Department of Mathematics

  • The Odaibos are ready to give back

    Drs. Stephen and Lisa Odaibo have dedicated their lives to medicine and helping others. They are also passionate about education—perhaps that’s why they have a combined six college degrees between the two of them.

    Drs. Stephen and Lisa Odaibo Drs. Stephen and Lisa Odaibo have dedicated their lives to medicine and helping others. They are also passionate about education—perhaps that’s why they have a combined six college degrees between the two of them.

    Stephen earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, then went on to earn a master’s in computer science and an M.D. from Duke University. Lisa received her bachelor’s in sociology from Harvard University, then earned her M.D. from the University of North Carolina.

    Lisa did her pediatrics residency at Georgetown University, while Stephen completed his internal medicine preliminary year residency at Duke University and ophthalmology residency at Howard University. He then went on to a Medical Retina Fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

    Through their experiences in higher education, both Odaibos developed an appreciation for the value of mathematics, computer science, and the natural sciences.

    “I was committed to using mathematics in medicine to change people’s lives—to improve lives around the world,” said Stephen, CEO, founder, and chief data engineer for RETINA-AI Health, Inc. “[In addition], computer science was important because I knew very early that you need a computer to scale solutions globally.”

    “I believe that medicine, specifically pediatrics, has a wonderful mix of learning about kids [and] learning about science,” said Lisa, a practicing pediatrician.

    For Stephen, UAB was the ideal institution to nurture and develop the knowledge he would need to be successful in medical school. In addition, he uncovered valuable skills he would later leverage when founding RETINA-AI Health, Inc., an innovative company that has built an autonomous AI system for diabetic retinopathy screening in primary care.

    “[UAB] has been life-changing, without a doubt,” said Stephen. “The things I learned at UAB are absolutely foundational. Ninety-five percent of my professional time is spent in the software world… writing code, training machine learning models, and talking about things like derivatives. For me, it’s just a matter of fact that UAB—where I learned math and calculus and I got great mentoring—was truly foundational.”

    Although Lisa did not attend UAB, she has been able to visit the campus alongside Stephen several times in recent years. During these visits, she developed her own insights about the university.

    “What really strikes me is the quality of the mentorship,” said Lisa. “I know the names of the people who mentored Stephen. It’s not just a professional relationship—there’s also a personal interest in the student’s being successful. You don’t see that everywhere.”

    Now, the Odaibos are ready to invest in the next generation and create opportunities for more students to receive that same guidance and mentorship. Last year, they created the Stephen and Lisa Odaibo Endowed Scholarship in Mathematics to support students who major in mathematics at UAB. It was an investment they wanted to make sooner rather than later.

    “We’re entering a new phase of life,” said Lisa. “It’s not just about our growth. It’s also about thinking about the next generation… What better time than now?”

    For Stephen, it is an investment in the future—an investment that might lead to the next amazing discovery in mathematics.

    “I hope that this money will land in the hands of someone who will go out and do great things and help a lot of people and change the world,” said Stephen. “[I hope] they see the example that I’ve been fortunate to be able set, coming from UAB. I’ve had opportunities that are unique in my career.”

    Given that Stephen is a practicing ophthalmologist, a successful entrepreneur, and serves on multiple boards—including the Data Science Network—it is safe to say that he is setting a great example for future scholarship recipients.

    And Lisa has some advice for students who might one day receive the scholarship and graduate from UAB.

    “Pause and think about what your unique gifts and talents are and what your unique contribution should be to the world,” said Lisa.

    The College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Mathematics thank both Stephen and Lisa Odaibo for their generous gift.

  • Physics graduate finds passion for space, studying coronal mass ejections thanks to UAB mentorship

    For one UAB student, a passion for physics can help keep the Earth safe from space weather events.

  • Department of Mathematics Hosts 19th Annual Math Talent Search Contest

    The contest is motivated by the desire to help in the development of the next generation of mathematical talent in Alabama.

    Many professional mathematicians share a surprisingly similar point-of-origin story about the reasons they chose to pursue mathematics. They were encouraged by an elementary, middle, or high school teacher to participate in a local math contest and unexpectedly won it. Motivated by the desire to help in the development of the next generation of mathematical talent in Alabama, the UAB Department of Mathematics has been offering several contests and informal seminars to local high school students for the past 20 years. The list includes the Math-by-Mail Contest, Train-Your-Brain Math Club, UAB Math School (by correspondence), and, finally, the UAB Math Talent Search (MTS) Contest.

