Mathematics Names New Royster, Edwards Chairs

By Whitney Harder

(Jan. 26, 2015) — The University of Kentucky Department of Mathematics, within the College of Arts and Sciences, is proud to announce the appointment of Benjamin Braun to the Wimberly and Betty Royster Research Professorship, and Uwe Nagel to the Ralph E. and Norma L. Edwards Research Professorship. 

The Royster and Edwards professorships serve to recognize the Department of Mathematics' most active researchers and to support their research. Both positions are three-year terms and include a stipend to support salary or research expenses.

Recommendations for the professorships are made by the mathematics faculty who are best able to judge the quality of research. Department of Mathematics Chair Russell Brown says that outstanding faculty tend to be outstanding in all areas, and the department's best researchers are often its best teachers, too.

"Ben is an award-winning classroom teacher and works hard to involve students at all levels in his research program," said Brown. "Uwe, in addition to his strong research record, is an outstanding classroom teacher and advisor to graduate students."

Braun, named the Royster chair, studies problems that involve counting finite collections of objects using techniques from geometry and algebra. He says that although mathematicians have studied problems of this type for hundreds of years, there remains many mysterious and difficult problems in the field. Braun has published 15 research papers on the subject, and has received competitive research awards from the National Science Foundation, National Security Agency and American Institute of Mathematics.

Internationally recognized for his work, Braun has been invited to conferences and workshops at Kyoto University (Japan), the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications at the University of Minnesota, the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences at the University of Toronto (Canada), and the Casa Matemática Oaxaca at El Centro de las Artes (Mexico). He was awarded the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award in 2011-2012.

Braun graduated with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and English from Truman State University in 2001, and earned his doctorate in mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis in 2007. He joined UK faculty in the fall of 2007 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in July of this year.

During his time here, he has been active in supervising undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral researchers, and published two papers on the scholarship of teaching and learning. Braun is also co-director of the Central Kentucky Mathematics Circles and editor-in-chief of the American Mathematical Society blog, "On Teaching and Learning Mathematics."

Nagel, named to the Edwards Research Professorship, conducts research focused in algebraic geometry and commutative algebra. The interplay between algebraic objects and their geometric properties is at the heart of his research. Nagel also helped develop the Liaison Theory, which addresses the question, "Do two geometric objects have similar properties if only their defining equations are known?" His results have been published in two monographs and 82 research papers. He is regularly invited to international conferences and mathematical research institutes, including research stays at research centers in Berkeley, Oberwolfach (Germany), Banff (Canada), Luminy (France), Paris (France), and Trento (Italy).

Nagel joined the UK faculty in 2002 and held the position of Royster Research Professor in 2007. Nagel served as a New Directions Visiting Professor at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) at the University of Minnesota from 2006 to 2007. He has enjoyed exploring problems with graduate students and collaborators. His doctoral students have gone on to careers in government, the private sector, and academic careers at research and teaching intensive institutions.

Before his time at UK, Nagel received his undergraduate degree in mathematics at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, a German university, in 1987. He earned his doctoral degree in 1990, and his habilitation degree, the highest German degree following a doctoral degree, in 1996 at the University of Paderborn in Germany.