NSF Mathematics Institutes’ Modern Math Workshop (at SACNAS)

October 26 - 27, 2011


The eight NSF mathematics institutes are pleased to offer three concurrent sessions immediately preceding the SACNAS annual meeting – one for graduate students and recent PhDs, and two for undergraduate students – to invigorate the research careers of minority mathematicians and mathematics faculty at minority-serving institutions. The “Modern Math Workshop” will highlight presentations on topics drawn from the institutes’ upcoming programs, a keynote speaker, and an informative panel presentation on the 2012-13 programs and workshops. The two undergraduate sessions (applicants will choose one) are appropriate for students of any major interested in learning how mathematics contributes to our understanding of various scientific topics. Activities will include lectures and group work.

All sessions will begin with lunch on Wed. Oct. 26 and include an evening reception. The sessions will continue on Thursday morning and will end at 12:30 pm prior to the SACNAS conference lunch. The three sessions will combine for the keynote lecture by Mariel Vazquez.

Modern Math Workshop (for graduate students and recent PhDs):
The workshop features 40-minute presentations by eight speakers, one on behalf of each institute. The speakers are typically chosen from among the organizers of upcoming programs at those institutes and are expected to give an accessible presentation on exciting and current research topics associated with the upcoming institute programs. In addition there will be an informational panel of institute representatives, which will describe upcoming programs and other opportunities offered by the institutes and how to participate in them.

There will also be a keynote lecture “DNA Unknotting and Unlinking” by Mariel Vazquez on Wednesday afternoon. Mariel Vazquez is an Associate Professor at San Francisco State University. Her current research focuses on the applications of topological and discrete methods to the study of DNA, with emphasis on the topological changes affected by enzymes such as topoisomerases and site-specific recombinases.

Undergraduate Minicourses in Mathematics: Two minicourses for an undergraduate audience will be offered at the same time as the Modern Math Workshop. Applicants will choose one of the following.

1) Suzanne Lenhart: Optimal Control of Ordinary Differential Equations
Suzanne Lenhart, whose main research area is optimal control applied to biological models, will present introductory material on optimal control for ordinary differential equations. The basic idea is to find optimal ‘controls’ (types of coefficients or source terms) in ordinary differential equations to achieve a goal (like minimizing infecteds in a disease model). After giving some background on the theory and basic techniques, students will be asked to solve a simple problem in groups and to formulate a more complicated problem for a model of their own interest. The course will also include demonstrations of examples using user-friendly MATLAB codes. Suzanne Lenhart is a mathematics professor at U of Tennessee and is the Associate Director for Education, Outreach and Diversity at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis.

2) Federico Ardila: Counting Lattice Points in Polytopes
A polytope is the higher-dimensional generalization of a polygon. After discussing some of the basic facts about them, we will study the problem of “measuring” a polytope by counting the lattice points inside it. This problem arises very naturally in several areas of mathematics, and it leads to some beautiful combinatorics.
Federico Ardila is an assistant professor at San Francisco State University and an adjunct professor at the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá. His research studies objects in algebra, geometry, topology, and applications by understanding their underlying combinatorial structure. He leads the SFSU–Colombia Combinatorics Initiative, a research and learning collaboration between students in the United States and Colombia.

Organizing Committee

Ricardo Cortez (Tulane University)
Suzanne Lenhart (University of Tennessee)
Christian Ratsch (Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics)
Ivelisse Rubio (University of Puerto Rico)