MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


The Department of Mathematics at MIT seeks to improve upon its top ranking in both research and teaching by aggressively hiring the very best faculty, with special attention to the recruitment of top women and under-represented minority candidates, and by continuing to serve the broad and varied educational needs of its graduate students, the mathematics majors, and all undergraduates of the Institute.


During the academic year 1996-97, there were 156 undergraduates majoring in mathematics, 120 in
Course XVIII, Mathematics, and 36 in Course XVIII-C, Mathematics/Computer Science. Bachelor of Science degrees, including double majors, were awarded to 69 students, 58 in Course XVIII and 11 in Course XVIII-C.

There were a total of 93 graduate students in mathematics, all in the Ph.D. program. This year 20 students received the doctoral degree and 2 received the master's degree.


Professor Ehud Hrushovski resigned from MIT for a faculty position at Hebrew University. Associate Professor Ezra Getzler and Assistant Professor Sheldon Chang also resigned from MIT.

Dr. Lucia Caporaso will join the Department as an Assistant Professor. Specialized in algebraic geometry she comes from Harvard University as a Benjamin Pierce Assistant Professor and Sloan Research Fellow. Dr. Lars Hesselholt has also accepted an Assistant Professorship offer. He has been a CLE Moore Instructor at MIT for the last three years and is specialized in algebraic topology.

Assistant Professor Bonnie Berger was promoted to Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics. Her specialties are in algorithmic theoretical computer science and in computational molecular biology.


Professor Emeritus Bertram Kostant was bestowed an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Purdue University.

Professor George Lusztig received an Honorary Doctorate degree from the University of Paris VII for his work on representation theory.

Professor Franklin Peterson received a Reinvitation Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for three months of research support at the University of Heidelberg. This reinvitation follows a similar award from 1991-93.

Professor Gian-Carlo Rota was conferred the Doctor Honoris Causa from the New York Polytechnic Institute.

Assistant Professor Bonnie Berger was selected for a Samuel A. Goldblith Career Development Professorship for a three year period. This professorship is named after Professor Samuel Goldblith, a distinguished MIT scientist in the field of applied biology.

Graduate student Konstanze Rietsch was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

Graduate student Ioanid Rosu received the Housman Graduate Student Teaching Award, which is given to a graduate student in mathematics who has demonstrated exceptional skill and dedication to teaching.

Graduate student Andras Vasy was selected for the first Charles W. and Jennifer C. Johnson Prize for an outstanding research paper accepted in a major journal by a graduate student in mathematics. The title of the paper is "Structure of the Resolvent for Three-Body Potentials;" it will appear in the Duke Mathematical Journal.

In the summer of 1996, six mathematics graduate students participated in the Research Sciences Institute Program, a national program offering select high school students six weeks of research experience. Of the nine research projects mentored by our graduate students, one was selected as a finalist and two as semi-finalists in the Westinghouse National Talent Search Program.

In the Putnam Intercollegiate Mathematics competition, five MIT undergraduates ranked among the top 25 students out of an approximate total of 2500 participants. The MIT team of three undergraduates placed seventh in the competition.

Seniors Pramod N. Achar and Aleksey Zinger were awarded the Jon A. Bucsela Prize in Mathematics in recognition of distinguished scholastic achievement. Among those seniors awarded degrees in mathematics, four were elected to the national honor society Phi Beta Kappa.


Professor Michael Artin will resume as Chairman of the Undergraduate Committee after a leave of absence, during which Professor David Vogan served, and David Vogan will succeed Professor Daniel Stroock as Chairman of the Pure Mathematics Committee. Professor Hung Cheng will continue as Chairman of the Applied Mathematics Committee, Professor Richard Melrose as Chairman of the Graduate Committee, and Professor James Munkres as Chairman of the Committee of Advisors.


Among the educational initiatives of the department, here are the ones that involve the undergraduate core.

Two calculus offerings introduced in the past few years have proven increasingly attractive. Most MIT freshmen have had calculus in high school, and about half place out of 18.01 Calculus (single variable). For many of the rest, the pace of 18.01 Calculus is too slow. For these students the Department offers a sequence 18.01A & 18.02A Calculus, taken by more than 200 students last year (compared to 160 in 18.01 Calculus). It covers the 18.01 material in the first half of the fall term, and then begins with the 18.02 material at the standard pace. Students can complete 18.02 Calculus either in an intensive course during IAP (the most popular choice) or in the first half of the spring semester. Separating these better-prepared students has also made it possible to aim 18.01 Calculus more directly at students with little or no calculus background. For some students who do receive 18.01 credit, the standard fall semester 18.02 (several variable calculus) is a bit too fast-paced. For those students we offer 18.02S; this alternative had about 120 students last fall, compared to 350 in 18.02 Calculus.

Two smaller versions of calculus (18.014 & 18.024, Calculus with Theory, and 18.023, Calculus with Applications) continue to serve the students well.

We are continuing the experiment, now a year and a half old, of increasing the number of weekly recitation hours from one to two in 18.03 Differential Equations. Since the annual enrollment in 18.03 is about one thousand, this is quite a difficult experiment for the teaching staff. The success we seek--most of all a stronger connection between students and their recitation instructors--is not easy to measure, but we have been pleased with the results.

The Department's practice teaching program, supervised by Professor Haynes Miller, is now required for our graduate students, and is available to new instructors as well. In this program, Teaching Assistants are put into a classroom situation before they are assigned a recitation of their own. We are also continuing the videotaping program organized many years ago by Professor Arthur Mattuck; all new teaching staff are videotaped during their first semester, and Professor Mattuck provides detailed comments on the tapes.

More information about the Mathematics Department can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL:

David J. Benney

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97