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Brandeis Math Department updates: Putnam Competition and CAREER award

The Brandeis Department of Mathematics boasts two major recent accomplishments: Brandeis math students performed exceptionally at the acclaimed William Lowell Putnam mathematics competition, and Carolyn Abbott, Associate Professor of Mathematics, received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award. The Math Department at Brandeis offers undergraduate programs in Math and Applied Math, as well as graduate programs such as the Master’s Program in Mathematics and a PhD in Mathematics. As described on their website, “The Department of Mathematics at Brandeis combines the informality, flexibility and general friendliness of a small department with the intellectual vigor of a faculty whose research accomplishments have placed it among the top departments in the country.”

This year was the 84th annual William Lowell Putnam competition. The Putnam competition is widely regarded as the most prestigious mathematics competition in the U.S. and Canada. There were a total of 471 participating institutions and 3,857 students participating. From this group of competitors, Brandeis students placed 37th out of the 471 teams. In a Brandeis Stories article, chair of the mathematics department Olivier Bernardi shared, “Thirty-seventh is a truly outstanding result for a university the size of Brandeis. It shows the excellence of Brandeis math.”

The students followed a similar preparation routine to their meetings last year. Once again, PhD student in mathematics Tudor Popescu and former Putnam competitor and Professor of Mathematics at Brandeis Kiyoshi Igusa led twice-a-week meetings that featured pizza and challenging math puzzles. The list of Brandeis students participating in the competition is Phuong Pham ’24, Nikolai Kivva ’27, Mason Price ’25, Catinca Alexandru ’27, Roland Calia-Bogan ’25, Bhakti Parwani ’25 and Ziwei Wang ’26. In total, the group attained a team score of 150 points.

The Math Department also celebrates Abbott’s achievement in winning the National Science Foundation CAREER Award. The award consists of a $550,000 prize that is divided over a five-year timespan. As stated in the award website, the mission of the award is to “[support] early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.”

Abbott’s research focuses on topology and geometric group theory. These topics explore the connections between the algebraic and geometric properties of items that are presented as groups. In particular, Abbott is interested in group actions by isometries on hyperbolic spaces.

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