AMS in the News Archive

NSF Initiative Gives Field a Chance to Show Relevance, Charles Seife
Science, 14 December 2001
Concerning National Science Foundation funding of mathematics.

The views of many, including AMS President Elect David Eisenbud of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, are cited in this article which offers hope for increases in NSF funding of mathematics research. Seife writes that Eisenbud, " particularly keen to see a rise in the size of individual research grants, now a median of US$35,000 a year for three years." In regard to Vertically Integrated Grants for Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences, Eisenbud says that the program '...has had an excellent and tonic effect' on mathematicians. The article indicates that efforts of NSF director Rita Colwell and head of mathematical sciences at NSF, Philippe Tondeur, among others, to convince government officials that mathematics research is essential to scientific progress must be paying off. One congressional staffer says that mathematics is '... a ubiquitous tool to advance all areas.'

Planetary Ballet
Science, NetWatch section, 14 December 2001
What's New in Mathematics mentioned.

Two web pages with "some nifty animations" of possible planetary paths are described in this short piece. One page is at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The other page is the March, 2001 Feature Column (edited by Tony Phillips): "A new solution to the three body problem--and more," written by Bill Casselman.

Moments in Math Illustrate Its Impact, Melissa Ezarik
District Administration, Curriculum Update section, November 2001
A description of the Mathematical Moments series.

Ezarik grabs the reader?s attention by asking questions such as "Did you know characters and motion in movie animation are created with software that relies on math calculations?" then advises readers interested in applications of mathematics to "...take a look at the new online teaching resource from the American Mathematical Society."

No Free Lunches: We Should Resist the Push to Rush Research Online, John H. Ewing
The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 12, 2001
AMS Executive Director John Ewing wrote this article which offers an analysis of calls for scientific journals to post their contents online.

"Should we support only the status quo? Surely not. But our actions need to be guided by three principles: to promote pluralism, avoid dogmatism, and cultivate discourse. Many good new ideas exist for expanding scholarly communication, but prematurely tossing away the good old ideas is foolhardy. We need to encourage experimentation and protect journals at the same time."

The Job Market in Mathematics Enjoys a Rebound
The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 6, 2001
The author cites statistics provided by the AMS, and quotes Jim Maxwell, Director of AMS Meetings and Professional Services, and other mathematicians regarding the current job market for mathematicians.

"The job market for Ph.D.'s in mathematics--which was depressed throughout the 1990s--is in the midst of a major recovery, fueled mainly by faculty retirements. In the mid-1980s, about 300 positions a year were vacated because of death or retirement, with most vacancies resulting from the latter, says James W. Maxwell, associate executive director of the mathematical society. 'In 2000, that number was up to about 600,' he says. 'And if you add 300 positions at a time when universities are feeling fortunate and are allowing departments to fill those positions, then you begin to see more departments advertising open positions.' More mathematicians also have found jobs in government and industry. Mr. Maxwell of the Mathematical Society says that the percentage of Ph.D.'s working outside the academy rose to more than 31 percent in 2000, up from 27 percent in 1999 and about 20 percent a decade ago."

The International Career Center, Special Report
Nature, August 9, 2001
The special report includes statistics provided by the American Mathematical Society that indicate a decline in the number of full-time graduate students in mathematics, fewer than half of whom are U.S. citizens. The article quotes Jim Maxwell, Director of AMS Meetings and Professional Programs; Philippe Tondeur, Director of NSF's Division of Mathematical Sciences; Joe Buhler, Deputy Director of MSRI; and Tony Chan, director of the new Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics at UCLA, among others.

"A decade ago, the combination of economic recession and an influx of Russian and Chinese mathematicians made for a bleak hiring picture, but today the jobs are there, says Jim Maxwell, who tracks maths demographics at the American Mathematical Society. The current unemployment rate among new maths Ph.D.s is 3-4%, down from over 6% in 1999. Salaries in top academic departments in 2000 ranged from US$50,000 to US$55,000 for assistant professors, US$65,000 for associates, to US$101,000 for full professors. Of the roughly 850 [maths] Ph.D.s who enter the job market in the United States each year, about 60% take their first job in academia."