    Since its inception in 2001, apprioximately 3,000 students have participated in the MTS Contest. Information about our past and current work can be found Dr. Alexander Blokh's website.

    The contest is for students in grades 9, 10, 11, and 12. It features a two-hour Math Olympiad-style test, featuring five to seven problems of increasing difficulty. The problems require creativity, knowledge, and ingenuity. UAB Mathematics professors grade the tests; for the professors, clarity and completeness of the justification of the solution is as important as finding the correct answer. Drs. Alexander Blokh, John Mayer, Lex Oversteegen, Nikita Selinger, Roman Shterenberg, Nandor Simanyi, and Rudi Weikard—along with many mathematics graduate students—have provided regular support to this event. They compile and proofread the problems, as well as host the students, parents, coaches, and chaperons. And, of course, they grade all the solutions in less than two hours.

    After a short break due to the pandemic, the UAB MTS Contest resumed on October 29, 2022. In its 19th year, the competition attracted 84 students from eight participating schools. The graders did an excellent job of determining winners in time for the awards ceremony at 1:00 p.m. Schools that won the contest received trophies, while the student winners received certificates and books about mathematics. The following individual prizes and school prizes for top scores were awarded.

    9th Grade Individual Winners

    • 1st place: Alan Yvan (Hoover)
    • 2nd place: Sarah Thomas (Briarwood)
    • 3rd place: Emory Causey (Briarwood)
    • 4th place: Hampton Smith (Briarwood)

    9th Grade School Winners

    • 1st place: Hoover
    • 2nd place: Briarwood

    10th Grade Individual Winners

    • 1st place: Isabella Rutladge (Briarwood)
    • 2nd place: Hill McCloney (Mountain Brook)
    • 3rd place: Carmen Britt (Spain Park)
    • 4th place: Reid Gill (Jefferson County International Baccelaureate)

    10th Grade School Winners

    • 1st place: Briarwood
    • 2nd place: Mountain Brook
    • 3rd place: Spain Park

    11-12th Grades Individual Winners

    • 1st place: Tommy Daley (Mountain Brook, 12th grade)
    • 2nd place: Vu Ho (Bob Jones, 12th grade)
    • 3rd place: Mark Thomas (Briarwood, 12th grade)
    • 4th place: Abbey Waters (Briarwood, 12th grade)

    11-12th Grades School Winners

    • 1st place: Briarwood
    • 2nd place: Mountain Brook
    • 3rd place: Bob Jones

  • UAB Mathematics to host site for 2023 Math Kangaroo competition

    Math Kangaroo’s mission is to make kids fall in love with math by introducing them to new problem-solving strategies and building their critical thinking skills.

  • Wickman believes math is for everyone

    For Lauren Wickman, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, calculus is far more than numbers and equations.

    For Lauren Wickman, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, calculus is far more than numbers and equations.

    “What I want to get across to students is that you have to know calculus if you’re going to understand the universe at all,” said Wickman.

    Hence why she is pursuing a mission to make “Calculus I” more accessible for UAB students. Currently, she is working closely with faculty members in the Department of Mathematics to develop and implement new curriculum that ensures more consistency (and engagement) in all “Calculus I” classrooms.

    The new curriculum includes pre-written notes and worksheets. Wickman created these resources so students can engage with their professors and fellow classmates and not focus on copying down comprehensive notes during class. Wickman believes this approach will create more opportunities for “inquiry-based, hands-on learning.”

    “We want to encourage students to see math as this thing that is to be discovered…and that’s it’s still growing,” said Wickman. “The way to learn math is you have to do it—they say math is not a spectator sport.”

    Wickman uncovered her interest in inquiry-based learning during her time with the UFTeach Program at the University Florida. Through UFTeach, Wickman majored in mathematics and minored in education and developed skills that would later help her in the classroom. After completing the program, she taught math in high schools in both Palmetto and Sarasota, Florida, and saw the benefits of creating an engaging classroom environment.

    “[It] helps them discover math the way it’s meant to be,” said Wickman.

