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Honoring a Mathematical Mind

Comedians have the Friars Club Roast, actors receive lifetime achievement Oscars, but in the world of math, a distinguished career is honored by a big gathering of very smart people.

Mathematicians honor their own with academic conferences. They gather to talk shop, present new ideas and most of all, share their passion for the theorems and equations that make the vital stuff of the world work.

UMBC mathematics and statistics professor Thomas I. Seidman recently celebrated his 70th birthday and 35th year of service to the University in high style. 92 of his peers from 26 universities and three foreign countries came to campus to honor his work with the conference "Advances in Control of Partial Differential Equations.”

According to mathematics associate professor Matthias Gobbert, partial differential equations are crucial to making the machinery of modern life work properly. “They describe many physical and engineering systems and controlling them is necessary for all sorts of systems like satellites and thermostats to work,” Gobbert said.

The conference, colloquially known as “SeidmanFest,” included eight talks by distinguished invited speakers from Harvard, Rutgers, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and other top universities. A panel discussion on the future of the field and 14 research poster presentations were also given. Gobbert, fellow UMBC math professor Kathleen Hoffman and University of Maryland, College Park mathematician Stuart Antman organized the tribute to Seidman.

The National Science Foundation provided $6,000 in travel grants for junior researchers and graduate students to attend. UMBC’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the Dean’s Office of the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences provided additional funding.

Seidman came to UMBC in 1972 from Carnegie Mellon University and has over 50 years of mathematical research under his belt since his grad school days at NYU. He has authored over 150 papers with more than 60 collaborators in his career.

"It's a great tribute for a conference to be organized in one's honor and, of course, pleasant to hear nice things said about the significance of one's research,” Seidman said. “I feel a little bit like Tom Sawyer sneaking in to listen to his own funeral."

“The event was very large for a conference organized in someone's honor and we were able to attract very distinguished speakers,” said Gobbert. “It is a testament to the respect for Professor Seidman among his fellow mathematicians.”

Posted: November 16, 2006, 12:00 PM