Department News, Fall 2017

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Department Announcements
Alumni Updates/Class Notes
Donor Recognition
Support the Department
Stay Connected

Message from the Chair

Professor Murli M. Gupta
Professor Murli M. Gupta

Greetings from the GW Mathematics Department:

We would love to hear from you! Contact us at and tell us what you have been doing! Visit us on the 7th floor of Phillips Hall any time and see old friends, attend a seminar or colloquium or join us at our Friday coffee hour during 2-3 p.m. During your visit, we hope you will meet some of our faculty, current undergraduate and graduate students and tell them about life after GW.

Murli M. Gupta

Chair, GW Mathematics Department

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Department Spotlights


Pi Mu Epsilon

In 2016, the GW Chapter (DC Gamma) of the Pi Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honor Society was reactivated. This was accomplished by the joint effort of students and faculty. The chapter’s faculty advisor is Professor Joseph Bonin and its permanent faculty correspondent is Professor Alexander Shumakovitch. An induction ceremony took place on November 3, 2017, at which our alumna, Elizabeth Drellich, ESIA BA ’09 (Swarthmore College), spoke about “Cars, Cartoons, and Cohomology."

Pi Mu Epsilon GWU
Pi Mu Epsilon induction, November 2017
members of Dr. Shomstein’s laboratory
Professor Elizabeth Drellich, Swarthmore College

New Faculty Colleague

Professor Joel Lewis
Professor Joel Lewis

We had a successful conclusion to our faculty search this year and we welcomed Professor Joel Lewis as the new faculty colleague. Professor Lewis earned his PhD from MIT in 2012 and was a postdoctoral fellow at University of Minnesota before he moved to our area. His interests are in algebraic and enumerative combinatorics, in particular the combinatorics of permutations and their generalizations and q-analogues.


SIAM Chapter at GW

The GW Chapter of SIAM hosted a regional conference on applied mathematics. Graduate students Chong Wang, Debdeep Bhattacharya, Eric Shehadi and Professor Yanxiang Zhao organized this conference. This was written up in SIAM News.

Mathematics faculty and graduate students at GW SIAM Chapter meeting
Mathematics faculty and graduate students at GW SIAM Chapter meeting

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Department Announcements


Putnam Competition

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, the world's pre-eminent collegiate math competition, has for the past 40 years had its headquarters at Santa Clara University in California. Starting this year, it has moved to GW, under the direction of Professor Dan Ullman.

Roughly 600 institutions have signed up 8000 participants for the December 2, 2017, competition. Students participate by sitting for two three-hour sessions at their local institution, tackling six challenging problems during each session. The solutions will be sent to GW's Department of Mathematics, where they will be graded. 

The Putnam awards more than $100,000 in prize money, some to the top individual scorers but even more to the institutions that have the highest scoring teams. The Putnam Competition began in 1938. It was suspended briefly during the Second World War, but resumed as an annual competition thereafter. This year we are hosting the 78th competition. The top five participants each year are designated Putnam Fellows. The list of Putnam Fellows over the years includes a great many notable names, including Nobel Prize winners and Fields Medalists. In the first year, 1938, George Mackey and Irving Kaplansky were Putnam Fellows. In 1939, there was Richard Feynman, later a physics Nobel laureate. And in 1940, there was Andy Gleason from Yale and Robert Maughan Snow from GW. We don't know anything about Snow except that he displayed exceptional brilliance as a young man.

Welcome New Chair Frank Baginski

Professor Frank Baginski will be taking over the position of the Mathematics Department chair beginning January 2018.

Mathematics faculty outside the Monroe Hall
Mathematics faculty outside the Monroe Hall



Professor Valentina Harizanov at the National University of Singapore, September 2017

Professor Valentina Harizanov at the National University of Singapore, September 2017
Professor Valentina Harizanov was invited to lecture (on joint work with alumnus Rumen Dimitrov, PhD ’02) in the research program Aspects of Computation: Computable Structures and Reverse Mathematics, at the National University of Singapore, September 2017.

