Math professors recognized with national fellowship

Two University of Miami mathematics professors are turning a prestigious fellowship award into a family affair.

Gregory Galloway, chairman of the Department of Mathematics, and his wife, Michelle Wachs, have been named as 2013 Simons Fellows, which recognizes some of the top math professors from around the country.

“I was in San Diego at a math conference and he was in China at a math conference when we received the news,” Wachs recalled. “We work in separate fields and we weren’t expecting us both to get it.”

The Simons Fellowship was created last year by Jim Simons, a world-renowned mathematician who founded Renaissance Technologies, a private investment firm. When he retired in 2009. the company was one of the most successful hedge funds, with a net worth around $10.6 billion.

The Simons Foundation was created to support mathematical sciences through research, conferences and more around the world. The fellowship is a private grant, enabling professors to extend their sabbatical by another semester in order to continue research in their field.

“This is one of the most important fellowship awards that a faculty member can be awarded in the mathematics department. and we are very proud to have not only one, but two members awarded in the same year,” said Leonidas Bachas, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Every seven years professors are usually given a paid sabbatical for one semester so that they may visit other universities to work on collaborative research with professors in their field.  The Simons Fellowship allows the Galloways and other recipients to extend their sabbaticals for an additional semester, giving them the opportunity to travel outside the United States as well.

“We feel quite honored to be selected,” Galloway said.

The couple, both of whom earned their doctorates at the University of California-San Diego, will begin their sabbaticals this fall at UC Berkeley. Galloway will continue his development of mathematical relativity, including research with physics and black holes. Wachs will continue her research in algebraic combinatorics, which entails using abstract algebra in order to define structures.  Thanks to the Simons fellowships, they will get to travel to Europe in spring 2014, working with other professors at the University of Vienna and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Two UM graduate students also will work with the professors on their research projects. Rafael Gonzalez D’leon is working with Wachs, and Carlos Vega is studying with Galloway.

“Professors Wachs and Galloway are leading experts in their fields,” Gonzalez D’leon said. “Such a prestigious fellowship is not only a well-deserved recognition for their many contributions to mathematics, but also a great opportunity for them to dedicate time to strengthening their research programs and enriching the path of mathematicians that, including myself, are following their footsteps.”