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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

Summer Conference on Topology

The University of Dayton department of mathematics received a $35,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support an international conference this month on campus intended to launch and advance careers in the specialized field of topology.

The 32nd Summer Conference on Topology and its Applications is June 27-30 in Miriam Hall. The event, hosted by the department of mathematics and the College of Arts and Sciences, is expected to attract nearly 140 researchers from across the globe. It is the first time the University has hosted the conference.

Topology is the study of geometric properties and spatial relations unaffected by the continuous change of shape or size, such as by bending or stretching objects. While much of the work done in the field is highly theoretical, topology has practical applications related to such areas as molecular biology, computer science, neuroscience, robotics and medical imaging.

“The main applications are to other areas of mathematics,” said Joe Mashburn, professor of mathematics and conference co-organizer. “However, there are more and more applications in the real world being discovered with them.”

The conference is designed to support the integration of graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and junior faculty into the profession.

Five parallel sessions will expose participants to new topology research in the areas of algebra and analysis, asymmetric structures, dynamics and continuum theory, foundations, and geometry. Each session features a plenary speaker, two semi-plenary speakers, contributed talks and workshops where participants can learn about new fields.

“We try to highlight some of the recent developments in the area and give some of the younger researchers a chance to not only see what is going on in the area, but to describe their work as well,” said Mashburn, who studies set-theoretic topology and served as mathematics department chair from 2008 to 2016.

The National Science Foundation funding helps provide financial assistance for conference travel expenses to students, early career mathematicians and researchers without institutional support.

Mashburn said the NSF’s investment speaks to the conference’s importance.

“They think it is contributing to mathematical knowledge, scholarship and to advancing the careers of some of the younger people by interactions with more established mathematicians and with each other,” he said.

Since 2013, the annual summer topology conference and its sister conference in the spring, together with Topology and its Applications journal publisher Elsevier, have given the Mary Ellen Rudin Award to an exceptional early career researcher. This year’s recipient is Kathryn Mann, a Morrey visiting assistant professor at University of California at Berkeley, who will speak at the summer conference.

“Personally, I have always found the spring and summer conferences to be very welcoming to young people,” said co-organizer Lynne Yengulalp, an associate professor of mathematics whose research interests include general topology. “Senior members of the community encourage young presenters and are happy to discuss mathematics with them during breaks and social events.”

Yengulalp attended a spring conference as a master’s degree student, which contributed to her decision to study topology at the doctoral level.

“In 2015, a UD undergraduate student, Matt DeVibiss, attended the spring conference at Bowling Green State University,” she said. “This year, as a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, he is returning to the summer conference with a couple of his fellow graduate students.”

Speakers at the summer conference include topologists from Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Ohio State University, Tulane University and California State University, Sacramento, among other institutions. International speakers include researchers from Germany, Mexico, Poland and Spain.

Social events include a welcome reception, an excursion to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and a dinner banquet at the Dayton Art Institute.

Conference co-organizers also include Jon Brown, assistant professor of mathematics, and Vicki Withrow, mathematics department administrator.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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