Leading Mathematician S.R. Srinivasa Varadhan Delivers 7th Annual McKnight-Zame Lecture at UM College of Arts & Sciences

Varadhan Discussed the Various Contexts of ‘Entropy’ in Math and Science

Entropy is the measure of the level of disorder in a closed but changing system. The higher the entropy, the less order – and the more energy being used to maintain this state, rather than do useful work.

The concept of entropy originated in thermodynamics – the science of transferring heat energy to other kinds of energy – but it has since found applications in other scientific and mathematical fields, such as probability/statistics, coding, communications and more.

Victor Pestien, Associate Professor and Interim Chair; Alan Zame,
Professor; Dr. Jeffry Fuqua; S.R. Srinivasa Varadhan; Gregory
Galloway, Professor

Leading mathematician S.R. Srinivasa Varadhan brought the different definitions of entropy together at the UM College of Arts & SciencesDepartment of Mathematics 7th Annual McKnight-Zame Lecture.

Varadhan is professor of mathematics and the Frank J. Gould Professor of Science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. He is one of the world’s most prominent scholars of modern probability theory.

The McKnight-Zame Distinguished Lecture Series brings the world’s top mathematicians to UM. Past speakers are: Dusa McDuff of Barnard College (2014), Persi Diaconis of Stanford University (2013), Fields Medalist Shing-Tung Yau of Harvard University (2012), Richard Stanley of MIT – who is now teaching part-time at UM (2011), Richard Schoen of Stanford University (2010), and Fields Medalist Andrei Okounkov of Princeton University (2009). All seven speakers are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

The series is sponsored by a generous donation from Dr. Jeffry Fuqua, who received his Ph.D. in mathematics from UM’s College of Arts & Sciences in 1972. Owner and President of Amick Construction since 1977, Fuqua has served as chair of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority two times. He also earned M.S. and A.B. (philosophy) degrees from UM.

He named the lecture series to honor two professors who shaped his journey at UM: his Ph.D. advisor James McKnight, and his close mentor Alan Zame. Zame attended last night’s event.

Fuqua has also supported post-graduate studies in the Department of Mathematics, and provided funding to appoint prominent mathematician Maxim Kontsevich – winner of the Breakthrough Prizes in both math and applied physics, the Shaw Prize, Fields Medal and Crawfoord Prize – as a distinguished professor in the department.

Varadhan has earned several awards recognizing his contributions to his field, including the 2007 Abel Prize from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, which carries a $1 million prize. He received the National Medal of Science from President Obama in 2011, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Birkhoff Prize in applied mathematics.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the Royal Society of London, Varadhan earned his Ph.D. from the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata. He holds an honorary degree from l’Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris.

February 20, 2015