2023 Mathematics Newsletter

Two students working in a classroom. Department of Mathematics, Columbian College seal

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Department Kudos
Alumni Class Notes

Message from the Chair

Department Chair Frank Baginski

Greetings from the GW Mathematics Department!

We are happy to say that we are back on-campus with in-person instruction. Almost mask-free! We would love to hear what you have been up to. Contact us with your updates.

Visit us on the 7th floor of Phillips Hall and see old friends, attend a seminar or colloquium. We hope to restart the Friday afternoon coffee hour starting in fall 2023. In 2023-24, the GW Math Department will host an event for current students, faculty and alumni in the D.C. area. Details will be forthcoming.

We hope you enjoy reading the following Math Department year-in-review:

Fall 2022 returned with the previous year’s COVID policies in place. While classes were delivered in person, students continued to mask. In spring 2023, COVID policies were relaxed. Both students and instructors could participate without a mask under most circumstances, although some students and faculty continued to mask. We were happy to see the faces of our students which have been hidden for a year and a half, and to take another step toward normalcy.

Seminars in applied math, algebra\combinatorics, logic, topology, and conferences returned to regular schedules.

Six in-person colloquia were delivered in 2022-23 by distinguished speakers on a variety of subjects ranging from elliptic curves to Fuchsian groups. Kyle Petersen’s talk, “The Napkin Problem,” was immediately applied to the colloquium dinner table at the Sichuan Pavilion that followed the lecture. Knots in Washington-49.875 and -49.9375 continued with respective conferences in December 2022 and April 2023. The GWU Student Chapter of SIAM hosted a conference on applied mathematics in April 2023.

This year’s Pi Mu Epsilon Talk, “Problems from the USA Mathematical Olympiad,” was delivered by Bela Bajnok of Gettysburg College in April 2023. Several undergraduate mathematics majors were inducted into GW's DC Gamma Chapter of the Pi Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honor Society: Paul Bianco, Sam Kahn, Tim Neumann, Hyunha Park, Shu Qian and Alex Rankin.

From left: Alex Rankin, Hyunha Park, Paul Bianco, Sam Kahn, Jake Messick, Brandon Koprowski, Shuqing Qi, Shu Qian, Timothy Neumann and speaker Bela Bajnok.
From left: Alex Rankin, Hyunha Park, Paul Bianco, Sam Kahn, Jake Messick, Brandon Koprowski, Shuqing Qi, Shu Qian, Timothy Neumann and speaker Bela Bajnok.

In 2022-23, we welcomed a new faculty member, Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics Kevin Long, who received his PhD from GW in 2022. This spring, we say farewell to Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics Yanfang Liu. She is completing her second year of teaching at GW and next year will be a postdoctoral research associate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

In July 2022, we were excited to learn that Assistant Professor of Mathematics Robert Won was invited to be a contestant on Jeopardy! Professor Won demonstrated his mastery of the abelian group (Z, +) when he wagered the exact amount that would guarantee victory on Day 1! The Day 2 competition was fierce, but the outcome was not so favorable.

We were sad to learn that Professor Robbie Robinson will be retiring from GW in 2023. Spring 2023 will be his last teaching semester with fall 2023 as a research semester. He will be sorely missed, and we wish him all the best. The GW Math Department will host a dinner in his honor in fall 2023. Students, faculty and alumni are invited. Details forthcoming.

We salute this year’s graduates who accepted the challenges brought on by COVID-19 and who continued to progress toward their degrees. The academic year was capped off by the Math Department Graduation Celebration in May where we bade best wishes to our 2023 math majors and minors. We are very proud of the students we graduate and all the good things they do after they leave GW. We look forward to hearing from them and visiting with them when they return to Foggy Bottom.


Frank Baginski
Chair, Department of Mathematics

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Department Spotlights 


Alumnus’ $1.5 Million Endowment to Support Math Department

From left, CCAS Dean Paul Wahlbeck, donor John Dixon Sullivan and Math Department Chair Frank Baginski
From left, CCAS Dean Paul Wahlbeck, donor John Dixon Sullivan and Math Department Chair Frank Baginski

A $1.5 million bequest commitment by alumnus John Dixon Sullivan, BS ’76, MS ’83, will create The John Dixon Sullivan Mathematics Innovation Fund to help recruit faculty, bolster research and enhance scholarly work in the Department of Mathematics. The generous gift by Mr. Sullivan, a former applied mathematics major, will have a big impact on recruiting top-notch faculty, increasing the department's research stature and enhancing the educational experience for our students. The endowment was featured in CCAS Spotlight.

Association for Women in Mathematics Student Chapter

A Crash Course in Mayan Mathematics, Dr Hakim Walker from Harvard University speaks on the Mayan Mathematical System with a panel of alumni and friends to follow

Lexie Wilder, president of the GW Student Chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) writes: “This has been a very exciting year for the AWM!”

It began in the fall semester with many holiday celebrations, including a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving meal. In addition to general meetings, AWM continued to host weekly study hours.

