MIT mathematician talks about fed research policies

Mathematician Gilbert Strang, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will deliver the 23rd annual Theodore G. Ostrom Lecture, “Fun with Congress, Fun with Pascal,” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14, in the Center for Undergraduate Education, Room 202. A reception will follow in the Hacker Lounge, Neill 216.

Strang served as the 1999-2000 president of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and is the 2003-04 chair of the U.S. National Committee on Mathematics.

“This lecture will address two separate topics,” said Strang. “The first came from working with the applied math society SIAM. I was lucky to have two opportunities to explain to Congressional committees why mathematics is important to our nation. I will build on those experiences to discuss the process of research funding (especially at the National Science Foundation) and how we can try to play a part in shaping the decisions.”

The second part, which will appear in the March 2004 issue of the American Mathematical Monthly, is related to putting the famous Pascal triangle into a matrix and the unexpected properties that result.

“Professor Strang has been one of the most visible and productive members of the applied mathematics community for many years,” said David Watkins, WSU professor of mathematics and organizer of the lecture. “He has written more than 100 papers on a wide variety of topics and six well-received textbooks. He is also a terrific speaker, and these talks are certain to be both entertaining and informative.”

Also on Jan. 14, Strang will deliver a mathematics colloquium entitled “Generating Good Meshes/Inverting Good Matrices.” The colloquium will begin at 4:10 p.m. in Neill 5W. Prior to his presentation, refreshments will be served in Neill 216 at 3:30 p.m.

Strang graduated from MIT in 1955, where he was named a William Barton Rogers scholar, and then spent two years as a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford University, England. His doctorate was earned as a National Science Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1959. He has been a Sloan Fellow, a Fairchild Scholar and an Honorary Fellow of Balliol College. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has taught mathematics at MIT since 1959.

The annual Theodore G. Ostrom Lecture Endowment is designed to bring an internationally renowned mathematics scholar to the Pullman campus for a series of presentations. The lecture honors Emeritus Professor Ostrom, who retired from WSU in 1981 after 21 years on the mathematics faculty and who expects to attend this year’s lecture.