    Although she enjoyed teaching high school students, she also wanted to deepen her knowledge of mathematics by pursuing a terminal degree. So, with that in mind, she reenrolled in the University of Florida and earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics.

    “As I was getting my Ph.D., I was really learning more about what it meant to be a real mathematician and how it’s more than just, ‘Here’s the formula plug it in,’” sad Wickman.

    After earning her Ph.D., she explored career opportunities at universities that emphasized both research and teaching. That exploration eventually led her to UAB.

    “The research that they do here—that was the one thing that jumped out to me. I like the community of research that they have,” said Wickman. “I am also really into teaching, and [the department] has a big emphasis on teaching.”

    She arrived at UAB in Fall 2022 and immediately started coordinating the new “Calculus I” curriculum. In addition, she has identified more opportunities to use technology in the classroom—specifically, online graphic calculators. By doing so, Wickman and her fellow faculty members are ensuring students can visualize their work.

    “Calculus is a very visual subject, so you need to see pictures of the graphs at all times to have any idea of what’s going on,” said Wickman. “They’re starting [with a] conceptual understanding before we get into the procedural understanding and notes.”

    As she continues to make “Calculus I” more accessible, she also hopes to build a community for mathematics at UAB. In the future, she is interested in establishing an Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) chapter at UAB. AWM’s mission is to “create a community in which women and girls can thrive in their mathematical endeavors, and to promote equitable opportunity and treatment of women and others of marginalized genders and gender identities across the mathematical sciences.”

    “I hope to create a community… that encourages people to do math without making it seem like it’s just for credit or just for putting on a resume,” said Wickman. “It’s a fun and enriching thing to do. It opens your mind.”

    Although Wickman is still in her first semester at UAB, it’s clear her approach will influence the ways in which students (and faculty) view mathematics—both inside and outside of the classroom.

  • Mayer finds opportunities to innovate

    If you step into a class taught by John Mayer, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Mathematics, you will hear very little lecturing. Instead, you are likely to witness an engaging environment where students do most of the talking.

    John Mayer, Ph.D.If you step into a class taught by John Mayer, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Mathematics, you will hear very little lecturing. Instead, you are likely to witness an engaging environment where students do most of the talking.

    “A 20-minute lecture from me would be a pretty long lecture in a classroom,” said Mayer.

    His passion for cultivating dynamic classrooms emerged during his time as a mathematics Ph.D. student at the University of Florida (UF). His major professor at UF, Beverly Brechner, Ph.D., embraced inquiry-based learning—a pedagogy where students often speak more than their professors. It was a fresh approach that catalyzed his interest in topology.

    “[Topology] is the understanding of place or space. It’s more flexible than geometry,” said Mayer. “I was drawn in by the way in which I learned topology [inquiry-based learning]. It was partly the subject matter… and it was partly the way it was being taught.”

    As Mayer’s knowledge of topology deepened, he sought a future career in higher education where he could work alongside colleagues with similar research interests. Eventually, he gravitated to UAB because he knew Lex Oversteegen, Ph.D., a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics who was also interested in topology. It was a perfect match.

    “I came to UAB for research reasons,” said Mayer. “I thought I’d find a happy research home.”

    When Mayer arrived on campus in 1984, he was a bit surprised by UAB’s class schedule. In the early 1980s, students attended two-hour classes twice a week, resulting in lengthy lectures and, at times, disinterested students. Mayer immediately sought ways to avoid disengagement with his students, so he circled back to inquiry-based learning.

    Through this approach, Mayer limits lectures to a small fraction of his classes. Instead, students spend most of the time learning from each other via group projects and presentations.

    “The idea is to do this in an atmosphere of mutual respect,” said Mayer. “I believe that inquiry-based learning is for everybody… especially for those who are afraid of mathematics. The process—and having a respectful community in which to do it—can help build their confidence.”

    Mayer’s commitment to inquiry-based learning is emblematic of a broader strategy that he embraces: identify effective practices being leveraged elsewhere and collaborate with others to apply them at UAB. Hence his motivation to plan and implement two groundbreaking programs at the university: the Mathematics Fast-Track Program and UABTeach.

    Through the fast-track program, students can earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in an abbreviated time period (often five years or less). In the early 1990s, Mayer had witnessed other schools leveraging the model, so he decided to adapt it for UAB with the goal of retaining strong mathematics undergraduate students. He and his collaborators launched the program in 1993, and, within a couple of years, they received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support and expand the work.