The Numbers Game, Paul E. Kandarian
Rhode Island Monthly, July 2001
[The writer came to the AMS headquarters to find out what goes on at the Society. The reporter, like many others, was intimidated by the subject of research-level mathematics, but he produced a light-hearted overview of the AMS for Rhode Island Magazine readers--about 40,000--who may not be aware of our missions and activities.]

"The truth is, math is part of everything, from navigating the Internet to making a phone call to figuring your taxes... Math is the core of the sciences and, for better or worse, it's all around us. One of the ways Breen and Emerson are trying to humanize math is by issuing a series of 'Mathematical Moments,' explanations designed to promote appreciation of the role math plays in our lives. They include subjects such as deciphering DNA, designing aircraft and listening to music. In addition, the AMS this spring ran a 'Who Wants to Be a Mathematician?' contest for Rhode Island high school students."

[The September 2001 issue of Rhode Island Monthly published a follow-up letter to the Editor from the AMS Public Awareness Office.]

"The AMS was pleased to see Kandarian's piece "The Numbers Game". Recently, eleven Rhode Island high school students competed in our game "Who Wants To Be A Mathematician." Jonathan Goulet, from Classical High School in Providence, won the top prize of US$2,000 from the AMS. Rhode Islanders should be proud of all the students who qualified to take part in this fun and challenging event... It was good to see some fine gymnastics of the mind at work--and play..."

Office of National Drug Control Policy takes down anti-math ad
Focus, "Short Takes" section, May/June 2001
[This is an update regarding the mathematical community's response to an anti-drug ad that appeared in print in some teen magazines in which a teenage girl is portrayed as offering this comeback--"I'd rather go to math camp"--in response to someone offering her drugs. ]

Samuel Rankin, director of the Washington office of the American Mathematical Society, acted as the spokesperson for the mathematical community. "I have spoken with Alan Leavitt of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He is quite embarrassed by the advertisement and has agreed to take it down. He mentioned that his office actually has programs that encourage kids to take mathematics."

Perfecting the Art of The Science Deal, David Malakoff
Science, May 4, 2001
[This article provides a historical overview of how advocates for science funding have interacted both with other organizations--forming coalitions--and with congressional representatives. The author highlights the keys to success: 1) strength in numbers, 2) ties outside Washington, D.C., 3) effective education of the appropriate audiences, and 4) dealing with those connected to both Congress and the White House. "Science lobbyists are enjoying unprecedented success in Washington". Sam Rankin, Associate Director of the AMS and head of the AMS's Washington, D.C. office, is profiled in the "Faces in the Crowd" sidebar.]

. .. [Rankin] is now a central player in one of this year's most watched lobbying efforts, the campaign to keep the National Science Foundation on track to double its budget by 2005. Rankin is upbeat as coordinator of the 93-member coalition for National Science Funding. Mathematics has been good training for political coalition building ... given the cross-disciplinary nature of the subject.

A New Solution to the Three Body Problem [Java]
The Scout Report for Science & Engineering, Volume 4, Number 17, April 25, 2001
[The bi-weekly Scout Report offers a selective collection of Internet resources covering topics in the sciences, and related fields such as math and engineering, that have been chosen by librarians and content specialists in the given field of study. This issue includes a review of a featured article by Bill Casselman, a contributor to the AMS's monthly Featured Column , edited by Tony Phillips. ]

The subject of this month's feature column from the American Mathematical Society Online is the solution to the "Three Body Problem" of Newtonian mechanics. The problem deals with three orbiting bodies of equal mass and the paths that they will take relative to one another. Solutions have been proposed by many, including Euler, Lagrange, and G.W. Hill. The article notes that solutions are sometimes called "choreographies." The well-written explanatory text discusses the figure-eight orbit, the triangle construction, other choreographies with 3 bodies, and the search for exotic orbits. It includes user-driven Java applets as demonstrations. This site should be interesting to mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike. [HCS]

Bush favours research at pentagon and NIH, Colin Macilwain
Washington Post, April 12, 2001
This article summarizes the proposed buget increases and cuts across many agencies. It notes the flat budget proposed for the National Science Foundation, and mentions the apportionment for mathematics.]

