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

2018 Prizes and Awards Announced

Congratulations to all recipients of the 2018 prizes and awards for the Division of Science and the departments and programs within the Division.

Division of Science Prizes and Awards

  • Doris Brewer Cohen Award: Richard Haburcak (Math, Chemistry)
  • Rishon M. BIaler ’64 Memorial Prize: Abraham Cheloff (Biology, Neuroscience, Chemistry)
  • Schiff Memorial Award in Science: Meisui Liu (Biology) and Kathryn Shangraw (Biology)
  • Division of Science Prize for Outstanding Research Accomplishment: Heather Schiller (Biology, Neuroscience) and Jordan Saadon (Biology, Neuroscience)
  • Dr. Ralph Berenberg ’65 Prize (dentistry): Brandon Tran
  • Elihu A. Silver Prize (junior research): Julia Tartaglia (Biochemistry)
  • Steinberg Prize (Physical Science with interest in History): Mihir Khanna (Physics, Art History minor)

Biochemistry Prizes and Awards

  • Nathan O. Kaplan Prize in Biochemistry: Jessie Moore (Senior)
  • Professor Dagmar Ringe Biochemistry Award: Miriam Hood (Senior)
  • William P. Jencks Award in Biochemistry: Senmiao Sun (Senior)

Biology Prizes and Awards

  • Biology Department Award For Excellence in Research: Jason Xin
  • Chandler Fulton Prize for Undergraduate Research: Theresa Weis

Chemistry Prizes and Awards

  • Anatol Zhabotinsky Memorial Prize: Sumner Alperin-Lea
  • American Chemical Society Division of Physical Chemistry 2018 Undergraduate Award: Sumner Alperin-Lea
  • Chemistry Department Excellence Award: Samantha Shepherd
  • Melvin M. Snider Prize in Chemistry: Jamie Soohoo
  • American Chemical Society Division of Inorganic Chemistry 2018 Undergraduate Award: Elishua D. Litle
  • American Chemical Society Division of Organic Chemistry 2018 Undergraduate Award: Elishua D. Litle
  • Emily Dudek Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Award: Miriam Hood; Steven Wilhelm

Mathematics Prizes and Awards

  • Jerome Levine Thesis Prize (given annually to a graduate student in mathematics finishing with an outstanding PhD thesis): Yan Zhuang
  • Arnold Shapiro Prize in Mathematics (to a senior who has shown unusual talent and accomplishments in mathematical studies): Richard Haburcak

Neuroscience Prizes and Awards

  • Reis and Sowul Family Prize in Neuroscience: Amanda Shilton
  • John Lisman ’66 Memorial Award for Excellence in Neuroscience Research: Megan Leubner and Casey Lamar

Physics Prizes and Awards

  • Stephan Berko Memorial Prize (This endowed prize was established in 1991 by the family of the late Dr. Berko to annually recognize an outstanding student in Physics): Ali Aghvami (graduate); Carl Merrigan (graduate); Zachary Sustiel (undergraduate)
  • David L. Falkoff Prize (The Falkoff  Prize annually recognizes a graduate student in Physics who demonstrates excellence in teaching): Daichi Hayakawa
  • Physics Faculty Prize (Awarded to a graduating senior for excellence in Physics): Guillermo Narvaez Paliza; Liana Simpson



Brandeisians Receive 2018 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

NSF Graduate Research FellowshipFive Brandeisians (past and present) have received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships for 2018. Also, one current graduate student received an honorable mention.

This program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based advanced degrees at U.S. institutions. In 2018, the National Science Foundation (NSF) received over 12,000 applications, and made 2,000 award offers. This fellowship provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution).

Alyssa Garcia, a Brandeis Physics graduate student, received a fellowship. Marcelle Soares-Santos, Assistant Professor of Physics, is Alyssa’s advisor. Marcelle said “Alyssa will work on obtaining a sample of neutron star collisions with the goal of using them as standard sirens to determine the rate of expansion of the Universe.  This is very timely after the discovery of the groundbreaking neutron star collision GW170817 as the gravitational wave detectors are now being upgraded and when they come back later this year, they are expected to yield almost 10 times more detection’s per year. That wealth of data, is a very exciting prospect for a student starting their PhD career!”

Christopher Konow, a Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry, received an honorable mention. He works in the Irving Epstein lab analyzing the Turing Pattern formation in Growing Domains using the CDIMA (chlorine dioxide-iodine-malonic acid) chemical reaction.  For the NSF GRF, he proposed developing a novel self-oscillating hydrogel that could have uses in drug delivery.  He plans to start this project in late summer/early fall of 2018.

The Brandeis undergraduate alumni receiving 2018 NSF GR fellowships are:

  • Caroline Cappello graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Theater Arts. She is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biology at the University of Washington.
  • Emma Chad-Friedman received a BA in Psychology and Anthropology in 2014 and is in the PhD. Psychology program at the University of Maryland at College Park.
  • Jung Park also graduated in 2014 with a degree in Neuroscience and Psychology. He is currently a Ph.D. student in Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University.
  • Stanislav Popov received his B.S. degree in Mathematics and Chemistry only 2 years ago (2016). While at Brandeis, Stanislav worked in Isaac Krauss’ lab. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry at UCLA.

Jonathan Touboul is new Associate Professor in Mathematics

Jonathan Touboul is a new associate professor in the Department of Mathematics. He is also associated to the Neuroscience program, and member of the Volen National Center for Complex Systems. His research deals with mathematical equations modeling the behavior of neurons and networks of the brain. He is also interested in understanding how the brain is interconnected and if or how these interconnection patterns play a role information processing, learning and memory.

Prior to joining Brandeis, Jonathan Touboul led for a research team at Collège de France in Paris, within the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology. He received his PhD in Mathematics from École Polytechnique (Paris) and spent some time as a postdoc at Pittsburgh University with Bard Ermentrout and at the Rockefeller University with Marcelo Magnasco.

At Brandeis, he intends to pursue his researches in models of large-scale neural networks, learning, memory and synchronized oscillations in Parkinson’s disease.

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