    “I believe the Mathematics Fast-Track Program was the first combined bachelor’s/master’s program [at UAB],” said Mayer.

    In addition to the fast-track program, Mayer collaborated with faculty and staff in the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of Engineering, Education, and Public Health to conceive of and implement a program to expedite the process by which students become secondary STEM teachers. Again, Mayer looked for examples of effective programs at other institutions and discovered UTeach at the University of Texas at Austin.

    In 2014, Mayer—along with his collaborators—used the UTeach model to develop and launch a program called UABTeach to reduce the course load for students who aspire to become STEM teachers. The goal was to maintain academic rigor without requiring students to earn two majors. It was an innovative strategy that received a $1,450,000 grant from the National Mathematics and Science Initiative, as well as over $2.75 million in local philanthropic support from several local foundations including the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.

    “The motivation was to make it easier for students to decide to become teachers,” said Mayer.

    “Apart from the Fast Track program, I’m most proud of getting UABTeach off the ground.”

    Although Mayer celebrates his past accomplishments at UAB, he’s also quick to look forward and seek out new approaches to make mathematics accessible for all students. With that goal in mind, he plans to launch a new course in Fall 2022 entitled, “Linear Algebra: Data and Models.” The course, MA 160, is designed to support students who may face challenges with calculus.

    “Linear algebra makes calculus with several variables much easier,” said Mayer. “Linear algebra can be more widely applied in the age of computers. It has implications in data science and in mathematical modeling. The idea that someone could learn linear algebra without first having taken calculus was attractive to me for the course I’m designing now.”

    Students who are interested in taking the course can learn more via the UAB Course Catalog.

    When asked to describe his approach to innovating in the classroom and on campus, Mayer jokingly says it’s similar to fitting a square peg in a round hole. Thankfully, throughout his time at UAB, he’s never let inflexible shapes and barriers stop him from trying new things that will benefit his students.

  • 2022 Padma Award recipients named

    The Padma Award recognizes UAB faculty, staff and students who go the extra mile in support of underrepresented populations.

  • Lee’s journey through UAB is marked with “discovery and self-exploration”

    Angela Lee will be graduating from UAB on April 30 with a double major in chemistry and mathematics, leaving behind a trail of impressive academic and community accomplishments.

  • Seven students receive 2022 Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate and Graduate Students

    Each academic year, the UAB College of Arts and Sciences receives departmental nominations for the Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate Students and Outstanding Graduate Students.

    Each academic year, the UAB College of Arts and Sciences receives departmental nominations for the Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate Students and Outstanding Graduate Students. The dean’s selection committee gives these awards to exceptional undergraduate and graduate students in the College who have made significant contributions to the UAB community.

    After carefully reviewing the 2022 nominations—which include detailed recommendation letters from faculty members and mentors—Dean Kecia M. Thomas, Ph.D., and her committee have selected four undergraduate students and three graduate students for the awards. At the upcoming 2022 commencement ceremonies, the College will acknowledge and celebrate the recipients.

    Congratulations to the following students for receiving this prestigious award:

    2022 Undergraduate Dean’s Awards

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    2022 Graduate Dean’s Awards

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  • Donors establish endowed lectureship and scholarship in honor of Roger T. Lewis

    Roger T. Lewis, Ph.D., served as a thoughtful and forward-looking leader in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Mathematics for over four decades.

    Roger T. Lewis, Ph.D.Roger T. Lewis, Ph.D., served as a thoughtful and forward-looking leader in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Mathematics for over four decades. He joined the department in 1975 and, through his tireless efforts, advocated for research programs that led to numerous grants from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Lewis also served as chair of the department and helped establish a strong foundation for its future growth and prosperity.

    Sadly, Dr. Lewis passed away in 2021. His commitment to and passion for the Department of Mathematics will carry on, though. Through a generous gift, Dr. Barbara A. Lewis, Dr. John C. Mayer, and Dr. Jeanne Hutchison have established the Roger T. Lewis Endowed Lectureship and the Roger T. Lewis Endowed Scholarship.

    The Roger T. Lewis Endowed Lectureship in Mathematics will fund and create opportunities for lectures and events within the Department of Mathematics that will spur collaboration between faculty, students, and staff.