The NSF budget is reshuffled to accommodate some modest new activities, including a US$20 million mathematics initiative... Sam Rankin, associate director of the American Mathematical Society, says he is grateful for the US$20 million in the new mathematics research programme--but noted that it falls short of expectations.

"Who Wants to Be a Mathematician" game
ABC-affiliate WGNO-TV (Channel 26), New Orleans, January 12, 2001
[The "Who Wants to be a Mathematician" game took place at the Joint Mathematics Meetings and featured 10 local high school students who competed for prizes. This television station included a videotaped spot at the end of the 6:00 local news, and mentioned that the game was "sponsored by the American Mathematical Society."]

Counting in the Math Field: 2 PhD Candidates Become Trailblazers at U-Md. Graduation, Amy Argetsinger
Washington Post, December 22, 2000
[This article profiles the first African-American women to receive Ph.D.s at the University of Maryland--Kimberly Weems, Tasha Inniss, and Sherry Scott-Joseph. Their personal milestones are put into perspective with some statistics on the number of African-American women granted Ph.D.s in recent years (provided by AMS surveys) and the need for mentoring and outreach programs for girls.]

"It's one of those disciplines in which your progression through the academic pipeline is very hierarchical," said Jim Maxwell, associate executive director of the American Mathematical Society. "You can't skip mathematics for three years and then decide you want to get back in... By the time you look at the people who are graduating from college, you just have very, very small numbers" in math.

ScienceScope column
Science, December 15, 2000

The presidents of the American Physical Society (APS), the American Chemical Society (ACS), and the American Mathematical Society (AMS) are offering the next U.S. President a list of recommended candidates for top science policy jobs.

Are Mathematicians Past Their Prime at 35?, Lila Guterman
The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 1, 2000
[This article profiles some of math's contemporary "young stars" (Noam Elkies, Pavel Etingof, Edward V. Frenkel, Allen Knutson, Ruth E. Lawrence, Christopher M. Skinner, Francis E. Su, and Terence Tao), and questions whether superstars reaching their peak young is a misperception or a matter of perspective.]

In fact, although "mathematicians do wring their hands a lot" about becoming too old to do great work, according to John H. Ewing, the executive director of the American Mathematical Society, numerous counterexamples show that the rule, if true, doesn?t hold true for everyone. As a contemporary example, many mathematicians mention Charles L. Fefferman. As a young man, "he was a real star?" says Ewing. Mr. Fefferman got an early start, receiving his Ph.D. when he was 20 and becoming a full professor at the University of Chicago at 22. His research on Fourier analysis?led to a Fields Medal when he was 29. Mr. Fefferman, now 51 and the chairman of the mathematics department at Princeton University, is still a leading mathematician.

Mind Over Matter, K. C. Cole
Los Angeles Times, August 10, 2000
[The Los Angeles Times reports on Mathematical Challenges of the 21st Century, a special meeting sponsored by the American Mathematical Society, held at UCLA, August 6-12, 2000.]

Math plays a starring role not only in fields where you might expect it?say, physics?but also unlikely places such as Hollywood filmmaking, ecology, medicine, traffic control.  This week, the superstars of mathematics are gathering at UCLA to celebrate this strange flowering, as well as look for fertile ground to plant new fruit.  It is a gathering of which has not been seen for at least 100 years, with the equivalent of nearly a dozen Nobel Prize laureates.  The range of subjects these stars of mathematics are addressing is staggering: the mathematics of thinking and substance particles, of species and ecosystems, computing and climate change, financial markets and materials, the creation of virtual worlds and the decoding of the human genome.

