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October 24, 2002 Concordia receives Canada Research Chair



by Barbara Black

Concordia’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics has been awarded a Canada Research Chair in Research in Number Theory that will bring Adrian Iovita from the University of Washington.

Dr. Iovita is a researcher in pure mathematics. This field explores mathematical reasoning — seeking to understand the fundamental concepts, developing new theorems or formulas, proving them and applying them to specific problems.

His research involves studying variations of families of mathematical objects known as p-adic L-functions attached to families of geometric objects — such as curves, surfaces, their pieces and their respective invariants — to advance number theory, computational algebra and arithmetic algebraic geometry.

Algebraic number theory is one of the preoccupations of the Centre interuniversitaire en Calcul mathématiques Algébriques (CICMA), which for the past dozen years has brought together mathematicians at Concordia, McGill and the Université de Montréal. Each of those institutions also were just awarded a CRC grant in the field.

Professor Hershy Kisilevsky, chair of Mathematics and Statistics, is thrilled. Number theory is “a really hot area” these days.

Mathematics is an area of strength at Concordia, and there are currently 18 doctoral students in math at the university.

While higher mathematics is necessarily an esoteric subject, the excitement a few years ago over Fermat’s Theorem and popular movies like A Beautiful Mind, which was about mathematician John Nash, have given it more visibility.

Number theory is not aimed primarily at the marketplace, but advances in number theory have been put to surprising uses, including security codes for computer programs and the electronic transmission of signatures on certificates.

The interest and research support are heartening for academics like Dr. Kisilevsky, who admits, “I haven’t had so much fun for years.”

The Canadian Research Chair program was established in 2000 and provided by the federal government with $900 million with the aim of establishing 2,000 positions at universities across the country by 2005.

The grants come in two tiers. Tier 1 is for senior researchers, and supplies $200,000 per year for seven years, renewable in perpetuity. Tier 2, of which the grant to Dr. Iovita is one, is for $100,000 per year for five years, renewable once.