    The Roger T. Lewis Endowed Scholarship in Mathematics will provide financial support to undergraduate or graduate students based on their academic achievement.

    “Roger, along with three other faculty members, was instrumental in putting UAB Mathematics on the international map by initiating a series of International Conferences on Differential Equations and Mathematical Physics in 1981, his own research area,” said Dr. John C. Mayer, professor in the Department of Mathematics. “He was also eager to support and encourage the research of the faculty in other areas as well, culminating in establishing the Ph.D. degree program in Applied Mathematics at UAB.”

    The College of Arts and Sciences deeply appreciates the extraordinary contributions Dr. Lewis made to the department over the years. Also, the College offers its appreciation to Dr. Barbara A. Lewis, Dr. Mayer, and Dr. Hutchison for honoring his life and work with a heartfelt gift that focuses on the future of the department and its people.

  • Johnny Bates honors his father with an endowed scholarship in mathematics

    When Johnny Edward “Rusty” Bates, M.D., was growing up in Sipsey, Alabama, he viewed his father, a draftsman and engineer, as one of the smartest people he knew.

    When Johnny Edward “Rusty” Bates, M.D., was growing up in Sipsey, Alabama, he viewed his father, a draftsman and engineer, as one of the smartest people he knew.

    “My father was an inspiration,” said Bates.

    Although his father, Henry E. Bates Jr., was both skillful and knowledgeable, he was limited in his ability to advance in his career due to his academic credentials. According to Bates, “He always felt that not having his degree impeded his ability to move up the ranks.”

    Johnny Edward “Rusty” Bates, M.D.For Bates, this observation about his father serves as an enduring source of inspiration, both in his academic journey and his professional career.

    While in middle and high school, Bates excelled in mathematics and learned from nurturing teachers who helped him establish a strong foundation in the discipline. As he looked to his future, he decided to pursue a degree in mathematics, while also working full-time. He briefly attended Birmingham-Southern College, then enrolled at Walker College to earn his associate degree.

    He envisioned attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham after Walker College, but he faced a financial barrier. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family,” said Bates. Thankfully, he received a generous scholarship, which helped him scale the barrier. That scholarship, which came from a wealthy businessman, set him on a new academic trajectory.

    He enrolled at UAB and earned a B.S. in Mathematics and a minor in art history. During his time as an undergraduate at UAB, he saw and appreciated the level of care and excellence his professors brought to the classroom each day.

    “I had a great experience with great educators,” said Bates. “They loved teaching. [My professors] took an interest in me as a student. They wrote letters for me when I applied to medical school.”

    After completing his undergraduate degree, Bates was accepted into the Heersink School of Medicine. He earned an M.D. in 1982, then completed his residency at University of Texas in Galveston.

    Through his studies and training, Bates became deeply interested taking care of populations of patients, rather than focusing on individual patients. He decided he wanted to become a leader in correctional care, so he started his own company, Quality Correctional Healthcare (QCHC).

    While Bates studied mathematics and medicine at UAB, he enjoyed solving problems and making decisions that would improve outcomes. Nowadays, he applies those same skills at QCHC. “I’m going to use those techniques to improve our overall services. We’re going to need to find smarter and better ways of doing things,” said Bates.

    He has continued his academic journey to support these goals too. He earned a Master of Medical Management for Physicians from Carnegie Mellon University, and, recently, he started taking courses in artificial intelligence and machine learning from the University of Texas at Austin and the Massachusetts Institute for Technology.

    Bates still looks back on the scholarship that helped him establish his academic foundation at UAB with gratitude, while also considering the obstacles his father faced. Moving forward, he wants to support future students as they pursue degrees in mathematics and honor his father at the same time. Given these priorities, Bates recently established the Henry E. Bates Jr. Endowed Scholarship in Mathematics, which will benefit undergraduate mathematics students who demonstrate strong academic promise.

    “I think everybody who desires an education should be able to get an education,” said Bates. “I want to be able to benefit someone who has that desire but may not have the resources to get the degree.”

    Clearly, Bates’s generosity and admiration for his father are reflected in this endowed scholarship in the Department of Mathematics.

  • Blazing a new path to follow one’s dream

    Christina J. Glenn is the first Doctor of Public Health with a concentration in biostatistics graduate from UAB’s School of Public Health.

