National Science Foundation Grants $214K for Math Prof’s Research

National Science Foundation Grants $214K for Math Prof’s Research

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has given Mark Demers, PhD, professor of mathematics in the College of Arts & Sciences, a grant to support his research in dynamical systems and ergodic theory.

Mathematics Professor Mark Demers, PhD has taught at Fairfield for 15 years. His interest in systems that exhibit chaotic behavior, as well as systems out of equilibrium and models from mathematical physics, is a branch of theoretical mathematics that studies the evolution of systems over time.


Mathematics Professor Mark Demers, PhD

“Any kind of system that you can think of — the weather — that’s a dynamical system. Any kind of fluid flows — the stock market — all have applications to dynamical systems,” Dr. Demers explained. “We ask questions about long-term behaviors, stability, and predictability of a system given certain parameters and conditions.”

This type of research has advanced the understanding of such things as heat conduction and weather forecasting, and was the focus of his work with students over the summer. Funding from a three-year research grant — Dr. Demers' fifth since 2008 — of $214,088 from the NSF, covered Dr. Demers' own research as well as stipends for the undergraduates who worked with him.

“It’s a great way for students to engage in research in some areas of mathematics that they wouldn’t be exposed to in the classroom setting,” Dr. Demers said of the eight-week research project where the group studied “mathematical billiards” and worked with computer simulations.

In addition to future summer research, the grant will also support Dr. Demers' participation in conferences, allow him to bring special speakers to campus, and will fund the presentation of his research with his undergraduate researchers at the Joint Mathematics Meeting — the largest mathematics gathering in the world — this January in Seattle, Washington.

About working with undergraduate student researchers, Dr. Demers said, “I don’t give them problems that I already know the answers to. We’re discovering things together and that’s very exciting.”

Dr. Demers, who hold a doctorate from the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University, noted that the faculty-to-student ratio and relationship of accessibility with faculty is what makes Fairfield’s Mathematics Department unique.

“I think that the contact between the faculty and the students is absolutely a point of pride. We really engage our students, students get to know us, our class sizes are small, “Dr. Demers said. “There’s lots of mentoring in the department, and for our size, we have a high percentage of high-quality researchers.”

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