A Word from the Chair, 2022

Submitted by Tony I Garcia on

By Bernard Deconinck

September 22, 2022

Seven years in, these things don’t get easier to write. Each year is different with its own challenges. That said, I can’t complain too much about this past year. It was a relatively quiet one for the department, with the main thing being our return to campus, first with masks, then optional masks, then mostly without masks. We’re getting back to normal, although with most department members only spending a few years with us getting their degrees, “normal” is not necessarily part of the collective memory. With many working at least partially from home, restoring community is not easy, and it will require more time and energy this year. Clearly, energy was in short supply: everyone was understandably exhausted, and doing the little bit extra that is such a big part of a department’s lifeblood was difficult. Hopefully this year we can do better yet!

I am hopeful for the new academic year: we’ll do better than we did last year, as we try to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror, at least in terms of its impact on our current teaching, learning and research. Even last year we already had some social events, and we saw the return to campus of some seminar speakers and research collaborators. Summer travel proved its own adventure, but faculty and students returned to conferences and workshops, many in a hybrid format. This year, knock on wood, we hope to return to our pre-pandemic schedule in terms of social events, starting with our Welcome Party on October 7.

This new academic year will be busy. In addition to the catching up from events skipped or missed, our different programs continue to grow. Our two undergraduate programs now house about 200 students, the Applied and Computational Mathematics (ACM) MS program is welcoming its largest class ever, the Computational Finance and Risk Management Program keeps enrolling a large number of students, and our incoming PhD class is our largest ever. As before the pandemic, our MS programs have both on campus and online students.

This past year, Assistant Professor Ivana Bozic was promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure. We promptly gave her more service responsibilities: Ivana is the new Graduate Program Coordinator, relieving Matt Lorig, who served for these past 4 years. Thanks Matt! On a very sad faculty note, founding member of the department, Professor Jerry Kevorkian passed away on November 9, 2021. It is never too late to share your memories of Jerry. You can do so here. Elsewhere in this newsletter, Assistant Professor Bamdad Hosseini and Associate Professor Jingwei Hu share their experiences after their first year in our department. Our faculty continue to be recognized: Professor Anne Greenbaum was selected as the 2022 Sonia Kovalesky Lecturer, Professor Nathan Kutz was elected a SIAM Fellow, and Associate Professor Ivana Bozic received the 2023 Akira Okubo Prize. Congratulations to all! Finally, Professor Anne Greenbaum is retiring, after 25 years of service to UW, first in the Mathematics Department until 2009, then our department. Thanks for all you’ve done for us, Anne!

I mentioned the department’s lifeblood above. Let’s talk about our staff! We have endured some significant staff changes. Longtime departmental members Laurie Feldman and Lauren Lederer both left the department. Most recently, Laurie was the Program Manager for the CFRM program, and Lauren was the Graduate Program Advisor for the Amath side of things. She also coordinated all student advising in the department. These past few years, I’ve asked people to nominate who in the department has made a difference for them. It was no surprise at all that Lauren won the inaugural recognition. In fact, if I would have started this 7 years ago, I believe Lauren would likely have been the “winner” for most if not all of those years. Laurie moved to a position at Harborview, Lauren is now the administrator for the new AI Institute. Both will be missed! But, we gained some excellent people as well: Ingrid Richter is now our System Administrator and Nick Cheung is our new Amath Graduate Program Advisor. Sarah Riley is taking on many of Laurie’s former responsibilities. Undergraduate Program Advisor Becky Beard reports on her first full year with us here.

Our department graduated 13 (a record high, beating last year’s 12) students with PhD degrees, 37 students with MS degrees in CFRM, and 50 students with MS degrees in applied mathematics. Our undergraduate class was sizeable, with 28 Applied Mathematics graduates and 15 CFRM graduates. Details of our first in-person graduation event in three years can be found here. A list of award winners is also available here.  Our undergraduates and MS graduates are taking up positions in all kinds of different industries, others continue their education and join a graduate program. Our PhD students continue to make us proud as well, going on to postdoctoral positions at great institutions or to excellent positions at national labs or in industry.  

The remaining contributions to this newsletter are as interesting as the ones already linked to above. Undergraduate student Yuna Liu tells us how she got into applied mathematics and what drives her. Yuna was one of three Boeing Award winners at this year’s undergraduate graduation ceremony. She is also a co-founder of the UW Applied Math club. Next, CFRM MS student Navid Bahadoran takes us on a journey from Iran to the CFRM program and Amath MS student Daniel Hobbs tells us about his path to a PhD program from his MS degree in Physics via different parts of East Asia. PhD students Ellie Byrnes and Alex Hsu reminisce on their memorable first year here.  Katherine Owens is a former MS and PhD student. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute. A slightly different path was taken by Susie Sargsyan, also a former MS and PhD student, now at Google. The last PhD alum we highlight is Yue Wang, who is currently at UCLA. We are always keen to highlight alums, undergraduates, MS or PhD. Please let us know if you’d like to contribute to the next newsletter.

This one’s from last year: “I am ready for an academic year without Covid restrictions, personal interactions and an actual community in Lewis Hall.” That was a bit premature, but I’m hopeful we can get continue to do better!