  • I am Arts and Sciences: Eric Teoh

    For students who study math in college, the notion of saving lives with their knowledge may seem distant — maybe even far-fetched. For Eric Teoh, director of statistical services at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the connection between math and lifesaving work is crystal clear.

    For students who study math in college, the notion of saving lives with their knowledge may seem distant — maybe even far-fetched. For Eric Teoh, director of statistical services at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the connection between math and lifesaving work is crystal clear.

    That was not always the case, though. In high school, Teoh had a complicated relationship with mathematics.

    Eric Teoh “I wasn’t very good at math until I got to college,” said Teoh. “I let it intimidate me.”

    Teoh admits that he did not have a positive attitude about the discipline prior to college. However, when the time came to declare a major at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, he unexpectedly selected the subject that posed numerous challenges for him in high school.

    “At the time, I thought to myself, ‘I can do anything — I’ll major in math,’” said Teoh.

    This new outlook on life (and education) prompted a different mindset for Teoh. Instead of allowing math to get the best of him, he found himself working harder and challenging himself to master the discipline. And that’s exactly what happened.

    “The faculty in the Department of Mathematics took a chance on me,” said Teoh. “Between them taking a chance on me and a shift in my attitude, I made it work.”

    Right after being accepted to UAB, Teoh was also accepted into the Mathematics Fast Track Program. Through the program, Teoh earned both a B.S. and M.S. in Mathematics in only four years. Along the way, he also took a few extra courses in a variety of subjects, including more than were required for him to earn a minor in chemistry. All in a day’s work for Teoh.

    “I think UAB was an excellent place to learn,” said Teoh. “We learned a lot of important skills for work and life in general. We learned to think independently.”

    After graduating from UAB, Teoh enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to pursue a Ph.D. in Biostatistics. Although the program was engaging, Teoh started reevaluating his future with a new focus on starting a career that would allow him to save lives. His reflective mindset motivated him to leave Chapel Hill and accept a role as a data analyst with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). According to Teoh, IIHS — an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing deaths, injuries, and property damage from motor vehicle crashes — aligned with his vision, values, and talents.

    Now, 15 years after taking the job with IIHS, Teoh has a clear perspective on the transportable skills he developed while at UAB and the ways in which his work improves the world.

    “I’ve learned the value of simplicity,” said Teoh. “We try to use the simplest scientifically sound analysis methods so everyone can understand our work and use it to make better decisions.”

    When Teoh reflects on his professional accomplishments, he immediately circles back to the values that drove him to leave Chapel Hill and start his job with IIHS: saving lives and reducing harm.

    “There are no panaceas or silver bullets in this field, so every effective countermeasure is important,” said Teoh. “Some of the biggest ones from my research studies include antilock braking systems on motorcycles, front crash prevention technology on large trucks, graduated driver licensing laws for teenage drivers, and vehicle roof strength in rollover crashes.”

    Teoh’s journey is full of valuable lessons — that said, there is one theme in particular that he emphasizes when speaking with students who are crafting their visions for the future.

    “Do not be afraid of changing your mind on future plans,” said Teoh. “[If you do change your mind] do so in a way that builds off of what you’ve already accomplished. I changed my mind substantially at least a couple times and, looking back, I’m glad I did each time.”

  • Stanislavova selected to lead UAB Department of Mathematics

    Milena Stanislavova, Ph.D., has been named the chair of the Department of Mathematics in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences.

    Milena Stanislavova, Ph.D., has been named the chair of the Department of Mathematics in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences.

    Dr. Stanislavova was trained in all areas of pure and applied mathematics. She earned her M.S. in Mathematics from Sofia University in Bulgaria in 1993 and Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Missouri in 2000. Dr. Stanislavova’s goal as an educator is to help students gain a more complete understanding of the intrinsic beauty of mathematics, its interdisciplinary connections, and the many doors its analytical skills can open.

    Dr. Stanislavova comes from the University of Kansas, where she started in 2002. She was director of graduate studies in the Department of Mathematics from 2012-2017 and, most recently, served as chair of the Department of Economics since 2017. Dr. Stanislavova’s research is in differential equations and dynamical systems, focusing on the stability of special solutions of nonlinear differential equations of mathematical physics.

