South Hosts 400 Mathematicians for Regional Conference

Posted on October 18, 2023 by Acacia Stanley
Acacia Stanley

Three students smiling talking to each other at math conference. data-lightbox='featured'

The University of South Alabama Department of Mathematics and Statistics hosted more than 400 mathematicians for the Fall Southeastern Sectional Meeting of the American Mathematical Society held Oct. 13-15. 

“The University of South Alabama last hosted this conference in the 1980s,” said Cornelius Pillen, a professor of mathematics at South who helped organize the event. “Hosting a sectional meeting is a great opportunity for the University to present itself to the mathematical community and showcase its beautiful campus and academic programs.”

South organized 21 research talks and three invited addresses held in Shelby Hall and the Mitchell College of Business. The three distinguished addresses featured Theresa Anderson of Carnegie Mellon University, who presented “Number Theory and Friends: A Mathematical Journey;” Laura Ann Miller of the University of Arizona, who presented “Flows Around Some Soft Corals;” and Pillen, who presented “Lifting to Tilting: Modular Representations of Algebraic Groups and Their Frobenius Kernels.”

Pillen’s area of research is group theory. Groups measure and describe symmetries of other mathematical objects. 

“They play a fundamental role in physics, chemistry and other sciences,” Pillen said. “Video games would not exist without groups moving and rotating objects throughout space and then projecting them on a two-dimensional screen. My main interests are algebraic groups, which have an additional geometric structure that is given via polynomials.”

The American Mathematical Society is the professional society for mathematicians in the U.S. It has nearly 30,000 individual and 570 institutional members, and it hosts the annual Joint Mathematical Meeting in addition to eight sectional meetings per year. 

As part of the conference, South’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics hosted a reception on Saturday in the Globe Grand Lobby of the USA Mitchell Center.

“Mathematicians usually do not require expensive laboratories or machinery, but collaboration and communication among researchers is of utmost importance,” Pillen said. “The American Mathematical Society is the national organization for researchers in mathematics, and the sectional meetings are vital events for mathematicians in the region. It allows us to meet with collaborators, exchange ideas and stay informed on the latest discoveries. It is also a venue for younger researchers and graduate students to present their work and network with more senior colleagues.”

Six students currently pursuing a Master of Science in Mathematics at South volunteered at the event. 

“Conferences are an incredible way to see how mathematicians are collaborating and observe how research is developing,” said Brandon Sisler, who is pursuing a master’s degree in mathematics at South. “It was a great opportunity to see my role models in action. I was particularly inspired watching our graduate director, Dr. Cornelius Pillen, deliver his invited address. Seeing the people you admire gain their earned recognition reminds you of why you work hard for them and gives you something new to aspire to in the future.” 

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