Universal algebra is the study of algebraic structures, where an algebraic structure is a set together with a collection of operations on that set. Algebraic structures include lattices, groups, rings, and fields. The conference will focus on problems in this area that are “ripe for a definitive breakthrough,” according to Vanderbilt Department of Mathematics Distinguished Professor Ralph McKenzie. McKenzie, who was named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2015 for his contributions to universal algebra, is organizing the conference together with his former postdoc Matthew Moore.

The conference is structured as a workshop in which researchers will first meet together to identify the problems to be addressed, then break into small groups to work on them. Participants will include mathematicians from eight countries who are working on open problems in universal algebra.

Funding for the event is partly provided by a five-university research grant from the National Science Foundation that aims specifically at achieving advances in these problems. The five universities are home to senior and young mathematicians who are already working together on them. The grant proposal contains details of recent progress on some of the most significant problems.

All of the senior researchers involved in the grant will be attending the workshop. In addition to McKenzie, they are: Clifford Bergaman of Iowa State University, Ralph Freese of the University of Hawaii, Keith Kearnes and Agnes Szendrei of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and George McNulty from the University of South Carolina at Columbia. Most of the younger mathematicians who are working with them will be participants as well.

More information about the “Structure and Complexity in Universal Algebra” conference is available on the conference web site.

]]>Neamtu received his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1991 from the University of Twente in the Netherlands. He joined the Vanderbilt Department of Mathematics in 1992. His research interests are in approximation theory, spline theory, computer-aided geometric design, and numerical analysis. He is a member of the department’s Center for Constructive Approximation. His latest research in splines and computer-aided design was featured in the 2015 issue of the department’s Spectrum newsletter.

He has been an organizer and co-organizer of many conferences on approximation theory and its applications, including the International Conference on Approximation Theory and the Conference on Geometric Design and Computing, a flagship conference of the SIAM Activity Group on Geometric Design that he also chaired.

Neamtu has extensive experience with departmental administration, having served in the past as director of graduate studies, as vice chair, and also as acting chair of the department.

“I am excited to be taking on this role,” he said. “In recent years the department has made significant advances in terms of our achievements, visibility, and both national and international reputation, and I look forward to working with the rest of the faculty, students, and staff to continue that momentum.”

Neamtu expressed appreciation for the work of former chair Professor Dietmar Bisch, who has stepped down after eleven years of service. “We were very lucky to have Dietmar as chair,” Neamtu said. “His leadership was the driving force behind the progress the department has made in the past several years.”

Professor John Ratcliffe will fill the role of vice chair that is being vacated by Neamtu. Ratcliffe received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1977. He has been a member of the Vanderbilt Department of Mathematics faculty since 1985. He previously served as vice chair for three years from 2009 through 2012.

Ratcliffe’s research interests are in low-dimensional topology, hyperbolic manifolds, and geometric group theory. He is a member of the editorial board of the journal *Advances in Geometry* and the author of *Foundations of Hyperbolic Manifolds, a popular graduate textbook on the subject.*

Neamtu and Ratcliffe’s terms began August 1, 2016.

]]>The 2016 B.F. Bryant Prize for Excellence in Teaching was shared by graduate students Corey Jones and Colin Klaus. In announcing the award, Associate Director of Graduate Studies Doug Hardin cited the outstanding ratings both of them had received on student evaluations.

Jones received his Ph.D. in May 2016. He has accepted a postdoctoral position at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.

Klaus is expected to receive his Ph.D. in May 2017. He will spend next year finalizing two research projects with his advisor Emmanuele DiBenedetto.

Corey Jones was also the recipient of the Bjarni Jónsson Prize for Research. Jones’ research interests are in quantum symmetries, including tensor categories, subfactors, planar algebras, quantum groups, and operator algebras.

Jones is the sole author of a paper that has been accepted for publication in the *International Journal of Mathematics *and co-author (with S. K. Ghosh of the India Statistical Institute) of a paper that has been accepted by the *Journal of Functional Analysis*. Jones has also given talks at several conferences.

His advisor, Vaughan Jones, describes Jones as a remarkable student who rapidly mastered suggested areas of research. “All I had to do was hint at a topic,” said Jones, “and within a few days, Corey would have read up on the subject, done a multitude of calculations, and have a ton of theories and a definite opinion on where it was all leading.”

The Richard J. Larsen Award for Achievement in Undergraduate Mathematics was awarded jointly to Tennessee (“Tucker”) Joyce and Timothy (“TJ”) Warner.

Director of Undergraduate Studies John Rafter described Tucker as “a developed mathematician when he arrived at Vanderbilt as a freshman.“ He took only graduate math courses at Vanderbilt and excelled in all of them. He is the first freshman to take the department’s graduate topology class.

Tucker graduated with honors and will pursue a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

According to Rafter, the other winner of the Larsen Award, TJ Warner, participated in the department’s activities “as a student, researcher, grader, and president of the Math Club.” He took a wide variety of courses, including the full-year graduate topology and algebra courses, and he did research with Professor Mike Mihalik on asymptotic group theory. TJ plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics.

The winner of the 2016 Samir Aldroubi and Amira Azhari Prize for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research is Arnaud Brothier, who completed a three-year postdoctoral appointment this year.

While at Vanderbilt, Brothier published five papers and produced two preprints. His work appeared in prestigious journals, including the *Journal of Functional Analysis* and the *Journal of Noncommutative Geometry*. He also gave more than 15 talks at conferences and seminars all over the world.

Arnaud’s research interests encompass subfactors, planar algebras, tensor categories, deformation/rigidity theory, free probability, ergodic theory, and geometric group theory. His latest work is focused around approximation properties of infinite depth planar algebras and realizing these as planar algebras arising from hyperfinite subfactors.

Professor and Department Chair Dietmar Bisch, Brothier’s postdoctoral mentor, said, “Arnaud’s work as a postdoc at Vanderbilt has been very impressive. His results are an important contribution to the study of subfactors, an exciting area of operator algebras with many open questions and unexpected connections to mathematical physics.”

The Department of Mathematics is proud to honor these accomplished award winners.

]]>Part of the conference was a special tribute to the mathematical work of Professor Jan Prüss of Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, on the occasion of his 65th birthday.

This year’s featured Shanks Lecturer was Professor Lawrence C. Evans of the University of California, Berkeley. Evans is a graduate of Vanderbilt University’s class of 1971. The title of his Shanks Lecture was “Hidden Convexity for Nonlinear PDE.” The Shanks Lecture was given on May 17 from 4 to 5 p.m.

The prestigious Shanks Lecture Series is organized annually by the Department of Mathematics of Vanderbilt University, honoring Baylis and Olivia Shanks. The late Professor Baylis Shanks was chairman of the Department from 1955 through 1969. A list of previous Shanks Conferences and Lecturers can be found here.

More information on International Conference on Evolution Equations is available on the conference web site.

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