Mathematics Department - 2009 Newsletter

2009 Newsletter


(Link to Previous Newsletters)


Vogelius's photo not available
Michael Vogelius
Photo not available-Jerrold Tunnell
Jerrold Tunnell

It is a pleasure to announce that as of July 1, Board of Governors Professor Michael Vogelius begins a three-year term as Department Chair, and Professor Jerrold Tunnell replaces Gregory Cherlin as Undergraduate Vice-Chair. (Michael Saks continues to serve as Graduate Vice-Chair for 2009-2010.) Professor Vogelius is an applied analyst whose recent interests include the mathematics of materials used for "cloaking" other objects. Professor Tunnell is a number theorist who contributed some of the foundations on which Andrew Wiles built his celebrated proof of Fermat's Last Theorem in the 1990's.
Saks's photo not available
Michael Saks
Photo not available-Gregory Cherlin
Gregory Cherlin
The 2008-2009 year had its share of noteworthy and unusual events. Joel Lebowitz ran the one hundredth Statistical Mechanics Meeting in December. He began this biannual series in 1959 at Yeshiva University, and brought it with him to Rutgers in 1977. Joel has produced these meetings without interruption for fifty years, bringing mathematical physicists together -- young, old, and medium -- sometimes to see major new directions break out in the talks. The anniversary meeting was twice the usual length - almost a week - and crowded. Science magazine took note with a tribute to Joel and the important role his meetings have played in mathematical physics and the lives of mathematical physicists. The series continues; meeting #101 took place in May.
Our department takes pride in the talented undergraduate students who go on from Rutgers to graduate study in Mathematics. This year came the gratifying news that one of those students had received a prestigious award: Inessa Epstein, B.S. Rutgers '04, was one of two winners of the Sacks Prize, annually awarded by the Association of Symbolic Logic for the best Ph.D. dissertation of the year in Mathematical Logic.

Two tenured professors, both algebraists, have resigned from our department; both actually departed on leave two years ago to take positions in Europe. Associate Professor Diane Maclagan, who studies algebraic geometry and computational ring theory, has gone to the University of Warwick (which, by the way, ranked first in this year's British ranking of mathematics departments). Diane came to Rutgers in 2004; she had been a Szegöaut; Assistant Professor at Stanford University. Professor Friedrich Knop, broadly knowledgeable in representation theory and algebraic geometry, and the organizer of the Friday Lie Theory seminar for many years, has returned to Erlangen University in his native Germany. We wish Diane and Friedrich well, but we have already felt the loss in the last two years.

After two years as a Hill Assistant Professor under Gregory Cherlin's mentoring, Adrien Deloro gave up the third year of that position to accept the position of Maître de Conférences at the University of Paris.

Richard Lyons
As the economy crashed this year, Rutgers felt the jolt immediately, and the worst effects on state funding may well come in a year, in the wake of the miserable economic numbers from the year 2009. Naturally our ability to hire faculty was seriously curtailed, as at many universities across the nation, and class sizes have grown. Furthermore, substantial additional budget cuts to departments were set for July 1, 2008, January 1, 2009, and July 1, 2009. The cumulative effect of these is unmatched in our department in the modern era. For example, the department's conversion to thriftier telephone and Xerox facilities (planned before the meltdown) is saving tens of thousands of dollars annually, but these savings have been swamped by the cuts. (Instead of dialing a person at 732-445-xxxx, you should now dial 732-445-2390 Ext. xxxx.) On the other hand, there have been some bright spots. With the federal fiscal stimulus, the National Science Foundation and other federal funding agencies approved more research proposals in mathematics than has been the norm, and our faculty had an extremely successful year. Among other things this increases the pool of support available for Ph.D. students in the short term. Our graduating doctoral students fared well as usual in the job market (see the report from Michael Saks below). In the spring, on very short notice, the National Science Foundation created new two-year "institute fellowships" for postdoctoral researchers, to be administered by the various U.S. Mathematics institutes with N.S.F. funding -- among them the Institute for Advanced Study. Originally thirty of these fellowships were offered, but in the end, over forty were funded. One winner of such a fellowship was Jean-Philippe Lessard, who will share his time between Rutgers and The Institute for Advanced Study, working on applications of topology under the mentorship of Professors Konstantin Mischaikow of our department and Robert MacPherson of the IAS. Perhaps most surprising as employment on Wall Street tumbled was the continued strong demand for our Mathematical Finance Master's Program (see report from Paul Feehan, below).

