Undergraduate Seminar/Pi Mu Epsilon talk/Finding Ellipses

Speaker: Pamela Gorkin, Bucknell University and National Science Foundation
Date and time: Friday, April 5, 4-5 p.m.
Place: Duques Hall, Room 152
Title: Finding Ellipses

Abstract: Ellipses make frequent appearances in our lives: Kepler’s laws of planetary motion involve ellipses and a medical procedure involving kidney stones known as lithotripsy uses them as well. We see ellipses in architecture and in President’s Park South we find a park called simply “The Ellipse.” What properties of the ellipse make it so important? How can we construct an ellipse? We begin with questions like these, providing some unfamiliar answers. Then we study three seemingly unrelated problems in mathematics, chosen from linear algebra, complex analysis, and projective geometry, and we show how the solution to each of these problems relies on finding ellipses.

About the speaker: Pamela Gorkin is Professor of Mathematics at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and a program officer in the Analysis Program at the National Science Foundation. She received her Ph.D. at Michigan State University, where she worked under the direction of Sheldon Axler.

Her research is focused on functional analysis, complex analysis, operator theory, and linear algebra. Her book, Reading, Writing, and Proving: A Closer Look at Mathematics, written with Ulrich Daepp, has appeared in its second edition. Her second book (together with Ueli Daepp, Andrew Shaffer, and Karl Voss) entitled Finding Ellipses: What Blaschke products, Poncelet's theorem, and the numerical range know about each other appeared recently in the AMS/MAA Carus series.

She also collaborates with Elias Wegert, Gunter Semmler, and Ueli Daepp each year on the creation of the mathematical calendar Complex Beauties.