Professor Yanxiang Zhao and Kai Yang visited Beijing Computational Science Research Center in July 2017. The visit helped them facilitate the potential collaborations on Numerical methods for Nonlinear Schrodinger equations.

Professors Sarah Day (CWM), Maria Emelianenko (GMU), Maria Gualdani (GWU), Yongwu Rong (GWU) and Junping Shi (CWM) organized the second EXTREME-QED Undergraduate Conference at College of William and Mary on April 8, 2017. The conference featured talks by undergraduate students in the three institutions as well as a plenary talk and a career panel by industrial representatives. This conference is part of our National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded program Data-Driven Mathematics and Statistics Training, Education, and Research (Data MASTER) which aims at enhancing data-driven computational skills of our undergraduate students (PI: Yongwu Rong, co-PI: Maria Gualdani, Murli Gupta, Yinglei Lai and Rahul Simha).

Undergraduate Mathematics Conference participants in Kogan Plaza
Undergraduate Mathematics Conference participants in Kogan Plaza


A First Course in Analysis  cover Emeritus Professor John Conway’s new book A First Course in Analysis was published by Cambridge University Press in July 2017. Read more about it on his Facebook page.

Logic Across Disciplines (organizer: Professor Valentina Harizanov; graduate student assistants: Iva Bilanovic and Trang Ha) has been selected and funded as a University Seminar for 2017–18.

Professor Yongwu Rong completed the Marine Corps Marathon and was placed top 15 percent among the 19,681 runners

Jennifer Chubb, associate professor at the University of San Francisco, and alumna (PhD, 2009, faculty mentor: Professor Valentina Harizanov) is spending her sabbatical year as a research scholar in mathematics at GW, 2017–18.

Professor Valentina Harizanov (co-PI) was awarded—with M. El-Banna (PI), L. Posey (co-PI) and C. Pintz (co-PI)—the Dorothy Otto Research Award from the National League of Nursing for the project “Mindset-Enchaned E-Learning to Improve Medication Calculation,” 2017.

The proposal “Coverage, Capacity and Resilience, Enhancement in Limited Public Safety Networks” was awarded from NIST for two years (03/03/2017-05/31/2019). The total amount is $700,000. Professor Yanxiang Zhao serves as a co-PI.

Professor Xiaofeng Ren was awarded the following NSF grant: DMS-1714371, Reconstruct morphological phases from nonlocal geometric systems, $261,133, August 15, 2017-July 31, 2020.

Professors Valentina Harizanov and Jozef Przytycki, and Louis Kauffman (University of Illinois at Chicago), with alumni Meitek Dabkowski (University of Texas at Dallas), Radmila Sazdanovic (North Carolina State University) and Adam Sikora (SUNY Buffalo), published Volume II of the proceedings of the 2015 Conference on Knot Theory and its Applications to Physics and Quantum Computing in a special issue of the Journal of Knot Theory and Its Ramifications, World Scientific, Singapore, 2017.

Professor Valentina Harizanov was a co-organizer of the American Mathematical Society Meeting Special Session "Computability in Algebra and Number Theory" at the College of Charleston, S.C., on March 10–12, 2017.

Professors Valentina Harizanov and Jozef H. Przytycki organized the Distinguished Speculative First of April Talk on March 31, 2017. The title was:  Skein modules and Quantum Computing in 3-manifolds. The speaker was Uwe Kaiser from Boise State University.

Professors Valentina Harizanov, Jozef H. Przytycki, Y. Rong, Alexander Shumakovitch and Hao Wu co-organized (with alumna Radmila Sazdanovic) the Knots in Washington XLIV on April 28-30, 2017 at GW.