As my own term as department chairman comes to its end, there are many people for me to thank for keeping the department on our track of excellence in our several missions. I am particularly grateful to Professors Gregory Cherlin and Michael Saks, who have served with distinction as Vice-Chairs for the Undergraduate and Graduate Programs, respectively. Whenever I have turned to any of the former chairs Terry Butler, Robert Wilson, Rick Falk and Roe Goodman, they have been available and generous with their help. Professor Richard Bumby took over as Head Undergraduate Advisor this year, with the able support of Professor Vladimir Scheffer, our expert on transfer credit. The team of administrators in the 3rd floor offices is dedicated and skilled, and I thank Judy Lige, Lynn Braun, Risa Hynes, Maureen Clausen, and the entire staff which they lead. Their coping with the intricacies of a large state university under financial stress enables our students and faculty to concentrate on the serious fun of mathematics. My thanks to them all, and to my colleagues, for bringing me ideas, reality checks, advice, and cheer.



Song's photo not available
Jian Song
Photo not available-Eduardo Sontag
Eduardo Sontag

Special congratulations are due Assistant Professor JIAN SONG, who learned in March that he is one of this year's 20 recipients in Mathematics of an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. Jian will use the fellowship to concentrate on his research in Complex Geometry and Analysis. Jian came to Rutgers in 2007 after three years at Johns Hopkins University and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. The Sloan Research Fellowships are restricted to non-tenured faculty and are highly prized. Later in the spring Jian was awarded a five-year CAREER grant by the N.S.F.
Sussmann's photo not available
Héctor Sussmann
Photo not available-Van Vu
Van Vu
The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics has created a Society of Fellows. The first "class" of Fellows was chosen this year, and is composed of about 200 members, approximately 1.5% of SIAM's total membership. Included in this group of inaugural Fellows were Professors EDUARDO SONTAG and HÉCTOR SUSSMANN.

VAN VU was promoted to Professor II. We congratulate him on the outstanding achievements that led to this promotion.

Lew Hirsch
LEWIS HIRSCH, Director of Basic Skills and Precalculus, was honored with an Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education by the School of Arts and Sciences. He was cited among other things for "knowing where his students come from and where they are going." Over the decades that Lew has overseen our Basic Skills program, he has taken on additional roles, including being responsible for Precalculus instruction, designing and refining our use of the Math Placement exam for entering students, and maintaining an eye on developments at other colleges and universities in the state. Lew's dedication and judgment make him a uniquely valuable resource for the Department and University.



Shabnam Beheshti's photo not available
Shabnam Beheshti
Photo not available-Lev Borisov
Lev Borisov
As announced in last year's Newsletter, SHABNAM BEHESHTI will be a non-tenure-track Assistant Professor starting in September, 2009, following a year at the Tata Institute in Mumbai, India. She wrote a Ph.D. dissertation in Mathematical Physics under the direction of Floyd Williams at the University of Massachusetts. At Rutgers she will be mentored by Michael Kiessling and Shadi Tahvildar-Zadeh.

LEV BORISOV will join the department as a full Professor in September, 2009. Lev is an algebraic geometer whose interests run from combinatorial geometry to string theory, elliptic genera and vertex algebras, and is currently Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin.
Beceanu's photo not available
Marius Beceanu
Photo not available-Dmitry Gourevitch
Dmitry Gourevitch
MARIUS BECEANU will start a 2-year term as Hill Assistant Professor in September, 2010. He is an analyst who studied under Wilhelm Schlag at the University of Chicago. For 2009-2010 he will be working under Henri Berestycki (who incidentally gave our 2007 Joseph D'Atri Lectures) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes des Sciences Sociales in Paris. He will then come to Rutgers and be mentored by Avy Soffer.

