Math professor Burger wins Distinguished Teaching Award, writes new interactive text

Edward B. Burger, associate professor of mathematics, won the Mathematical Association of America Northeastern Section Distinguished Teaching Award. He is the third Williams professor to receive such an honor, following Colin Adams (1996) and Frank Morgan (1993).

The award commends his ability to make math exciting and accessible both to students and the public at-large. Burger strives to have his students examine their world in new ways. He attributes his innovative teaching style to his willingness to take risks. “Innovation is born from daring to experiment and daring to rewrite the traditional rules.”

In addition, Key College Publishing, a division of Springer-Verlag, has announced the publication of The Heart of Mathematics: An Invitation to Effective Thinking by Burger and Michael Starbird, University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

“The Heart of Mathematics,” says Burger, “entices readers to discover great ideas, powerful techniques of thinking, and a new world view. The book paints a picture of mathematics as a realm containing some of the greatest ideas of humankind—creative works comparable with those of Shakespeare, Plato and Michelangelo.”

Readers will also discover lessons of effective thinking that have applications to their lives far beyond mathematics. The book includes a kit containing hands-on puzzles, strange dice 3D glasses, and a CD-ROM.

Burger, who is a number theorist specializing in diphantine approximation and geometry of numbers, is the author of more than 20 research articles.

This summer, the American Mathematical Society will publish his first number theory book titled Exploring the Number Jungle. He is a popular speaker and has delivered a number of keynote addresses at national and international mathematics conferences.

Beyond his research interests, Burger has also been able to share his mathematical skills on television and radio. He has created the first-ever “virtual, video, interactive calculus text/course” on the Internet.

The site, www.thinkwell.com, opened this fall.

Burger received his B.A. in mathematics from Connecticut College and his Ph.D. in 1990 from the University of Texas at Austin. He did his postdoctoral work at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He did his postdoctoral work at the University of Waterloo in Canada. At Williams College since 1990, he has also held the Ulam Visiting Research Professor of Mathematics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, was a visiting scholar at James Madison University, and was a visiting fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and at MacQuarie University in Australia.

Chapman and Hall has announced the publication of Groups and Characters by Victor E. Hill IV, professor of mathematics at Williams.

Group representation theory has important applications to quantum mechanics, spectroscopy, crystallography and other fields in the physical sciences.

Until now, however, there has been virtually no accessible treatments of group theory that include representations and characters.

Groups and Characters offers an easy-to-follow introduction to the theory of groups and of group characters.

The text includes specific sections that provide the mathematical basis for some of the important applications of group theory in spectroscopy and molecular structure. It also offers exercises—some stressing computation of concrete examples, others stressing development of the mathematical theory.

Hill is the Thomas T. Read Professor of Mathematics at Williams, where he has taught since 1966. His principal mathematical interests are in group representation theory and the history of mathematics.

His book, Groups, Representations, and Characters, was published in 1976.

A harpsichordist who has played more than 800 concerts throughout the United States and in Europe, Hill served for 24 years as the organist-choirmaster of St. John’s Episcopal church, Williamstown. He studied in Amsterdam with the eminent Dutch harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt. He is also the founder and director at Williams of the Griffin Hall Concerts, a series now in its 32nd year. In addition, he is the archivist of the international Association of Anglican Musicians.

A 1961 graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University, Hill was awarded Woodrow Wilson and Danforth fellowships for graduate study. He received an M.A. degree in 1962 from the University of Wisconsin and his Ph.D. in 1966 from the University of Oregon, which also awarded him the first Performer’s Certificate in Harpsichord to be granted by the university.

Cornell University’s Dexter Kozen will discuss Language-Based Security at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, in Griffin Hall, room 6, on the Williams campus. Kozen’s lecture is sponsored by the Class of 1960.

“Security is a major issue in today’s global computing environment,” says Kozen. “When you download a program from the Internet to run on your machine, how can you be sure it will not do something undesirable? In this talk I will discuss some traditional security mechanisms and their limitations, then describe a new approach called language-based security.”

Kozen will give an overview of some current work in this area and describe a particular project he is involved in which is trying to make the verification process as efficient and invisible as possible.

Kozen is the Joseph Newton Pew, Jr. Professor in Engineering at Cornell University. He received his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College in mathematics in 1974 and his Ph.D. from Cornell in computer science in 1977.

After working as a member of the research staff at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center for several years, he returned to Ithaca to join the Cornell faculty in computer science in 1985. He is a recipient of the John G. Kemeny Prize in Computing, an IBM Outstanding Innovation Award and a John Simon Guggenheim fellowship.

Kozen’s research interests span a variety of topics on the boundary of computer science and mathematics: design and analysis of algorithms, computation complexity theory, complexity of decision problems in logic and algebra and logics and semantics of programming languages.

He is currently involved in a project on Internet security. He is the author of three books and over 100 research articles.