2009 Visiting Speakers

Here are a few of our guest speakers from Mathcamp 2009:

Alfonso Gracia-Saz (University of Toronto)

Alfonso Gracia-Saz has been involved with Mathcamp since 2004. Originally from Spain, he received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley and spent one year at Keio University in Japan. He studies Mathematical physics, differential geometry, higher-order algebra, and he counts both mathematicians and physicists among his collaborators. Outside of math, he loves folk dancing -- contra and square dancing in particular -- and is fascinated by the amount of mathematics (geometry, abstract algebra, topology, and even category theory) that can be found in the patterns.

Catherine Havasi (Brandeis)

Catherine Havasi has been collecting common sense from the internet since 1999. She uses that knowledge, plus a bunch of machine learning methods, to model how people think about the world. Her interests are artificial intelligence, specifically singular value decomposition, semantics, machine reading and ontologies. By the time you meet her, she will have started her post-doc at the MIT Media Lab. You may have already met her at mystery hunt where she is often wearing a funny hat.

Dave Patrick (Art of Problem Solving)

Dave Patrick is a textbook writer and instructor at Art of Problem Solving (AoPS). He is the author of two of AoPS's textbooks (and is currently working on a third), and has taught problem-solving courses for AoPS at all levels from MATHCOUNTS to the Putnam and most everything in between. In his past life doing mathematics research (at MIT and the University of Washington), Dave studied noncommutative algebraic geometry, in particular the classification and structure of noncommutative ruled surfaces.

James Tanton (St. Mark's Institute of Mathematics)

James likes taking elementary ideas in mathematics and pushing them in strange and unusual directions. He works with students of all ages and their teachers to look for really cool ways to prove advanced theorems with very basic and elementary tools (light bulbs, triangular palaces, bits of felt, dots and boxes) thereby proving to the world that mathematics - real, creative and truly exciting mathematics - is absolutely accessible to all. He has written a book or two, has worked at all levels of mathematics education, founded an outreach Institute, and has conducted research in algebraic topology and a splash of number theory. But his major goal and pleasure is to advance true joy in thinking about mathematics, much like Mathcamp!

Jennifer Quinn (University of Washington Tacoma)

Jennifer Quinn is a combinatorialist who believes that beautiful proofs are as much art as science. Simplicity, elegance, and transparency should be the driving principles in mathematics. Simply understanding mathematical truth is not sufficient; instead, strive to put mathematics into a concrete framework where truth becomes apparent and ideas quickly generalize. In 2007, Jennifer received a national teaching award from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). She has served as executive director for the Association for Women in Mathematics and as co-editor of the undergraduate mathematics magazine, Math Horizons. Her book, Proofs That Really Count: The Art of Combinatorial Proof (coauthored with Art Benjamin), was honored with the MAA's Beckenbach Book Prize.

John Conway (Princeton University)

One of the most creative thinkers of our time, John Conway is known for his ground-breaking contributions to such diverse fields as knot theory, geometry of high dimensions, group theory, transfinite arithmetic, and the theory of mathematical games. Outside the mathematical community, he is perhaps best known as the inventor of the "Game of Life."

Josh Tenenbaum (MIT)

Josh Tenenbaum is a professor of cognitive science and a member of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). In his research, he builds mathematical models of human and machine learning, reasoning, and perception. His interests also include neural networks, information theory, and statistical inference. Visit Josh's website.

Megumi Harada (McMaster University)

Megumi Harada works on symplectic geometry, which provides a mathematical framework for classical physics and also ties in to quantum physics, combinatorics, and graph theory. Megumi loves to draw pictures and to get people excited about math. In 2005, she was the only mathematician among the 10 finalists in a televised competition for "Ontario's Best Lecturer" (billed as "reality TV with a high IQ"). She has also appeared regularly on TV Ontario's More 2 Life program to discuss mathematics in everyday life.

Michael Littman (Rutgers University - Machine Learning)

Michael Littman studies machine learning---a branch of computer science concerned with designing algorithms that improve with experience. His work draws on mathematics areas like computational statistics and discrete structures, which he has used to create programs to solve crossword puzzles and control curious robots.