Every year, graduate students in mathematics get together to listen to
one another’s ideas, and to those of seasoned researchers in the
field. It’s an opportunity to break out of the sometimes isolated
world of scholarship, and show what they’re made of.
This year, for the first time, the ISM (Institut des sciences mathématiques)
conference will be held at Concordia. As many as 80 graduate students
are expected to attend, most of them from the Montrealarea universities,
but with representation from Queen’s, Harvard and SUNY Stony Brook.
Four students from Concordia are organizing the event, and each has taken
on an area of interest for participants. Wael Bahsoun will handle dynamical
systems, K.T. Sathar will take care of physics, Kristina Loeschner will
do algebra, and Manuel Morales will look after financial mathematics.
“Our main goal is to show that Concordia is not only a teaching institution,
but a centre of research,” said Bahsoun. There are about 40 graduate
students in mathematics at Concordia, and the faculty complement is very
strong. Professor John McKay, who will address the conference on “the
building blocks of symmetry,” is a fellow of the Royal Society of
Canada and famous in his field, with a number of problems named after
him. His work straddles mathematics and computer science.
The other featured speakers are Robert Devaney (Boston University), on
“the exploding exponential: complex dynamics of entire functions”;
Eric Bollt (USA Naval Academy) on “the transport and global control
of deterministic and stochastic dynamical systems”; Niky Kamran (McGill),
on “curvature and topology; the BochnerLichnerowicz technique”;
and Philip Protter (Cornell), on “a mathematician’s introduction
to financial asset pricing theory.”
Bahsoun said that there are plenty of challenges for the aspiring mathematical
researcher, “open problems,” as they are called, that have not
yet been solved to everyone’s satisfaction.
The Liemann hypothesis, left dangling since the late 19th century, is
worth a $1 million prize to the scholar who proves or disproves it. Even
Fermat’s Theorem, which was cracked a few years ago, is open to a
cash prize for the mathematician who can bring the solution down from
about 300 pages to a more manageable length.
These mathematical problems have real utility, Bahsoun added. Mathematics
underlies our daily life, from medical advances to computers, weather
forecasting and the stock market. In fact, financial mathematics is becoming
a hot field, and some of Concordia’s graduate students would like
to see it further developed at the university.
Mathematics is the mother of all the sciences, Bahsoun said, and it’s
underappreciated. Go see A Beautiful Mind, he suggested, not to
admire actor Russell Crowe, but to appreciate the genius of John Nash,
the mathematician who is being depicted. Did he see it? he is asked. “The
very first day,” he answered with a grin.
The Institut des sciences mathématiques conference takes place
May 1012. Information can be found at www.math.uqam.ca/ism/english/conference2002.html)