DMITRY GOUREVITCH's graduate work has been at the Weizmann Institute of Science under the direction of Joseph Bernstein and Stephen Gelbart. His work in representation theory already earned him a Rothschild Fellowship for 2009-2010. He will spend the coming year at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and then come to Rutgers to spend 2010-2012 as a Hill Assistant Professor. He will be mentored by Siddhartha Sahi.


(Gregory Cherlin, Undergraduate Vice-Chair)

Curriculum Innovations--Our new course in the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, taught last year as Math 395, will be offered this fall as an interdisciplinary course with the number 556:325 (Sec. 01). The popular Financial Mathematics Course has entered the catalog under its own number, Math 485, after several years in development. We are also expanding our offerings to non-majors, particularly future K-8 teachers; we now have five such courses either in the catalog or in development - Math 107 on number systems, Math 108 on problem solving with discrete mathematics, 103 and 104 from the math for liberal arts sequence, and a geometry course under development as Math 197. A new undergraduate course in Experimental Mathematics is in the planning stage.

Our new math placement system now distinguishes between preparation for General Calculus (CLG), which corresponds to preparation for Math 135, and Scientific Calculus (CLS), signifying preparation for the more demanding Math 151 sequence. We have modified our Intensive Calculus Math 153 to suit the needs of Engineers needing Math 151 and placing in the stronger half of the CLG group. This will be offered each Fall.

Careers and Ideas talks-- This popular series continued with lectures by Profs. Medina, Miller, Weingart, and Sussmann:
Fall 2008:

  • The Mathematics of Modern Cryptography by Prof. Stephen D. Miller
  • A World of Irresistible Integrals by Prof. Luis A. Medina

Spring 2009:

  • Higher Dimensions and Curved Space: How Mathematics Creates the Language That Makes Science Possible by Prof. Héctor Sussmann
  • The Road From Wall Street to Mathematics by Dr. Michael Weingart

Teaching recognition-- Prof. Lew Hirsch and Ph.D. candidate Andrew Baxter each received an Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education from the School of Arts and Sciences.

The Budget situation-- Declines in state funding directly affect the instructional budget, and there is a strong possibility that class sizes may increase further, while the number of sections offered for some popular courses may decrease. We will try to preserve our ability to place our students in the courses they need, but this will necessarily reduce some of the flexibility students currently have in scheduling, if the anticipated cuts materialize.

Exit survey--Our on-line Exit Survey is at We ask graduating seniors in Math or Biomath to give us feedback and supply an email address for future contact.

Honors and Prizes

  • Graduation with Honors
    • Highest honors: Sherwood Hachtman (B.S.), Christopher Skalit (B.S.)
    • High honors: Amanda Hood
    • Honors: Robert Comito, Sjuvon Chung, William Gunther, Ryan Kowalick, Jordan Ledvina, Rohan Mathew, Tian Zhang

  • Weill Scholarships, a gift from Adrienne and Maurice Weill, for full time students majoring in mathematics, based on academic merit

    Sherwood Hachtman Amanda Hood Daniel Leven Asya Pritsker Emily Sergel Joseph Shao

  • The Henry G. Sanders 1925 Memorial Scholarship in Mathematics: Ryan Kowalick, This prize is customarily awarded to a student entering the third year, with preference to students majoring in mathematics or intending to pursue a professional career in mathematics, especially teaching

  • The Kenneth and Rosalind Wolfson Annual Award: Christopher Skalit, for Academic Excellence in Mathematics

  • The John Bogart Prize: Eric M. Koo, for outstanding overall achievement as a mathematics major

  • The Joseph P. Bradley Memorial Prize: Sherwood J. Hachtman, for best overall performance on a prize exam

  • The Lawrence Corwin Memorial Math Prize: Amanda Hood, Javier Rosa, for a University College Graduating Senior mathematics major with outstanding performance in upper level mathematics courses

  • The Lawrence Corwin Prize in Mathematics: Emily Sergel, for superior performance on a prize examination

  • The Richard Morris Award: Brenna Krieger, for a Douglass College Graduating Senior mathematics major with an outstanding performance in upper level mathematics courses

  • The Jacqueline B. Lewis Memorial Award: Amanda Hood, to an eligible non-traditional student to help support graduate study in mathematics or psychology

  • The Tilla Weinstein Award: Sjuvon Chung, for exceptional achievement in mathematics

  • Putnam Competition Results

    In recent years several Rutgers students have performed exceptionally well in this U.S.-Canadian competition held every December. 2008 Results.