Math Convention Problems Just Keep on Multiplying, David Ferrell
Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2000
[The Los Angeles Times reports on Mathematical Challenges of the 21st Century, a special meeting sponsored by the American Mathematical Society, held at UCLA, August 6-12, 2000.]

The last such conference of eminent mathematicians for a similar purpose was in Paris?100 years ago.  The goal this time sounded simple: Lay out the fundamental challenges facing mathematics in the century ahead.  In a few cases, they turned out to be the same old intractable problems leftover from Paris.  A more modest aim was to set general directions?and, as much as possible, to emphasize the connection between math and related sciences in a world undergoing extraordinary change.  Michael Freedman, a Fields winner now working for Microsoft, talked about using topological shapes to ensure the reliability of as yet uninvented quantum computers.  David Mumford, a Fields winter from Brown University, discussed the inference algorithms needed to model human perception.  A packed crowd heard Witten, the Princeton physicist who abstruse insights into string theory portray a universe cast in 11 dimensions and made of invisible vibrating strings and vibrating sheets he calls membranes.

Count on Numbers to Always be There, Dan Rockmore
The Boston Globe, August 8, 2000
[The Boston Globe reports on Mathematical Challenges of the 21st Century, a special meeting sponsored by the American Mathematical Society, held at UCLA, August 6-12, 2000.]

What most people do not know is that mathematics is much more than the numbers that describe our daily concerns and like any living and vibrant science, the more we learn, the more we see that we do not understand.  But closer inspection reveals further and further divisions.  This week on the UCLA campus, the American Mathematical Society is sponsoring a conference called "Mathematical Challenges of the 21st Century". Part of the purpose of the UCLA meeting is to?outline the state of the art in the many, many different sub-disciplines into which mathematics has evolved, as well as give some indication of what currently seem to be the fruitful and important directions of inquiry and unsolved problems to pursue. As Hilbert said in 1900, "As long as a branch of science offers an abundance of problems, so long is it alive."

AMS Meeting Explores Mathematical Challenges
Focus, November 2000
[MAA's Focus reported on Mathematical Challenges of the 21st Century, a special meeting sponsored by the American Mathematical Society, held at UCLA, August 6-12, 2000.]

This August, the American Mathematical Society brought together some of the world's best mathematicians to attempt to "lift the veil behind which the future lies hidden" and chart a course for mathematics in the 21st century. The overall impact of the conference will probably take many years to be felt. Will these talks set the agenda for the next century? Will listening to high-level talks on other areas promote "cross-fertilization" of mathematical ideas? Whatever the case, there is no question that "Mathematical Challenges of the 21st Century" was one of the most important meetings of the last months of the twentieth century.

Electronic Journals?Best Practices, Priscilla Caplan
Information Today, May 2000
[The AMS perspective as a non-profit society publisher was cited in this report of a one-day National Information Standards Organization/National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services (NISO/NFAIS) Workshop.]

John Ewing, executive director of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), described the society?s pioneering role in implementing e-publishing solutions. Ewing noted that while the AMS has, in many ways, been in the forefront of electronic publishing, the mathematics research community values print and the historical record more than immediacy. Backfile access and archiving are of importance to the math research community, and AMS allocates 1 percent of its subscription price to an archiving fund. Ewing reminded the group that the goal of scholarly publishers is to protect the literature for future generations?this is particularly true of math, where the literature is for the future and the present. Therefore participating in and guiding change is an essential responsibility of the scholarly societies.

AMS Checks Out for Free, Lyndsay Markham
Information World Review, April 2000
[Information World Review assigned a journalist to report on MR Lookup, the reference tool for linking that the AMS developed as a free service for authors and publishers.]

