Department of Mathematics

Van Vleck Hall, 480 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI

News Items

Jordan Ellenberg's Hawking Index predicts book unreadability

In The Guardian, Jordan Ellenberg explains his own way of calculating a book’s unreadability, which he dubbed the Hawking Index. Ellenberg looked at the sections that readers have highlighted on Amazon’s Kindle e-readers, and infers that after they’ve stopped highlighting, they’ve probably stopped reading. Link:

Math alumnus named University of Denver Chancellor

The University of Denver has chosen Jeremy Haefner as its 19th chancellor. 

Haefner, who earned a master’s degree and PhD in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983 and 1986, respectively, joined the University of Denver in 2018, serving as provost and executive vice chancellor. He previously held the positions of provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Rochester Institute of Technology for 10 years. 

As a mathematician, Haefner studied integral representation and module theory, and his research has been published in Communications in Algebra, the Journal of Algebra and American Mathematical Society, among other journals. He has also written on topics in higher education, such as supporting diversity in leadership and enhancing the student experience.  

Denise O’Leary, chair of the University of Denver Board of Trustees, stated that Haefner has done remarkable work in the past year, including championing transparency and respect for shared governance, spearheaded efforts to share more regular and thorough updates on budget processes and improved lines of communication. 

“Our community has, in Jeremy, a national thought leader in student and academic success, a great communicator and an individual personally committed to advancing the university and further expanding our diverse and inclusive community and shared values,” she wrote. 

Nan Chen works on model for predicting Indian Monsoons

New research from an NYU/Abu Dhabi team has found that temperatures in the Atlantic are having a growing effect on the Indian monsoon, something that could prove crucial in predicting how severe rains are likely to be.

The study comes as climate change alters the patterns of monsoon rainfall in India, with likely far-reaching effects on agriculture, the economy and society.

In the latest study the team, which includes Nan Chen as well as 3 other NYU/Abu Dhabi researchers (Sabeerali CT, Ajayamohan RS, Bangalath HK) looked at the relationship between sea-surface temperature variability in the Atlantic and variability in the Indian summer monsoon.

Colder sea-surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic, linked to a weather system called the Atlantic Zonal Mode (AZM), tend to be associated with stronger monsoon rains.

The colder temperatures over the Atlantic strengthen the waves into the Indian Ocean, which increases the difference in upper atmospheric temperature between the Indian Ocean and the Indian continent. This causes more powerful moisture-laden winds to blow onto the land, leading to greater monsoon rains.


Support plus drive equals success

A supportive environment helped a group of female graduate students in mathematics reach lofty goals. Already a leader in the number of women hired as faculty members, the department hopes to continue improving the experience for female students to help bring equity to the field.

After graduation, a group of seven female graduate students,  Eva Elduque, Jing Hao, Wanlin Li, Amy Huang, Yuhua Zhu, Di Fang and Yuan Liu, mathematics will head off to post-doctoral opportunities at some of the most prestigious institutions in the United States, including Georgia Tech, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, the University of California-Berkeley, Texas A&M University and the University of Michigan. Their success, in a field that has historically presented institutional challenges for women, says something important about the environment for female students in the Department of Mathematics at UW-Madison. 



Four faculty honored with Van Vleck Prizes

Every four years the UW-Madison Mathematics Department awards Van Vleck Prizes to faculty members on the basis of excellence in research and promise of significant future achievement.  The prizes are funded by the Van Vleck Professorship Fund.   The four winners of the 2019 Van Vleck Prizes are...

  • George Craciun
  • Jordan Ellenberg
  • Laurentiu Maxim
  • Benedek Valko


UW-Madison Department of Mathematics
Van Vleck Hall
480 Lincoln Drive
Madison, WI  53706

(608) 263-3054

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