolved since coming to Cornell. “I was educated at Chicago under the business of doing the cleanest, shortest expositions of absolutely everything,” said Nerode. Now, he has developed his own method: He teaches in historical order. Translating ancient theories into modern notation allows Nerode to show his students the origins of mathematics.

He has already taught generations of families. Some of his past students’ grandchildren have attended Cornell and Nerode is delighted to see the grandparents come back during graduation time.

Both his mother and his father taught until the age of 94, and Nerode may continue this tradition. “My life consists of teaching and research,” Nerode remarked.

]]>Upon arriving at Malott, I opened Blackboard to look for his precise office location. The result was appalling: My moment of accomplishment immediately receded as I discovered my TA’s office was located 15 minutes away in Rhodes Hall, which is by the Engineering Quad on the opposite end of the campus.

Fortunately, after sprinting to Rhodes, I somehow was able to submit my homework on time. It turned out my TA was an applied mathematician, and therefore, his office was located on the sixth floor of a building I had never heard of located far away from Malott.

I later learned my TA was a member of Cornell’s Center for Applied Mathematics, or CAM, a somewhat elitist program available primarily to Ph.D. students. Applied math, as distinct from “pure” math without any intended application, is a highly respected field by employers and researchers, with broad usage in statistics, engineering, social science and more. I was only a freshman when I learned this. Even now as a junior though, I remain bewildered by the question:

Why doesn’t Cornell have an applied mathematics department for undergraduates?

The lack of an undergrad applied math major bothers me so much because applied math holds great prominence at Cornell. According to the Cornell Department of Mathematics webpage, there are 44 faculty members in mathematics, 28 of whom do active research in applied math. Steven Strogatz, one of the most well-known mathematicians in the world, is a professor of applied mathematics.

And applied mathematics at Cornell is prevalent among not just professors, but also students. Cornell’s Mathematical Contest in Modeling, an annual university-wide applied math competition for undergraduates, “attracts students from many majors/departments” and “looks cool on your resume,” according to the contest’s website. Additionally, many students in other STEM departments double major with math, according to the math department website, for its “adaptability to a number of purposes. It can emphasize the theoretical or the applied.”

Not to mention, Cornell already has several undergrad departments for *applied *subjects, something it takes great pride in. The University has distinct departments for the studies of applied economics and applied physics, both of which are popular majors and fields among undergrads within their respective colleges. As such, a standalone applied math department would likely be both feasible and well received by the student population.

Instituting an undergraduate-centered applied math department would bring with it an abundance of perks. With the addition, Cornell’s plentiful faculty and graduate students could work more closely with undergraduates and more easily accommodate student research interests for a wider range of subjects. Several of the research areas available for CAM graduate students, such as mathematical finance and algorithms, are common prerequisites for undergraduates studying business and computer science, respectively.

Furthermore, the University could plan classes and host events related to applied math in a more organized manner. Currently, all courses, talks and competitions dealing with pure (i.e., non-applied) math are held in Malott Hall. But most classes and events related to applied math are scattered around campus; courses like Numerical Analysis (MATH 4260) are taught in Gates Hall, while others like Dynamic Models in Biology (MATH 3620) are taught in Comstock Hall. Having a centralized applied math department would create a single touchpoint for applied math, reducing the need to scatter courses across departments and colleges.

Finally, adding a department would greatly reduce the clutter of similar undergrad courses in the math department. In the math course catalog, there are listings for four multivariable calculus courses and four linear algebra courses, two core math courses. However, a student can only receive credit for one in each category because half of these courses are intended for engineers and non-math majors, and the other half for math majors. The jumble of similar courses in one department has inevitably led to confusion among my peers, uncertain about which class they should take. The addition would alleviate this issue while also providing alternatives for students less interested in taking pure math courses.

Benefits to the University aside, what’s most surprising about Cornell’s lack of the department is that applied math stands as a prevalent undergraduate field of study at other prestigious universities like UC Berkeley and Columbia. Creating an undergraduate department exclusive to applied math would continue to establish Cornell’s status as not only one of the top engineering school in the Ivy League, but also one of the top research institutions in the world.

*Nile Jones is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. *Rivers of Consciousness* runs every other Wednesday this semester. He can be reached at nnj9@cornell.edu.*