Knots in Washington XLIV conference at George Washington University at April 28-30
Knots in Washington XLIV conference at George Washington University at April 28-30, 2017

Professors Valentina Harizanov, Jozef H. Przytycki, Y. Rong, Alexander Shumakovitch and Hao Wu co-organized (with alumna Radmila Sazdanovic) Knots in Washington XLIII and we celebrated the 60th birthday of J. Scott Carter on December 9-11, 2016 at GW.

Knots in Washington XLIII conference at George Washington University December 9-11, 2016
Knots in Washington XLIII conference at George Washington University December 9-11, 2016

Professor Jozef H. Przytycki  co-organized (with alumna Radmila Sazdanovic) the special session on Algebraic Structures Motivated by and Applied to Knot Theory at the AMS meeting at North Carolina State University at Raleigh, in Raleigh, N.C., on November 12-13, 2016.

Professor Sudeshna Basu gave talks at a number of conferences including Banach Space Theory and its Applications at Mickiewicz University, Poland, and Free University, Berlin. She was also invited to give a special talk at Cluster Innovation Center, University of Delhi.

Professor Jozef H. Przytycki gave talks at a number of conferences including Beijing Normal University, Kyungpook National University (KNU, Daegu, Korea), KIAS Research Station (Busan, Korea) and University of Gdansk (Poland).


PhD student Hakim Walker received the Philip J. Amsterdam Graduate Teaching Award on April 25, 2017, which he shared with a computer science graduate student.

Hakim Walker celebrating the successful defense of his dissertation with other graduate students and  Professor Valentina Harizanov, May 1, 2017
Hakim Walker celebrating the successful defense of his dissertation with other graduate students and  Professor Valentina Harizanov, May 1, 2017
Hakim Walker also defended his dissertation “Computable Isomorphisms of Directed Graphs and Trees” on May 1, 2017 (faculty mentor: Valentina Harizanov) and accepted a teaching position at Harvard University starting in fall 2017.

PhD student Trang Ha was awarded a GW Summer Dissertation Fellowship, 2017. Trang Ha gave an invited talk at the AMS sectional meeting.

PhD students Trang Ha and Chong Wang received Mathematics Graduate Teaching awards for 2017–18.

PhD students Iva Bilanovic and Hakim Walker organized the Graduate Student Seminar, 2017–18.

Graduate student Rhea Palak Bakshi with Professor Joan Birman at a conference in Chicago, October 2017
Graduate student Rhea Palak Bakshi with Professor Joan Birman at a conference in Chicago, October 2017
PhD students Rhea Palak Bakshi and Sujoy Mukherjee attended a conference in Chicago in October with Professor Joan Birman, a famous topologist who is now 90-years-old and was a PhD adviser to Professor Przytycki.

Rhea and Sujoy also attended the Cornell Topology Festival in April 2017. They are pictured with Professor Allen Hatcher.

Sujoy with Professor Allen Hatcher
Sujoy with Professor Allen Hatcher

In spring and fall 2017, we welcomed 14 new members to the Pi Mu Epsilon mathematics honor society. Congratulations to the new members: Acacia Ackles, Madeline Alfieris, Brennan Day, Marie-Louise Decamps, Eliza Goren, Benjamin Marks, Henry Moore, Fangshu Qu, Will Raderman, Wei Tian, Zhigong Shang, Zihan Yu, Jiajing Zhang and Aaron Zorman.

In May 2017, we graduated our largest class of math majors: over 40 graduated! Congratulations to all of our new graduates!


Alumni! Please join us on Thursday, January 11, 2018, for the GW Mathematics Alumni Reception at the 2018 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego. Click here for more information and to register.

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Alumni Updates/Class Notes

Isabelle Berger, BS ’17, is pursuing a fellowship in a developmental genomics lab at the National Institutes of Health, where she works to build predictive models for gene regulatory networks.

Yosef Berman, MA ’12, is at Google in New York.

Julie Dunkle, BA ’84, retired from teaching high school math (10 years) and working at Intel (17 years) in math. Now she is tutoring K-12 math and running math circles. “Loving it.”

