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Vol 38  No 16
June 29, 2006




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Major awards + hard work = banner year for Math and Stats

Adding it up

By Jeff Green

Dr. Serpil Kocabiyik is one of several members of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics recognized for excellence. (Photo by Chris Hammond)


Top honours for two of its dedicated professors, prestigious medals and fellowships for several of its graduate students and awarding its first-ever PhD to a woman caps off an impressive ­ and long list ­ of academic excellence this past spring for one of the busiest departments at Memorial.

Now, its head is hoping all that praise will help boost his unit’s profile and attract even more students.

“Such awards and achievements raise the profile of the department and Memorial,” said Dr. Chris Radford, head, Department of Mathematics and Statistics. “This is particularly important in recruiting graduate students. A department which has a good reputation and profile in its various disciplines always carries more weight when its faculty are applying for grants. Success breeds success.”

Helping lead the way is Dr. Serpil Kocabiyik, professor of mathematics, who just became the latest winner of the Arthur Beaumont Distinguished Service Award from the Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society. The honour was presented during the society’s meeting June 18 in Toronto.

“The award is made to someone who has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of applied mathematics,” said Dr. Radford. “A look at the previous recipients shows that Serpil’s is a real breakthrough ­ the first award to someone outside the BC-Alberta-Ontario nexus.”

Dr. Kocabiyik was the first woman to become a professor in her department in September 2005. She’s also part of a three-member team from Memorial who has just been awarded a Canadian Foundation for Innovation grant valued at more than $116,000 for an in-depth project. She’ll be joined by Drs. David Pike (lead applicant), associate professor of mathematics, and Paul Peng, associate professor of statistics, for a project titled Resources for Large-Memory Computational Problems in Mathematics and Statistics.

She’s not the only one from the department who has reason to smile these days. Another of her colleagues ­ and a well respected member of the Memorial community ­ will be made a fellow of the American Statistical Association at an awards ceremony this August in Seattle, Wash.

Dr. Brajendra Sutradhar is a noted Canadian researcher in statistical science and a University Research Professor at Memorial. Being named a fellow of the association only happens to a select few academics each year.

“This honour is awarded annually to less than one-third of one per cent of the ASA membership to recognize members of established reputation,” explained Dr. Radford. “It’s a big deal.”

These awards, and the top prizes its students have won (see sidebar), all add up to a busy ­ and rewarding ­ time for the department.

“As you can see, we have a great group of outstanding and talented faculty and students,” Dr. Radford said proudly. “It is certainly gratifying to see people rewarded for their dedication and talent.”

The honours augur well for the department, too, contended Dr. Radford. His unit has gone through some rapid changes in the past decade. More than 20 of its faculty members have retired while they’ve welcomed some new faces, and its graduate program has expanded from just 16 students five years ago to roughly 50 students this fall.

Dr. Radford predicts the new faculty and students they’ve attracted and retained will breathe new life into the department.

“I think we can expect some really great things over the next few years,” he said. “There’ll be a lot of scope to really boost our research strength and build our graduate program further. I am also keen to really emphasize the quality of our undergraduate teaching and build the number of students in the math and stat majors.”

Student leaders in Math and Stats

Faculty members aren’t the only ones netting awards in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Here’s a rundown of several worthy student winners.

+ Spring convocation was a special time for Marina Tvalavadze. Not only did she become the first woman in mathematics to qualify for a PhD at Memorial but she and her brother, Teymuraz, became the first siblings to obtain their PhDs in the same year.

+ Andrea Burgess became the first woman in mathematics to receive the University Medal for Excellence in Graduate Studies. In fact, she’s the only one from the department to receive that award so far.

+ Andrew Critch, featured in the May 18 issue of the Gazette, won this year’s Governor General’s Undergraduate Medal after completing his honours degree in pure mathematics just two years after graduating from Clarenville High School.

+ Jared Howell, Larisa Mironova, Marina Tvalavadze, Teymuraz Tvalavadze, Fang Zhang and Yubo Zou were all made Fellows of the School of Graduate Studies in 2006.


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