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The Rings of Commutative Algebra

An interview with Ian Aberbach, Professor of Mathematics

Ian Aberbach confesses that he thought about pursuing English as a major in college, but found the problems in a modern algebra class so engaging that he was drawn inescapably to mathematics instead. Taking that fork in the road has led Aberbach to a career in commutative algebra. During our interview, the math professor patiently allowed me to test the claim that “no question is a stupid question.” When asked to explain his research to the general public, Aberbach admitted that he wasn’t sure whether that was possible, referring to the highly specialized language, concepts, and theory in which his work is situated—concepts that are crucial for algebraists, but challenging for those outside of that subfield to wrap their minds around. In spite of the highly technical language, Aberbach does his best to explain his research in layperson’s terms.

“As Far as the Pi Can See”

An interview with Carmen Chicone, Professor of Mathematics

Great celestial bodies populate the solar system. For an untrained eye staring at the heavens, the starlight spectacles and endless seas of blackness are nothing short of a miracle. Researchers, however, have developed mathematical equations that may help us understand such mysteries of the universe. From Isaac Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation to Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, the scientific community has paved the way for a greater understanding of the great beyond.

The Math of Physics

An interview with Adam Helfer, Professor of Mathematics, Adjunct Professor of Physics & Astronomy

Black holes loom large in the public imagination. Mathematical physicist Adam Helfer offers a definition: “Roughly speaking, a black hole is a region from which nothing can ever escape.” In other words, in its most simple definition (one uncomplicated, for the moment, by the nuances of scientific inquiry), it is the Alcatraz of the cosmos.

During our recent visit, Dr. Helfer, Professor of Mathematics and Adjunct Professor of Physics & Astronomy, cautions that black holes are only a portion of what he studies, but in general, he enjoys working on problems with real-world applications. Regardless of his topic, Dr. Helfer is a prime example of a scholar whose interests lie at the intersection of different fields—in this case, mathematics and physics.

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