Sameng Fei, BS ’14, graduated with a math minor, and really misses her time in GW. Now she lives in Beijing, China, working in a public company as a funding manager. “Love Math, Love GWU!!!”

Nathan Herring, BS ’90, is a private mortgage banker with Wells Fargo. He lives in Ambler, Penn.

Michael McDaniel, MS ’87, PhD ’97, squared the circle in elliptic geometry with an undergraduate, in an article to appear in the Rose-Hulman Undergraduate Math Journal. So squaring the circle joins the list of things possible in non-Euclidean and impossible in Euclidean geometry.

Geoffrey McKenna, PhD ’07, has been a federal contractor since graduating, working on variations of project management and oversight, and remains interested in the boundary between combinatorics and algebra.

Andrew Meranda, BS ’83, retired in 1995 after 27 years with the federal government. He retired again in 2006 after 11 years with private industry. He lives in western North Carolina and flies a Cessna 185 scout plane on forest fires for the North Carolina Forest Service.

Kendall Moffett-Sklaroff, BA ’16, is working in data analysis for an engineering education organization.

Paul Organ, BS ’14, just started a PhD program in economics and business at the University of Michigan, after working for several years at the D.C. office of The Brattle Group, an economic consulting firm based in San Francisco.

Margaret Ransom, MS ’86, is preparing to embark on her PhD in math. Her goal is to build learning centers all over the world to lead the hurting, misguided and downtrodden out of the darkness of despair into the light of self-confidence, productivity and achievement.

Barbara Riley, BA ’71, enjoyed a career in the U.S. Defense Department as a procurement official and has lived in the D.C. area for almost 40 years.

Christopher Shaw, BA ’01, was recently promoted to associate professor of mathematics with tenure at Columbia College Chicago, and continues an interesting and exciting career in teaching and research.

Marcy Taylor, BS ’09, is currently working as a business systems analyst in San Jose, Calif.

Tiffany Tu, BS ’17, is now working as a bioinformatics associate researcher in the Immunology Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

Jiayuan Wang, BS ’15, MS ’17, is doing a PhD program in mathematics at GW.

Seung Yeop Yang, PhD ’17, is currently a visiting assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Denver.


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Donor Recognition


The Math Department would like to gratefully acknowledge the following generous donors who made a gift to the department from July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017.

Andrew S. Coblentz #

Dr. John B. Conway +

Atticus T. Francken, BS ’16

Dr. Leo Hellerman, MA ’52

Dr. Shari B. Libicki #

Konstantinos Nakis, BS ’15, MS ’16

Sita Ramamurti, PhD, PhD ’95

Maxim V. Sokolov, PhD, PhD ’00

Jude Andrew B. Tungul, BS ’16

Daniel Ullman +

Rachel Sobin Ullman*


+ Faculty/Staff
# Parent
~ Student
* Friend

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Support the Department

Gifts to the Department of Mathematics allow us to provide support for faculty and student research and travel, graduate student fellowships, and academic enrichment activities including guest speakers, visiting faculty, and symposia. Each gift, no matter how large or small, makes a positive impact on our educational mission and furthers our standing as one of the nation's preeminent liberal arts colleges at one of the world's preeminent universities.

You can make your gift to the department in a number of ways:

  • By mailing your check, made out to The George Washington University and with the name of the department in the memo line, to:

The George Washington University

2033 K Street NW, Suite 300

Washington, DC 20052

  • By phone by calling the GW Division of Development and Alumni Relations at 1-800-789-2611.

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Stay Connected

Industry-based alumni network

Connect with alumni in your industry through both virtual and in-person networking programs.

Volunteer with GW

Get involved with several opportunities from mentoring students to engaging with fellow alumni.

Connect with GW Economics on LinkedIn!

Connect with the larger GW and CCAS community through LinkedIn!