Alum, Past Postdoc Receive Awards from Breakthrough Prize Foundation

Netta Engelhardt

Netta Engelhardt. photo: MIT

Lisa Piccirillo

Lisa Piccirillo. photo: Quanta Magazine.

Lisa Piccirillo, a recent Brandeis postdoc and Netta Engelhardt, a Brandeis undergraduate alumni have received two awards from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. While the Breakthrough Prizes are intended to help scientific leaders gain financial freedom, the New Horizons award and the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize focus on young scientists early in their careers.

The Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize is awarded to early-career women mathematicians. Lisa Piccirillo received this prize for her work in resolving the Conway Knot problem. Piccirillo was a postdoc working with Daniel Ruberman, Professor of Mathematics, from 2019 until her recent appointment as Assistant Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Netta Engelhardt, is part of a group that received the 2021 New Horizons in Physics Prize. Netta and three other scientists were awarded for their research in calculating the quantum information content of a black hole and its radiation. Engelhardt is currently an Assistant Professor of Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a 2011 graduate who majored in Physics. She received a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship prior to graduating from Brandeis.


Applied Mathematics and AI meet Law and Social Justice

Jonathan Touboul

For the past two years, Applied Mathematics Professor Jonathan Touboul and his team has been working in collaboration with Law Professor Samuel Dahan at Queen’s University (Canada) in modeling legal decisions and predicting court decisions on Canadian labor law. Their academic work covers the determination of a worker’s status or the calculation of a severance package (paper appearing in a forthcoming issue of the McGill Law Journal). With the COVID-19 crisis and nearly 2 million Canadian jobs lost in 2 months, Touboul, Dahan, Prof. Maxime Cohen (McGill) and their colleagues realized that their research could be applied to assist more people, and serve to help democratize legal services, particularly towards those who lack proper access to law and legal information.

Joining their efforts with a team of law and computer science students at Queen’s University, Jonathan Touboul and his team provided modeling and data science expertise to develop predictive algorithms that helped launch This is a free AI powered platform that offers easy access to their research and algorithms to provide personalized predictions, explanations, list of most similar situations from the case law, and offers the option to connect the user with a network of pro-bono lawyers for a free consultation.

Learn more:

• “Championing AI for social justice”, Queens University
• “Conflict Analytics Lab launches app for workers laid off during the pandemic”, McGill University

SPROUT and I-Corps Applications are Open

Sprout logoThe Brandeis Innovation SPROUT and I-Corps programs offer support for bench and non-bench research. Both programs offer funding in different amounts, mentorship, training and help in further exploring the commercial potential of inventions. SPROUT supports bench research, while I-Corps emphasizes training for both bench and non-bench researchers in developing the commercial potential of discoveries, with small grants and extensive training programs. You can apply to one or both programs.

  • If you have a technology / solution that you have started developing and you would like to get funding for it via SPROUT and/or I-Corps, then please complete this form
  • If you do not already have a technology, then you can complete this form to qualify for the I-Corps training program and be matched with a team

Icorps logo

SPROUT teams will get the chance to qualify for up to $30,000 in funding. The I-Corps program provides entrepreneurial training and covers the core of commercializing a technology or building a startup. It comes with an NSF $750 travel and training stipend and an NSF I-Corps certificate/digital badge.

Apply by February 25, 2020 at 11:59PM

Brandeis grad is the first woman to receive the Abel Prize in Mathematics

Karen Uhlenbeck giving a talk

Credit: Andrea Kane

By Ruth Charney, Theodore and Evelyn Berenson Professor of Mathematics

We are thrilled to announce that Karen Uhlenbeck has won the 2019 Abel Prize in Mathematics.  Uhlenbeck received her PhD from Brandeis in 1968 and was awarded an honorary degree by Brandeis in 2008.  The Abel prize, which is given out by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, is one of the most prestigious awards in mathematics and has never before been awarded to a woman. The prize recognizes Uhlenbeck “for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.”  Hans Munthe-Kaas, Chair of the Abel Committee, notes that “Her theories have revolutionized our understanding of minimal surfaces, such as those formed by soap bubbles, and more general minimization problems in higher dimensions.”  She has also been a strong advocate for women in mathematics.,

Spencer Bloch to speak at 2018 Eisenbud Lectures

Eisenbud 2018 Poster

The 2018 Eisenbud Lectures in Mathematics and Physics will be held from November 13-15 at Brandeis University. This years speaker is Spencer Bloch, Professor of Mathematics at the Yau Mathematical Sciences Center at Tsinghua University, and Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Chicago.

Professor Bloch is a mathematician whose work has influenced many subjects including number theory, algebraic geometry and mathematical physics. The following lectures will be informative and entertaining:

  • Tuesday, November 13 at 4pm: “Multiple Zeta Values and Mixed Tate Motives over ℤ”  (intended for a general audience) Location: Abelson 131.
  • Wednesday, November 14 at 4pm: “Motivic Γ-functions” (colloquium style lecture). Location: Brown 316.
  • Thursday, November 15 at 4pm, “Relative Completions,” Location: Goldsmith 317.

Refreshments will be served 15 minutes before each talk. There will be a reception in Abelson 333 following Tuesday’s talk.

The Eisenbud Lectures are the result of a generous donation by Leonard and Ruth-Jean Eisenbud intended for a yearly set of lectures by an eminent physicist or mathematician working close to the interface of the two subjects.

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.

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