The American Mathematical Society (AMS) has launched a new tool for mathematical and scientific writers and researchers.  Called 'MR Lookup', the service provides free access to bibliographic information on MathSciNet, the Society?s Mathematical Reviews®(MR) Database on the web.  By making MR Lookup available as a free service, the AMS aims to allow graduate students, researchers and mathematicians in applied fields to incorporate its bibliographic data into their papers. "We hope the community will make a commitment to use MR Lookup to add these links to all new papers, and will encourage publishers to include links in all electronic literature," says John Ewing, AMS executive director.

President Clinton Announces Recipients of Nation's Highest Science and Technology Honors the White House
Office of the Press Secretary, January 31, 2000
[Felix E. Browder, AMS President, 1999-2000 , was among the recipients.]

President Clinton announced today the recipients of the 1999 National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest science and technology honors. "We honor these exceptional U.S. scientists and engineers for their achievements, contributions, and innovations that have sustained U.S. leadership across the frontiers of scientific and technological knowledge, thereby enhancing our ability to shape and improve our nation's future," said President Clinton. ? in Mathematics:
Felix E. Browder, University Professor, Rutgers University, Piscataway, N.J. for pioneering mathematical work in the creation of nonlinear functional analysis, opening up new avenues in nonlinear problems, and for being a leader in the scientific community to broaden the range of interactions among disciplines.

America?s Scholarly Societies Raise Their Flags Abroad, Beth McMurtrie
The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 28, 2000
[The AMS is one of seven scholarly societies profiled regarding membership trends. The Society also appears on a sidebar chart showing international membership counts in 1989 vs. 1999.]

From the Organization of American Historians to the American Mathematical Society, the groups have broadened their membership bases and stepped up collaborations with their counterparts abroad.  At the American Mathematical Society, Jim Maxwell, associate executive director, attributes the growth in foreign members to a 1989 decision to offer reduced membership fees to mathematicians in Eastern Europe and other countries where the scholars had low incomes.  About half the society's new foreign members now come from developing countries. Sergei Kolyada, a professor of mathematics at the Ukranian Academy of Sciences, is a member of the American mathematical Society, but not the Ukranian one "a new organization with many kinds of problems," he says in an email message.  Mr. Kolyada considered it an honor to be asked to join the American association, in 1998: "The AMS is the BEST mathematical society that I know." To avoid stifling homegrown professional societies, some American groups [including the AMS] have created membership agreements with those organizations.  Under the arrangements, membership in a scholar?s home organization earns him or her special privileges, such as a discounted rate on membership in the American society.

The Remaking of Math, Robin Wilson
The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 7, 2000
[Several educators and institutions are cited in this article on trends and developments in undergraduate math education.]

This month, when the discipline's three big societies?-the Mathematical Association of America, American Mathematical Association, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics-?hold a joint annual meeting in Washington, 10 groups of a dozen mathematicians each will trade ideas about reforming the undergraduate curriculum.

Math Society's Book Says Improved Teaching Should Be No. 1 Priority
The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 8, 1999
[The Chronicle highlights this publication that the AMS distributes free of charge as a service to the math community.]

Mathematicians who are looking for a few tips on guiding their department into the next millennium need look no further. The American Mathematical Society offers some pointers in its new book, Towards Excellence: Leading a Doctoral Mathematics Department in the 21st Century.

For Job Hunters in Academe, 1999 Offers Signs of an Upturn, Denise K. Magner
The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 29, 1999
[This reporter from The Chronicle interviewed James Maxwell, AMS Associate Executive Director, Professional Programs and Services, as background for some of this article.]

In 1996, the unemployment rate for new Ph.D.'s in the field [of mathematics] reached nearly 15 percent? its highest point ever. Since then, however, the rate has dropped below 3 percent, and professors see other, subtle signs of improvement. Mr. Maxwell, of the American Mathematical Society, says the oversupply of Ph.D.'s in the field has allowed departments to hire better candidates than they would otherwise have been able to afford.

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