    “Dr. Stanislavova is uniquely prepared to lead the Department of Mathematics. As a productive and funded scholar at the University of Kansas, she provided transformative leadership to the Department of Economics there,” said Kecia M. Thomas, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I look forward to all the ways in which she will support the growth of mathematics at UAB, while also promoting greater collaboration with other College of Arts and Sciences units — like physics and computer science — as well as other schools at UAB.”

    Dr. Stanislavova’s research has been continuously supported by the Applied Mathematics Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF). She has collaborated on establishing a new NSF-funded regional partial differential equations and dynamical systems annual conference together with colleagues from the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

    She is passionate about creating opportunities for women to pursue careers in mathematics and about helping and mentoring them in the profession.

  • Roger T. Lewis - In Remembrance

    Roger Lewis has passed away, but his impact on the development of our Mathematics Department will be felt for many years by both students and faculty. 

    Roger Lewis has passed away, but his impact on the development of our Mathematics Department will be felt for many years by both students and faculty. Before entering graduate school at the University of Tennessee, Roger had worked in industry as a mathematician at the Ballistics Research Labs (Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland) and RCA Service Corporation (Patrick Air Force Base in Florida). Following this, he received his M.S. in mathematics from the Florida Institute of Technology (1964) and Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee (1972). He was briefly at Slippery Rock State College in Pennsylvania before joining UAB in 1975.

    At this time, UAB was only two years beyond the conversion from junior college to university status, and the Department of Mathematics was essentially a junior college department, with faculty involved primarily in teaching remedial and elementary mathematics courses. Further, at this time there were no organized research or grant initiatives in mathematics. 

    Then, in 1978, the department had a new chairman who placed some emphasis on visible research programs which could attract funding. Roger made the most of this opening. He had continued to expand on the work of his doctoral thesis, and in 1980 he received the department’s first NSF research grant. 

    This was followed by a bold plan developed jointly by Roger and Ian Knowles, who Roger had first met at a conference in Scotland in 1974 and who later joined our department. Although on paper UAB did not have facilities to host a large international conference, in 1986 they managed to find space and organize a conference which brought many of the world’s leading researchers in differential equations and mathematical physics to Birmingham (260 mathematicians from 22 countries). This was followed up by conferences in 1990, 92, 94, 97, 99, 2002 and 2005. These were so successful that Barry Simon of CalTech encouraged several of his graduate students to apply for positions at UAB upon receiving their doctorates. And some applicants for positions in the department commented on the impact our meetings had on them and their interest in joining the UAB faculty.

    Roger was chairman of the department in 1984 - 87 and 1997 - 2001 and continued the practice of filling new positions with research talent. This was paying off, and UAB at one point was ranked number three in the Southeast (just behind Duke and Georgia Tech) in NSF grants per faculty. This success was no doubt made possible partly through Roger’s personal manner as chairman.  He was a familiar figure to department members, who knew him as a reasonable person who could be approached with ideas and observations. He was meticulous in honoring agreements, and one had the confidence that he was always trying to do the right thing, which in this setting was to achieve best results for faculty and students. He brought a high level of integrity to his position as chairman, and inspired confidence in those who worked with him on various projects to improve department teaching and research.

    In addition to individual grants faculty were winning for their research, the university was awarded an EPSCoR grant (1986 - 91). These grants were for Established Programs to Stimulate Competitive Research and were large interdisciplinary university grants designed to enable promising departments to develop their research potential. Over the next few years, the Mathematics Department (along with Physics and other areas) enjoyed substantial EPSCoR funding to develop research activities they had been building over the past few years. Roger was a lead investigator on our first EPSCoR proposal.

    In addition to these successful efforts to develop research areas, productivity and funding, the department took the significant step of beginning a doctoral program. Previously within the Alabama system there had been a doctoral mathematics program only at the Tuscaloosa campus. But Roger engaged UAB administration and interested department members to lead UAB’s objective of raising its graduate program to the highest level. After skillfully weaving through sensitive and highly political issues, a joint program involving the Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville campuses emerged and received state approval. Our doctoral program is now a high point of our department and has generated additional initiatives to raise the level of hiring research faculty and developing the research capabilities of our students. And in his leadership role, Roger continued his productivity past retirement, producing a total of 51 books and papers.

