Message from the Chair

May 31, 2023
Dorina Art 900x600

Hey there, Math Department Alumni and Friends!

We're back with another edition of our newsletter, and we couldn't be more excited to catch up with all of you. Join us as we reflect on the remarkable achievements that have shaped a very productive year, and as we celebrate the collective efforts of our faculty, students, and staff.

A profound commitment to exceptional teaching lies at the core of Baylor University’s mission. In this regard, the Mathematics Department plays a vital role in educating students across campus and we are incredibly fortunate to have an outstanding group of educators contributing to a well-rounded education of students from diverse academic backgrounds. I am thrilled to let you know that Johnny Henderson received the 2023 Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics Award from the Texas Section of the Mathematical Association of America. This award is just fittingly recognizing Johnny's unwavering dedication to student success throughout a teaching career spanning over 40 years. Congratulations Johnny!

Other teaching highlights of our faculty include John Davis being named a Baylor Teaching Fellow for 2022-2023, Tommy Bryan and Ian Grigsby receiving each a 2023 A&S Teaching Innovation Award, and Reeve Hunter receiving a 2023 Open Educational Resources Summer Fellowship from Baylor University Library. Here I would also like to mention that Reeve Hunter and Amy Goodman have been selected and participated in the special seminars organized by the Academy for Teaching and Learning at Baylor in the Summer of 2022. See also here to learn how Amy Goodman, Steve Cates, and Dana Gwynn hosted the University Interscholastic League’s (U.I.L.’s) Regional competitions at Baylor.

The faculty members in the Mathematics Department play a crucial role in fulfilling the R1 mission of the university. By pushing the boundaries of mathematical knowledge, they contribute to the advancement of their fields, and the impactful research conducted by them is recognized and supported through external grants. In the past year, five external grants have been awarded to faculty in the department: Tao Mei and Tim Sheng, have each been awarded an NSF grant, while Johnathan Meddaugh, Dorina Mitrea, and Tim Sheng each received a grant from the Simons Foundation. Such funding provides necessary resources to support research projects, facilitate collaborations, as well as the training and development of graduate students.

For some of our colleagues, the end of this academic year marks professional milestones in their careers. Congratulations to Jonathan Meddaugh, who will be starting in August 2023 as an associate professor with tenure. I am also very happy to welcome to our department the latest hires: Marcos Mazari Armida, as a tenure-track assistant professor, Josiah Ireland and Kyunglim Nam, as regular lecturers, and Antonio Ismael Cano Marmol, as a postdoctoral research fellow. Set to embark on their new positions on August 1, 2023, they will be bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience, further enriching the academic landscape of our department. Last October we welcomed Julie Posey, who was hired as the Undergraduate and Graduate Program Coordinator in the department. Julie and Sonny Seyler, our Office Manager, are a great team, running the Math Office smoothly, efficiently, and professionally.

It is with mixed emotions that we announce the retirement of Johnny Henderson. We are immensely grateful for the countless contributions Johnny has made to our department. We bid him farewell in his well-deserved retirement knowing that his legacy will continue to resonate within our academic community for years to come. While quantifiers provide only a small window in one’s life, it does leave you in awe to learn that Johnny’s mathematical career spanned over 47 years, during which time he has published 12 books and over 600 journal articles while directing an incredible 28 Ph.D. dissertations and 17 master’s theses. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Johnny for his many years of service at Baylor, his mentorship and friendship, and we wish him a fulfilling and joyous retirement. To learn more about Johnny’s remarkable achievements, visit here to read the piece authored by John Davis which also includes remarks from some of Johnny’s colleagues.

Congratulations to our 2023 Ph.D. graduates: Cordell Hammon, advised by Jonathan Meddaugh, Joel Henningsen, advised by Ron Morgan, Jorge Marchena-Menendez, advised by Rob Kirby, Jasmin Mohn, advised by Brian Raines, and to Alan Lang who is earning a master’s degree. Visit here to learn more about their future plans. We are proud to have played a role in their journey and wish them a successful career.

It is always extremely satisfying when our alumni return to our institution and share their invaluable experiences with the current generation of students. It has been a great pleasure to welcome back Jennifer Loe, a 2019 graduate, who enthusiastically spoke about the fascinating research she is currently engaged with as a Senior Member of Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories. See here for more details.

Students are the heartbeat of any university, infusing life, energy, and vitality into the campus community. In addition to studying for their classes, our math majors get together as members of the Mobius Club, taking part in the homecoming parade, attending math conferences, or organizing special events, such as a Pi Day celebration. At the beginning of April, we also celebrated the Graduate Student Appreciation Week.

Keeping with tradition, at the end-of-year luncheon we recognized some of our outstanding senior undergraduates. These were Hunter Handley, the recipient of the Beth Wilson award, Ahyan Ali and Carson Hooker, the recipients of the outstanding mathematics major award, and Emmaline Whitmer, the recipient of the outstanding mathematics education major award. This years’ Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award went to Hayden Henson and Elizabeth Matter. For more on these, visit here. A candid reflection on the years Hunter Handley spent at Baylor may be found here.

The fact that math and art, seemingly distinct disciplines, share a profound interconnectedness that enhances the beauty of both was at the core of the presentation of Annalisa Crannell, the Carmie L. and Beatrice J. Creitz Professor of Mathematics at Franklin and Marshall College. Her talk (see here for details) brought together students from across various disciplines for a delightful hour showcasing how math and art converge in surprising and captivating ways. This is also echoed in the words of the eminent mathematician Godfrey Harold Hardy. Hardy emphasized the beauty and aesthetic appeal of mathematics. In his famous 1940 book, "A Mathematician's Apology," he writes:

"The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or the poet's, must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colors or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics."

The Mathematics Department is most grateful to its donors for their generosity that allows us to explore not just the power but also the aesthetics and beauty of mathematics and to share them with our students. Your commitment to our department and its mission is deeply appreciated -- thank you for your continued support. We are honored to have you as our partners in advancing the art of mathematics!

Dorina Mitrea