Category Archives: news

NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) Comes to UVM

Dr. Maggie Eppstein, chair of Computer Science and core faculty member of the Vermont Complex Systems Center has been awarded a $650K 5-year grant by the National Science Foundation. In the hopes of boosting the population of high schoolers considering Computer Science as a major, the NSF has granted UVM the funds to award 16 students over the next two falls with up to $10,000 a year in aid. The first round of awards are currently being decided but will be given to 6 incoming freshman who have declared Computer Science as their major and who demonstrate financial need along with skill in the field. The goal of this program is to generate more interest in Computer Science as a major for students who would not normally consider it. The computer science department is looking forward to mentoring, fostering, and enhancing the careers of these skillful students.

Additional information, June 27th, University Communications, “New Scholarship Grant to Benefit Computer Science Students.”

“Prediction—The Next Big Thing”

We’re very pleased to announce our major event for the spring semester: the 2014 Macmillan Symposium: “Prediction—The Next Big Thing” to be held on April 28 at the University of Vermont.

And we’re very excited to let you know that the Symposium will bring together a team headed by two leading scholars working in the realm of complex social systems, Neil Johnson (Physics, University of Miami) and César A. Hidalgo (Media Lab, MIT) with a experienced group of UVM faculty and students to showcase the scientific landscape of prediction.

Here’s a synopsis:

From the bare goal of survival up to the privileged one of flourishing, strong predictive capabilities are essential in the full spectrum of evolutionary systems. All complex life employs algorithmic inferences about the future, people choose careers in part based on prospects, and countries and corporations must soundly anticipate economic and cultural changes. Prediction runs from the mundane and individual—knowing it might rain today means we should bring an umbrella—to the potentially disastrous and widespread—an incoming category 5 hurricane leading to the evacuation of cities.

From antiquity, people of all cultures have been obsessed with finding new ways to foretell the fates of all things, producing a panoply of inventive divination ideas. We have looked for direction in the words of oracles, the alignment of the stars and our births, and the flight paths of birds. We have contended with—and discarded—the possibility of a deterministic, mechanistic universe, all paths laid out from the start. But as the physical sciences have grown, we have had much success in many areas: we have described the fundamental unpredictability of the quantum world, and we have steadily improved our ability to predict the weather and certain natural disasters, crucially quantifying and explaining our uncertainty.

The advent of global, interconnected sociotechnical systems and their quantification in “Big Data” would seem to hold much promise for our ability to greatly expand the scope of prediction science. In the 2014 MacMillan Symposium, the Vermont Complex Systems Center will bring together a team headed by Johnson for a week-long series of research and teaching activities aimed at understanding and building a new array of divination methods.

Please join us!

Chris Danforth Appointed to the UVM Flint Professorship of Mathematics

Dr. Chris Danforth, Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, has been appointed to the Flint Professorship in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Vermont.

The Flint Professorship was established in 1885 by Edwin Flint who named UVM as a benefactor of his estate. The appointment was to go to a distinguished professor in the fields of “Mathematics, Natural or Technic Science.”

“It is a great pleasure to see Chris recognized for his contributions to the college, “said Dean Luis Garcia, who further commented, “He is a great representative of the energy and creativity that our faculty brings every day, and I am thrilled that our students benefit from his talents.”

Danforth’s research focuses on the interface between big data and mathematical models. His scholarly contributions are broad. He has published in the fields of Atmospheric Science, Applied Mathematics, Astronomy, Biology, Complex Systems, Computer Science, Ecology, Engineering, Linguistics, Nonlinear Dynamics, Physics, and Psychology. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve the algorithms used to make weather forecasts, and developed a new instrument for measuring population level happiness in real-time using social media, the hedonometer.

Danforth, along with colleague Peter Dodds, co-directs the Computational Story Lab, a group of applied mathematicians at the Undergraduate, Masters, PhD, and Postdoctoral rank working on large-scale, system-level problems in a wide variety of disciplines. The lab’s research has been featured by the New York Times, Science Magazine, NBC’s Today Show, and the BBC among others.

Additionally, Danforth is the Associate Director of the Vermont Complex Systems Center, and is a member of the NSF funded Mathematics & Climate Research Network, a virtual department of climate mathematics.

“I feel fortunate to be given the opportunity to engage in the research process with bright, creative students and colleagues, developing new approaches for describing and understanding the physical and social universe” says Danforth. “This is a team effort.”

Danforth joined UVM after receiving a PhD in Applied Mathematics and Scientific Computation from the University of Maryland in 2006. He received a BS with honors in Mathematics and Physics from Bates College in 2001, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Mu Epsilon, and Sigma Xi.

Danforth will hold the Chair until the end of academic year 2017-2018. During his tenure as the Flint Professor, he’ll receive a stipend to support his graduate program. The Chair was most recently held by Professor Emeritus Robert Jenkins, former Dean of the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.