    Finally, it is a sign of the current status of the department that UAB was selected to host an NSF Fast Track program, in which undergraduate students showing talent for mathematics are given the opportunity to accelerate their programs to reach the graduate level more quickly. In this way the tremendous success of the research and graduate activities of the department have helped develop new opportunities for undergraduate students as well.

    Through these efforts, Roger has been a significant figure in achieving the present success of the department, and in pointing a way to build an even more exciting future for our students and faculty.

    Funeral services will be held on Monday, June 14, 2021, at 12:00 p.m. at Independent Presbyterian Church, 3100 Highland Avenue, Birmingham, AL 35205.

  • I Am Arts and Sciences: Vincent Cirel

    Vincent Cirel developed a passion for mathematics in high school and found personal inspiration even earlier in life working with his grandfather as a land surveyor. When it was time to pursue his undergraduate degree, he looked to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    While growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Vincent Cirel developed a passion for mathematics in high school and found personal inspiration even earlier in life working with his grandfather as a land surveyor. When it was time to pursue his undergraduate degree, he looked to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    "I always thought I'd do my undergraduate work at UAB," said Cirel. "It was a part of my hometown."

    During his tenure at UAB, Cirel pursued a major in mathematics and a minor in physics. His talents and interests aligned with the emergence of the Word Wide Web, and, as a result, he applied his valuable knowledge in real-time at UAB's Health Sciences Learning Technologies Lab.

    He became the co-founder and co-chair of the UAB Web Advisory Group, and he navigated the evolution of the web at UAB for seven years. This experience reflects a primary theme in Cirel's life and career—leveraging emerging technologies during pivotal moments within institutions and businesses.

    "I was passionate about science and technology, and I blended it with the business world," said Cirel.

    Cirel continued to build his knowledge and expertise, earning a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from UAB and a Master of Business Administration from Vanderbilt University. By combining his cross-curricular academic interests in mathematics, applied sciences, and business, Cirel successfully co-led Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings through a defining moment in 2013.

    "Norwegian went public in 2013," said Cirel. "It transformed the cruise line industry."

    As Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Cirel spearheaded the expansion of mobile/social to include full customer lifecycle integration and got to stand at the podium when the company was added to the NASDAQ. It was a defining point in his career.

    Throughout his numerous professional milestones, Cirel admits that he never steered far from his early foundations in mathematics and physics. "That foundation is something I rely on and apply everyday," said Cirel.

    Today, Cirel is the executive vice president of Worldstrides, Inc. (in addition to many independent consulting engagements) and, through these roles, he finds ways to leverage emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing. As he continues to blaze ahead, he sees his alma mater as a source of continued pride and inspiration. 

    "It's interesting to watch how UAB has grown in size and impact. It's what you always hope will happen," said Cirel.

    As Cirel's career moves forward, he continues to watch the transformation of the business world, noting that fewer people are focused solely on financial wealth. He sees workplaces emphasizing and elevating personal growth and diversity, equity, and inclusion, which he believes is important and necessary.

    He encourages future UAB graduates to think about both their personal and professional goals as they look ahead. "The most important early-career question to ask is, 'Where does my passion lie?' And do your very best to align your efforts to that answer," said Cirel.

  • More than 1,100 employees to be honored with annual service awards

    This year, the university recognizes 50 years of service by Jeanne Hutchison, Ph.D., and Ferdinand Urthaler, M.D., and 45 years of service by Robert Kim M.D., and Joseph Lovetto. In addition, 294 employees with 20 or more years and 904 with five, 10 and 15 years will honored for their longevity.

  • Xavier Turner and Angela Lee named Mr. and Ms. UAB 2021

    Started in 1981, the Mr. and Ms. UAB Scholarship Competition is one of UAB’s longest-standing Homecoming traditions.

  • 50 years, 8 buildings, 1 career: Vaughan says time at UAB was a ‘long, strange’ but rewarding trip

    Loy Vaughan, associate professor of mathematics, clocked 50 years of service at UAB before retiring in January. The West End native remembers introducing the Apple II into the mathematics classroom in the late 1970s, playing handball with Gene Bartow and seeing his wife and children all earn medical degrees — all while watching UAB becoming the epicenter of the city in which he grew up.

  • Computer science students use innovation, technology for drone ideation project

    A UAB instructor gave his students the chance to work on a group ideation drone project, developing new ways to use drones for farming.