  • Garden State Undergraduate Mathematics Conference

    Rutgers again fared well in the competition at this annual event in March, 2009. The team of Jordan Ledvina, Emily Sergel, and Joseph Shao placed third among teams, and Joseph Shao placed third among individuals. The conference also includes lectures and student presentations.


(Michael Saks, Graduate Director)

Comings and Goings

Congratulations to the May 2009 recipients of Ph.D.'s! They, and several students on track to receive their degree in October, are shown below, with their advisors' names and their next position.

Twelve students will enter our Ph.D. program in Fall 2009, six from the U.S. and six from abroad. Sources of financial support include Teaching Assistantships; Research Assistantships from external faculty grants; the Weill Fellowships, endowed by Adrienne and Maurice Weill; and competitive fellowships such as Rutgers University Excellence Fellowships, Rutgers University Torrey Fellowships, U.S. Department of Education GAANN Fellowships, Department of Homeland Security DyDAn Fellowships, and National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.


John Bryk
Oct., 2009
Advisor: Jerrold Tunnell
Position: Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, John Jay College, CUNY

Leigh Cobbs
Oct., 2009
Advisor: Lisa Carbone
Position: Assistant Prof. of Mathematical Sciences, Lebanon Valley College

Philip Matchett-Wood
May, 2009
Advisor: Van Vu
Position: Postdoctoral Researcher and NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, UCLA


Michael Neiman
May, 2009
Advisor: Jeff Kahn
Position: Hedrick Assistant Professor, UCLA

Luc Nguyen
May, 2009
Advisor: Yanyan Li
Position: Research Fellow, Oxford University

Paul Raff
Oct., 2009
Advisor: Doron Zeilberger
Position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Communication and Information, Rutgers


Eric Rowland
May, 2009
Advisor: Doron Zeilberger
Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Tulane Univ.

Biao Yin
Oct., 2009
Advisor: Yanyan Li
Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Univ. of Connecticut

Yuan Zhang
Oct., 2009
Advisor: Yi-Zhi Huang
Position: Assistant Professor, UC San Diego

Pizza Seminar Talks 2008-09

Jay Williams and Robert McRae coordinated the Graduate Pizza Seminar in 2008-09. The varied and interesting abstracts of the weekly talks are on line; just the titles are below.

  • Philip Matchett Wood: Stacks of Blocks and a Variety of Stacking Schemes
  • Various grad students: Job search panel
  • Eric Rowland: Formulas for primes
  • Robert McRae: Finite Dimensional Division Algebras
  • Brent Young: Quantum Mechanical Stability of Matter (or How Boring Analytic Inequalities Make Life, the Universe, and Everything Possible)
  • Beth Kupin: The Four Color Theorem
  • Leigh Cobbs: Hey! Who turned out the lights?
  • Tianling Jin: A glimpse of minimal surfaces: Bernstein's Theorem
  • Jinwei Yang: Introduction to the abc Conjecture
  • Dan Staley: All About Thompson's Group F
  • Bobby DeMarco: The Putnam Exam
  • Kellen Myers: Ramsey Theory on the Integers
  • Ved Datar: A proof of the change of variables theorem in R^n
  • Dan Cranston: The Probabilistic Method: How to make counting easy (sometimes)
  • Knight Fu: A Lesson in Probabilistic Combinatorial Pharmacy: Percolation on Homogeneous Trees of Valence 3 (or more)
  • Brian Thompson: All the Math I Really Need for Research I Learned in Kindergarten or Coloring in the Lines: Cool Edge Colorings of Hypercubes
  • Brandon Bate: The First Arcsine Law of a Random Walk
  • Vidit Nanda: Buffon's Needle Problem
  • Scott Schneider: Slaying the Hydra (voted the fall Pizza Seminar Award by the graduate students)
  • Thom Tyrrell: The Enigma Machine
  • Gabe Bouch: Fun With Classical Mechanics
  • Susan Durst: The Alexander Polynomial
  • David Duncan: Loewner's Differential Equation and SLE
  • Andrew Baxter: Sperner's Lemma and Fair Division

Awards and Prizes

Andrew Baxter received a School of Arts and Sciences Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education in the Teaching Assistant category.

