An activist you are!

The letter from the president of The University of Victoria informing me about my honorary doctorate was a complete surprise. “My former graduate students and postdocs, who are now on the faculty at UVic, must have been behind this nomination,” I thought. Wishful thinking and a healthy dose of vanity made me wonder which aspects of  my mathematical contributions would be cited. I eventually asked and ultimately learned that I was wrong on both counts. Continue reading

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Mathematics, poetry and beauty


“I always thought he didn’t have enough imagination for mathematics”

Originally posted on Peter Cameron's Blog:

Comparing mathematics with poetry is an infinitely rich game. For every opinion you express, there is an equally valid counter-opinion. Contrasted to Hilbert’s dismissal of a student who had left mathematics for poetry, “I always thought he didn’t have enough imagination for mathematics”, someone said to me recently that the early death of Schubert was a greater tragedy than that of Galois, since what Galois could have achieved would sooner or later be done by someone else, whereas Schubert’s potential was lost forever.

So it isn’t so surprising that a book by Ron Aharoni, newly translated into English, doesn’t come to a definite conclusion one way or the other. The best we can do in a book entitled Mathematics, Poetry and Beauty is to give many examples of beautiful mathematics and beautiful poetry and discuss what the similarities and differences are.

Ron Aharoni is a mathematician whose field is combinatorics…

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Four lessons from an amazing site visit

A joint site visit to the Banff International Research Station (BIRS) by four granting agencies representing four different governments, happened on April 16 and 17. Eight officials from the US National Science Foundation (NSF), Canada’s Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Mexico’s CONACyT, and Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education, accompanied an international review panel of five distinguished mathematical scientists to the site visit for BIRS. The four councils had jointly commissioned the panel to evaluate the Station. The visitors listened, asked, conversed, challenged, advised, and will soon be submitting their recommendations. Continue reading

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Why Canada’s research granting councils mean so little to this government’s agenda

NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR, Canada’s main granting agencies in support of university research are not doing well. Their total absence from Budget 2015 is only one of many symptoms indicating how tired they are. Tired are their ways in trying to justify themselves to government, and tired they must be of having essentially nothing to offer to the political agenda. Continue reading

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How dare UBC take diversity so seriously?

It has been a year since UBC announced its very first …“president of colour”. And as of yesterday, UBC-Vancouver has its very first woman provost. On the surface, these look like de-facto corollaries of a post-racial, post-sexist era, at a post-modern university whose student body looks futuristic in its amazing diversity. Don’t be fooled! Continue reading

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On the “clientèle-based” logic in redefining academic units

Are we just a service department?

I doubt that Princeton’s Mathematics department thinks it is, neither does any Chemistry department on this continent. Yet, a Vice-President of the Canadian Mathematical Society wants us “to come to the realization that in almost every university in the country, the department of mathematics is a service department.” My friend and colleague, François Bergeron, from the Université du Québec à Montréal begs to differ. He wrote: Continue reading

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UBC’s free fall in university rankings

University rankings may be questionable. Their evaluation criteria may be flawed or unrepresentative. They may be based on false or manipulated data provided by some institutions. They can even, occasionally, be bought. But the reality is that they do matter. Another reality is that UBC’s standing has lately been in a free fall. The 2015 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings placed UBC at #37, down from 33rd in 2014, 31st in 2013 and 25th in 2012. This is bad news for UBC’s new president, Arvind Gupta, who pledged in his installation speech last September to lift UBC up to the top 10 public institutions in the world. This recent setback is not the only reason why Gupta may be facing a bigger challenge than what he had bargained for. Continue reading

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