A Word from the Chair, 2023

Submitted by Tony I Garcia on

By Bernard Deconinck

September 30, 2023

Eight years and counting. Has there been a “normal” year in my time as chair? We’ve had a pandemic, an earthquake retrofit (including moving everyone out), a 50th anniversary for the department, and many more events and incidents, some good, some bad. This past year served up a fire in Lewis Hall! It is probably not an exaggeration to say that if (now full) Professor Matt Lorig had not had early-morning online office hours from Lewis Hall on Sunday morning, November 6, we might be housed elsewhere in some temporary shack. A fire department visit and a crowbarred door later, the fire was put out, and the damage was contained to one office. In fact, it was the only unoccupied office in Lewis Hall at the time! The process of coming to terms with what happened is ongoing: it became clear to us that Lewis Hall did not have smoke detectors, let alone a fire alarm system that would automatically notify the fire department. Officially, this was not a problem: because Lewis is an old building, smoke detectors or a fire alarm system are not required per the Seattle building code. Needless to say, we were not happy with this state of affairs. Much politicking later, with assistance from all resident groups in Applied Mathematics, the College and Facilities decided to have a state-of-the-art system installed. We are looking forward to its first test, as installation is nearly finished as of this time of writing.

What else happened in the Department? Community building is a work in progress, and each year brings improvement as we put the peak of the pandemic further behind us, although the positive tests and the transmissions may just be part of the new normal. Luckily, booster shots and increased understanding are doing a good job keeping symptoms under control! I hope to write a “Word from the Chair” next year that doesn’t mention Covid!

Our academic programs continue to be in great demand, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. And we keep on producing top students who are going on to excel wherever they go, be it academia (including graduate programs elsewhere), government, industry and national labs. A celebration of our great students can be seen here.

Heather Wilber is our newest Assistant Professor. You’ll hear from her in next year’s newsletter! Heather works in Approximation Theory, Numerical Linear Algebra and Scientific Computing. Not too long ago, Heather declined our offer to join the PhD program. It goes to show we make offers to very talented individuals. And, in the end, it worked out for all involved! Two new staff members joined us as well, and we had some shuffles. Sarah Riley, formerly the Graduate Advisor for the CFRM program switched to the same role for the AMATH PhD and MS programs. Killian Doran joined us to take over Sarah’s old role. She shares her path here. And very recently, we brought in Mark Pasadilla to help our undergrads and MS students with Career Services.

This year, three of our 15 faculty are on sabbatical: Professors Ivana Bozic, Nathan Kutz and Eric Shea-Brown will all be away all or part of the academic year. Since Ivana is Graduate Program Coordinator, Professor Jingwei Hu is stepping in to carry us through. We added an exciting event to the Department’s line-up: we had the inaugural Frederic & Julia Wan Lecture, by Professor Qing Nie, from the University of California at Irvine. This new lecture series honors the many contributions Fred & Julia have made to the department. And they continue: this Fall Quarter, Fred is teaching our graduate course on the calculus of variations!

Our department graduated 6 students with PhD degrees, 51 students with MS degrees in CFRM, and 56 students with MS degrees in applied mathematics. Our undergraduate class was sizeable, now that the program is reaching maturity. We had 69 graduates with BS degrees either in Applied Mathematics or in CFRM. The quality of our undergraduate students was at full display at our graduation event, and in the recognition they received. In addition, Anne Liu was the first Amath student ever to be honored as one of the Husky 100!

There’s so many great contributions to this newsletter I’ve not mentioned yet. Professor Eli Shlizerman, returning from sabbatical, describes the exciting work going on in his group, while Acting Instructor and WRF Fellow Zachary Nicolaou tells us about his work and the contributions of the DEI committee here. Newly minted Dr. Meghana Velegar tells us about her trying path to the PhD, while ACM graduate Robert Hollman tells us about the impact of good and bad advisors. CFRM MS graduate Kyle Sledge follows up his impressive class speaker speech at graduation with an equally impressive newsletter writeup. Finally, undergraduate Ziyan Zhou tries to talk us into double majoring in Applied Math and Art. And this wouldn’t be a departmental newsletter if we didn’t hear from a few of our alums: Kelsey Marcinko details her journey graduating during the pandemic, before going on to a faculty position at her alma mater, Whitworth College. Natalie Sheils describes how unexpected connections led to her current work in the healthcare space.

Each year, we ask for newsletter contributions from different individuals, usually because we have an idea what they’ll write about. We usually guess wrong, and they surprise us with touching stories, great reminiscences, and overall (mostly) great advertising for the department. Your many contributions are always such a joy to read when we receive them!

News Topic