The spring semester began with an informational career event led by the GW Center for Career Services. In February, AWM enjoyed a “Galentine’s Day” with lots of chocolate, and celebrated Women’s History Month in March with a viewing of the film Shakuntala Devi based on the Indian mathematician known as the “human computer!” Shakuntala Devi appeared at GW in 1987.

On April 28, AWM hosted the annual Nerd Olympics and a special lecture on the Mayan mathematical system by Dr. Hakeem Walker, PhD ’17, of Harvard University. This was followed by a panel of alumni and friends to speak on the benefits of a background in mathematics.

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Department Kudos

Professor Joseph Bonin received the WID Best Assignment Design Award at the 13th Annual Faculty Honors Ceremony in May for his work in Math 2971W: Mathematical Reasoning.

Professor Murli M. Gupta is organizing a minisymposium at the 10th International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics) at Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan. The conference will run during August 20-26, 2023.

Professor Valentina Harizanov is part of a focused research group (with five researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, UC Irvine, East Carolina University and Ohio State University) that received a $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant to study definability and computability over arithmetically significant fields. She was also a co-organizer of the program Decidability, Definability and Computability in Number Theory in summer 2022 at Simons Laufer Mathematical Sciences Institute in Berkeley. Dario Verta was among several supported graduate student participants.

Professor Jozef Przytycki organized another Knots in Washington 49.875 conference in December 2022. Plenary speakers included: Mikhail Khovanov (two talks), Valentina Harizanov, Mee Seong Im, Thomas M Koberda Slava Krushkal. Next Knots in Washington 49.9375 took place in April 2023

Professor Xiaofeng Ren was awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation of $288,446 between 07/01/2023 and 06/30/2026. Titled “inhibitory long range interaction in pattern forming physical and biological systems,” his project studies materials like block copolymers and Bose-Einstein condensates for their morphological phases and related mechanical, optical, electrical, ionic, barrier and other properties.

Professor E. Arthur Robinson is retiring at the end of this year. His plans are to travel, play Pickleball and keep active in research.

Graduate students Keshav Srinivasan and Dario Verta (together with Professor Harizanov) co-authored a chapter on computability theory which will appear in Springer’s Handbook of the History and Philosophy of Mathematical Practice.

Professor Daniel Ullman continues in his dual roles as lead editor of the Problems Section of the American Mathematical Monthly and as director of the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition. The monthly has published over 12,300 problems since it began in 1894. The Putnam Competition began rather later—in 1938. A curious bit of trivia is that one of the winners of this competition in 1940—one of the Putnam Fellows—was Robert Maughan Snow of George Washington University!

Professor Robert Won on the Jeopardy! stage

Professor Robert Won was awarded a Simons Foundation Collaboration Grant for Mathematicians for the project “Quantum symmetries of noncommutative algebras.” He was also a Jeopardy! champion on July 8, winning $32,001. His Jeopardy! episodes were broadcast on July 8 and 11, 2022. Further, his New York Times crossword appeared on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 and was covered by The New York Times Wordplay blog.

Professor Yanxiang Zhao noted that the GW SIAM-hosted conference on applied mathematics in spring 2023 brought together speakers from universities in the Washington, D.C., area to present their recent work in applied and computational mathematics. The GW Chapter of SIAM was founded in 2014 with the aim of promoting applied mathematics and computational science at GW. Throughout the year, the chapter hosts a variety of events and activities, including talks, conferences and social events. The conference drew a diverse crowd of approximately 30 individuals, including professors, postdocs, graduate students and undergraduates from institutions in the great D.C. metro area. The attendees had the opportunity to learn about a wide range of topics in applied mathematics and to connect with other researchers and students in the field.

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Alumni Class Notes

  • Hailee Bilimoria, BS ’22, is earning a master's of science degree in human paleobiology from the Center of the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology at GW and will graduate in 2023. Her research focuses on the intersection between mathematics, public health and biology.
  • Andy Siyuan Feng, BA ’14, MS ’15, is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Drew University.
  • Nathan Herring, BS ’91, is a private mortgage banker with Wells Fargo. He lives in Ambler, Penn.
  • Minh Hoang Luong, BS ’17, is an engineer at Deutsche Bank in the low latency trading systems, and pursuing a master’s degree in scientific computing from Technical University of Berlin.
  • Qianqi Ma, BA ’22, is pursuing a Master of Arts in International Relations at SAIS-JHU (School of Advanced International Studies). He will apply to law school this year with the expectation of starting his JD in 2024.
  • Dr. Michael McDaniel, MS ’87, PhD ’97, and his math department colleague, Dr. Shari McCarty, have a chapter in the University of Michigan book The GeT course: Resources and Objectives for the Geometry Courses for Teachers.
  • Gabriel Montoya Vega, PhD ’22, is in NYC as a National Science Foundation postdoc at CUNY. He will be traveling around Europe attending conferences and working with collaborators.
  • Eli Pullman, BS ’18, graduated from Columbia Business School with his MBA this May. After graduation, he will be an investment banking associate at PJT Partners in New York City.
  • Andreja Radevic, BS ’20, is a first-year medical student at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine!
  • Hassan Sedaghat, MA ’83, PhD ’90, retired as a full emeritus professor of mathematics from Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s currently doing research in mathematics and theoretical physics.

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