New Major in Applied Mathematics Available Fall 2018

Starting in the fall of 2018, Brandeis students will have a new option for their major: a Bachelor of Science in applied mathematics. This new major is part of a broader expansion of the mathematics department into applied areas, with a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research and training of undergraduate and graduate students.

Course description and other information about this new major can be found in the Brandeis Provisional Bulletin.

Thomas FaiThis transformation of the mathematics department, and the creation of the applied mathematics major, aim at addressing long term changes at Brandeis and in the world. The last ten years at Brandeis have seen a dramatic rise in interest in applied mathematics courses, motivated by the increasing use of mathematical ideas throughout society. The world has become more quantitative with the advent of the ability of computers to collect and process enormous amounts of data. This has led to a true revolution in such diverse areas as medical and pharmaceutical industries (algorithmic analysis of the genome), weather and climate prediction (numerical approximation of intractable systems), insurance and risk management, investment, marketing strategies (statistical analysis), and beyond.

Jonathan TouboulThis shift toward quantitative reasoning is hardly new, but it now feels more acute than ever. There are excellent job opportunities for well-trained applied mathematicians in the private sector, as well as in academia. This has, in turn, affected education strategies at all levels. The evolution of Brandeis’ student body is in line with this current shift. The aim of the new program is to offer Brandeis students the possibility to acquire the general toolkit used by applied mathematicians to solve problems in various scientific and engineering fields, and to allow them to harness the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” evoked by Eugene Wigner.

John WilmesThe applied major introduces a series of new core courses entitled, Applied Mathematics, Mathematics for the Natural Sciences, Scientific Computing and Simulations, and Mathematical Modeling. These will be coupled with advanced topics courses to be developed by the new faculty joining the department. Students will supplement courses in the mathematics department with classes throughout the university with strong mathematical content. In this way, students will have a strong foundation and a thorough exposure to the way that mathematics can be used in diverse fields.

Central to this effort is the hiring of three new faculty members, Jonathan Touboul, Thomas Fai, and John Wilmes, who will expand the mathematical horizons of undergraduate and graduate students, and establish new research connections across the sciences at Brandeis. The initial focus of the new major will be on the applications of mathematics to natural sciences. In the future, additional tracks could be added to the major, with applications to computer science and operation research, and to social science and economics.

John Wilmes Joins Math Department as Assistant Professor

John Wilmes , Brandeis Mathematics Assistant ProfessorJohn Wilmes starts as an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics in Fall 2018. Along with two other new faculty members, Jonathan Toubol and Thomas Fai, he will contribute to the new Applied Mathematics major. His research is in discrete mathematics and the theory of computing, particularly focusing on structure and symmetry in networks. John’s research is motivated by the analysis of algorithms on discrete structures and machine learning theory.

Before joining Brandeis, John spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow and research scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he received the Outstanding Postdoctoral Research award from the College of Computing. He completed his PhD as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Chicago under the supervision of László Babai.

At Brandeis, John plans to continue studying the symmetries of discrete structures and developing rigorous analyses of machine learning algorithms. He is particularly interested in using insights from neuroscience as inspiration for new algorithms.

Thomas Fai is new Assistant Professor in Department of Mathematics

Thomas FaiThomas Fai is a new assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics. His research deals with the scientific computing and mathematical modeling of complex biological fluids, including the fluids inside of blood vessels and cells. He is interested in developing highly resolved, three-dimensional simulations that can help answer fundamental questions in biomechanics and physiology.

Prior to joining Brandeis, Thomas Fai was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard with adviser Chris Rycroft. He received his PhD in mathematics from the Courant Institute (NYU) with adviser Charles Peskin.

At Brandeis, he intends to pursue research into numerical methods to accelerate simulations of complex fluids. He is interested in continuing his work on the interaction between fluid flow, geometry, and molecular motors inside neuronal dendrites, and how this interaction breaks down in neurodegenerative disorders such as ALS and Huntington’s disease.

Simulations of growing fatty-acid vesicles in fluid

Final vesicle configurations and cross sections after a 5-fold increase in surface area using different nondimensional permeabilities π1 and growth rates π2

Brandeis IGERT Summer Institute Scheduled for June 25-28

The Brandeis IGERT program in “Geometry and Dynamics” is holding its Summer Institute from June 25-28. This is a series of lectures aimed at graduate students on the mathematical & theoretical side of the sciences, on a broad spectrum of topics — of course, postdocs, faculty, and sufficiently advanced undergraduates should enjoy these as well.

Once again we have an excellent list of speakers from inside and outside of Brandeis, on subjects including quantum computing, blockchain technology, origami, and the carbon cycle and mass extinction.  A full schedule is available. All are welcome and coffee and lunch will be provided: please RSVP here or by selecting the button at the bottom of the schedule page, so that we have an accurate headcount.

We hope to see you there!

Leslie Griffith speaks at all-girl school in Spain about STEM careers

leslie griffith at guadalaviar school

Leslie Griffth (second from right) at the Guadalaviar School in Valencia, Spain.

On June 6th, Leslie Griffith, Nancy Lurie Marks Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Volen Center, spoke to approximately 50 high school seniors at the Guadalavair School about science as a career. This was part of the Jornadas Matemáticas (“Mathematical Working Day“) event.

The Guadalavair School is a Roman Catholic, all-girl school located in Valencia, Spain. The school has been working for more than fifty-five years for the comprehensive education of women and equal opportunities, offering a quality education focused on the importance of each person. Currently, it is considered by different rankings as one of the best schools in Valencia.

For 27 years, the Guadalavair School has been celebrating Jornadas Matemáticas in cooperation with other schools.

The objectives of the project:

  • Enhance memory and reasoning
  • Provide new strategies
  • Participation of student teachers
  • Investigate causes of school failure
  • Improve personal performance
  • Exchange procedures
  • Encourage students
  • Living with other school children
  • Equality opportunities for students

Food Innovations at Brandeis: Brewing a Better Cup of Coffee

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting food science discoveries at Brandeis. These functional innovations help lower cholesterol, find novel uses for antioxidants and healthy fats and develop process improvements.

A lot of science goes into brewing that cup of coffee from a single-serve pod used in the very popular automatic brewing machines. The best results during the 25-30 second brewing process comes from carefully balancing the coffee particle grind size and the rate of water flow through the pods that optimizes the extraction of flavor, caffeine, color, and anti-oxidants from the beans. If particle sizes are too small in the pods, they clog the filter and prevent or slow brewing. If the particle sizes are too large, extraction is inefficient during brewing and more coffee must be used to obtain positive results.

Daniel Perlman, Senior Research Scientist and Inventor in the Physics department at Brandeis, has invented and patented a low-cost solution that decreases the cost of goods and increases gross margins by using less coffee in each pod for the same brewed taste.

Read more about this new process and the Brandeis Office of Technology and Licensing.

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