Luc Nguyen won the Rutgers-New Brunswick Graduate School Award for Excellence in Research. Within the Math Department, Sara Blight and Padmini Mukkamala received the Fall 2008 TA Teaching Excellence Awards. The Spring 2009 awards have not been given yet, at the time of this writing.


(Paul Feehan, Director)

Admissions-- The number of applications for Fall 2009 admission increased by about 15% relative to last year, exceeding 250. As of June 15, 2009, we expect an incoming class of 51, with 19 domestic and 32 international students. Competition for the best qualified students was more intense this year, with some programs (notably Columbia University and the University of Chicago) admitting large classes. Our Admissions Committee was comprised of Professors Zheng-chao Han, Daniel Ocone, Michael Vogelius, and Paul Feehan. The quality of applications was high and admission to our program continues to be competitive,as we expect a background in mathematics and programming which is more comprehensive than that of other leading programs.

Staff-- Our program is expertly supported by Reneé Williams, our Associate Director for Career Placement and Employer Development, who joined the program in July 2008, and by Ana Mastrogiovanni, our Program Administrator, who joined the program in April 2008. The program is directed by Professor Paul Feehan.

Placement for Full-Time Positions-- Since our program's inception in Fall 2006, 40 students have earned their Master of Science degree (in Mathematics) with Option in Mathematical Finance. Despite the challenging economic climate, our graduates have fared well in the quantitative finance job marketplace: 100% of 2007 and 2008 graduates have been placed. Of those students who graduated in January 2009, 83% have now been placed and we expect to place the remaining students soon. The May 2009 graduating class of 17 now has 67% placed, while the remaining students continue to interview for positions of their choice. Firms hiring our students include Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg, R.G. Niederhoffer Capital Management, ING, Fidelity Investments, State Street Associates, Bank of New York Mellon, Blue Spruce Global Advisors and Deutsche Bank, just to name a few.

Placement for Internship Positions-- Fourteen of our master's degree students accepted internship offers in 2009 from firms such as Goldman Sachs, Parity Energy, NRG Energy, the National Securities Corporation, Group One Trading, Comverge Energy, Affinity Credit Union, Marco Polo XTF, ING, Prudential Financial, and AQR Capital Management. The students will use the knowledge gained from their coursework in quantitative finance roles. The number of internship offers received in 2009 has increased by 70% relative to those received in 2007 and 2008 combined. As the number of graduates from the program grows and our alumni assume roles of increasing seniority within the financial industry, we will work to ensure that they remain connected to our program and reach out to Reneé Williams, Associate Director, at regarding internship and post-graduate opportunities.

New Career Placement System-- On the advice of Rutgers Career Services, our program selected the highly regarded firm CSO Interfase as our provider of a comprehensive career placement system. Their new web-based system will allow registered employers to post positions for our current students and alumni, allow our students and alumni to apply for positions for which they are qualified, and allow our program to keep better track of all our placement activities as well as our growing database of industry contacts. The system's database structure and web interface is being customized for our program by CSO Interfase and the system will be launched in late July, in time for the Fall 2009 placement season. Implementation of the system is being overseen by Reneé Williams.

