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Seven Up

USC Dornsife mathematicians are honored by the American Mathematical Society.

USC Dornsife mathematicians and new AMS Fellows, from left to right: Eric Friedlander, Solomon Golomb, Susan Friedlander, Susan Montgomery and Francis Bonahon. Absent are Robert Guralnick and Ko Honda. Photo by Susan Bell.
USC Dornsife mathematicians and new AMS Fellows, from left to right: Eric Friedlander, Solomon Golomb, Susan Friedlander, Susan Montgomery and Francis Bonahon. Absent are Robert Guralnick and Ko Honda. Photo by Susan Bell.

Seven of USC Dornsife’s finest mathematicians have been invited by the American Mathematical Society (AMS) to become inaugural fellows of this prestigious association for their distinguished contributions to mathematics.

Honored are Francis Bonahon, professor and chair of USC Dornsife’s mathematics department; Eric Friedlander, Dean’s Professor of Mathematics; Susan Friedlander, professor of mathematics and director of USC’s Center for Applied Mathematical Sciences (CAMS); University Professor Solomon Golomb, Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics, and Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Communications; and mathematics professors Robert Guralnick, Ko Honda and Susan Montgomery.

Commenting on the honor, Bonahon said the fact that seven faculty members had been selected as fellows was particularly impressive for the university due to the relatively small size of the math department. 

“There are 31 people in the department, so seven represents a big fraction, particularly when you consider that the total number of AMS fellows selected this year is less than three percent of the association’s total membership,” he said. The AMS is expected to name 800 fellows this year out of its total membership of 30,000.

Bonahon said he hoped the high number of AMS fellows in the department would encourage more prospective students to apply and motivate existing students to strive toward further excellence.

“This is a wonderful way to showcase what we do here,” he said. “Our hope is that when students learn how much excellence there is in the USC Dornsife math department, it will motivate them to become more involved.”

The AMS fellows' program recognizes members who have made outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication, and utilization of mathematics. The AMS established  the fellows program to “create an enlarged class of mathematicians recognized by their peers as distinguished for their contributions to the profession.”

Eric Friedlander, who serves as AMS president, said he was delighted to have had the opportunity to oversee the establishment of the AMS fellows program.  

“This program should serve to honor the achievements of excellent mathematicians as well as to help to promote mathematics in academia and beyond,” he said. “It is a great honor for me to have the opportunity to congratulate the inaugural class of AMS fellows.”

The initial list of fellows have already earned prestigious mathematics awards in the United States and internationally. In subsequent years, the total number of fellows is expected to grow to about 1,500, representing five percent of the membership of the AMS. 

“For this first year the AMS selected people who had had earlier recognitions, confirming what we already knew about the quality of the people in our department,” Bonahon said. “And the fact that they are very well recognized within the mathematical community.”

“The fact that there were so many fellows from the USC mathematics department is a reflection of the high level of research that is being conducted here,” Honda said.

Montgomery said she was honored to be chosen in the first class of AMS fellows.

“I am glad that the AMS finally started this program, since most other scientific societies have had fellows for many years,” she said.

Although the association was established in 1888, the fellows program took time to form because  there was concern that it might create dissension within the mathematics community.

“But the AMS decided that it was a good choice and I think it is,” Bonahon said. “Eventually people were convinced that this is a good idea to engage the outside world toward better support for mathematics.”

“I am confident that the added visibility that fellows will bring to the mathematical community will be very positive,” Susan Friedlander said.

Golomb said he was pleasantly surprised by the news of his AMS fellowship.

“Even though all my degrees are in mathematics, and I regularly teach courses in the USC math department, I thought most people associate me with my primary appointment, in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering,” he said. Golomb, who has been a member of the AMS for more than 50 years, has published dozens of articles in math journals and is the inventor of polyominoes, the inspiration for the computer game, Tetris.

Guralnick was equally elated.

“I’m very gratified to be recognized by the AMS for doing something that I love to do.” 

The new AMS fellows at a glance:

Francis Bonahon is conducting research in the areas of topology and geometry, with an emphasis on spaces of dimension 2 and 3, including hyperbolic geometry. He has more recently moved to the field of quantum topology and algebra.

Eric Friedlander is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He has held a Humboldt Senior Scientist Research Prize  and was the Henry S. Noyes Professor of Mathematics at Northwestern University. He is a leader in a number of diverse fields, especially algebraic K-theory, cohomology of algebraic groups, representation theory, and cohomology theories for algebraic varieties.

Susan Friedlander has been awarded two fellowships this year. She was also named a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) in March. She is also an Honorary Member of the Moscow Mathematical Society. Her research centers on the partial differential equations that describe the motion of fluids, namely the Euler and the Navier-Stokes equations. She is currently working in topics connected with fluid instabilities and mathematical models for turbulence.

Solomon Golomb is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. He spent a year in Norway as a Fulbright Fellow while completing his Ph.D.  He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a recipient of the USC Presidential Medallion. His research interests include signal design for communications and radar, coding theory and cryptography, combinatorial analysis, number theory and mathematical game theory. 

Robert Guralnick is currently on a yearlong sabbatical with the aid of a Simons Foundation Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study and Princeton University. His research focuses on finite and algebraic groups with applications to number theory and algebraic geometry.  

Ko Honda is currently on a yearlong sabbatical supported in part by a Simons Fellowship, during which he is mainly visiting Stanford University with a short stay at the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook. His research centers on low-dimensional (3- and 4-dimensional) topology and contact and symplectic geometry.

Susan Montgomery’s research focuses on Hopf algebras and quantum groups, including their representation theory and actions on other algebras. She is a former Guggenheim Fellow and has served as a Trustee of the American Math Society. In 2011 she was chosen by the Association for Women in Mathematics to give the Noether Lecture at the annual Joint Mathematics Meetings.

More information about the AMS fellows program can be found at ams.org/profession/ams-fellows/ams-fellows.