New Courses-- In addition to our four core courses covering mathematical finance (Math 621-622) and numerical analysis (Math 573-574), our department now offers three elective courses for the MSMF curriculum:

  • Math 623, Computational Finance
  • Math 624, Credit Risk Modeling
  • Math 628, Portfolio Theory and Applications
Each course concludes with a final project rather than a final exam; the final project provides a practical training experience similar to that provided by a summer internship project at a top financial firm. Math 624 is taught by Dr. Igor Halperin (JP Morgan), Math 628 is taught by Drs. Paisan Limratanamongkol (Blackrock) and Dr. Luiza Miranyan (Bloomberg), and Math 623 is taught by Professor Paul Feehan. Students must take at least one of these three electives; their final projects serve as the basis for the required master's degree essay. We expect to add one or two more elective courses over the next couple of years in order to provide our students with a comprehensive choice and take into account the changing nature of the financial industry. These new electives will ultimately replace the electives now offered through Rutgers Business School, though students will continue to take electives offered by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and occasionally from other departments, as well as the several core courses offered by the Department of Statistics.

Top Ten Ranking-- The Mathematical Finance program at Rutgers University has gained recent exposure in a widely syndicated article appearing in Advanced Trading magazine, which is very popular within the financial industry. Our program been named among the Top 10 programs of this type in the United States; the other programs in this elite group are offered by Berkeley, Carnegie-Mellon, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Michigan, NYU, Princeton, and Stanford.

Second SIAM Conference on Financial Mathematics and Engineering-- This conference was held on November 21-22, 2008, at the Heldrich Hotel, New Brunswick, and featured over 90 speakers and 173 registered attendees, including industry practitioners and university faculty and students, from the United States, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere. The conference was co-organized by Professors Rene Carmona (Princeton) and Paul Feehan (Rutgers).

A one-day conference on mathematical finance is planned for November 13, 2009, and is co-organized by Professors Daniel Ocone and Paul Feehan.

Ph.D. Students-- While our department does not offer a Ph.D. program in mathematical finance, 5 current Ph.D. students are pursuing mathematical finance as their research specialty. One student is taking her oral qualifying exams in September while the remaining 4 students are working to complete their Ph.D dissertations during 2009-2010. These students often serve as teaching assistants for graduate courses in our master's program.

Please see our website for more information.



As always, the Mathematics Department is very interested in hearing from its alumni/alumnae from either the undergraduate or graduate program, about where they are and what they are doing. Our Mathematics Alumni website is a place to facilitate contacts among former graduates and serve as a source of contacts for our current graduates. We would be especially interested to know if you are employed in a company that hires mathematics graduates at any level, since we are seeking summer internship opportunities for our students and also occasionally look for individuals willing to come to campus to speak about job opportunities in industry for mathematics majors. Please let us know if you would be willing to participate in such activities.

If possible, responses should be sent by email to:

Current Address:
Job Title and Company:
Home Phone:
Business Phone:
Email address:
Web page url:
News item:
If you do not have access to email, please FAX the information to 732-445-5530 (attention: Alumni Committee) or mail the information to:
Alumni Committee
Department of Mathematics - Hill Center
Rutgers, The State University Of New Jersey
110 Frelinghuysen Rd
Piscataway, NJ 08854-8019



The Mathematics Department would like to thank its alumni and friends for their past generous support of the Department. Gifts to the Department enhance our ability to compete for the most outstanding undergraduates and graduate students, to bring outstanding mathematics faculty as visitors to the Department, and to support seminars and colloquia. If you would like to help us by making a general contribution to the department, you can do so online at the Rutgers Foundation website. In order to select 'Mathematics' on that page, be sure to click on :

Or choose an academic department:

If you would like to discuss more specific purposes for a possible gift to the Department, please call the Department Chair, Michael Vogelius, at 732-445-2390 Ext. 2393.

A special focus for Department fundraising is an effort to find a source of permanent support for our very successful summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) program. This is an eight-week program that gives undergraduates the opportunity to get a taste of what it is like to do research in mathematics. The program includes both individual research and group activities. Each student is assisted by a faculty adviser and some also by a graduate-student adviser. Participating undergraduates receive free on-campus housing and a stipend, so that the total cost to the Department is approximately $5000 per student. Typically, about eight students participate each summer (nine in 2009). Although some support is provided by the National Science Foundation through the grants of participating faculty mentors, not all faculty mentors have such support. A permanent endowment would ensure that this program will continue to enrich the educational experiences of our best undergraduates.

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