Society & Culture

$2 million grant to help UGA math department attract, train more students

Athens, Ga. – Behind every facet of digital communication is a well-trained mathematician, and the University of Georgia mathematics department is on the front lines of training for this ever-increasing field of employment. One recent grant award will ensure that mathematics education advances at the university.

Thanks to a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, UGA will continue its efforts to educate math majors at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The grant will be administered over five years.

Since 2008, the math department’s collaborative Algebra, Algebraic Geometry and Number Theory group, or AGANT, has been working to attract and train more mathematicians at all levels. The department is housed in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“Our objective is to provide an intellectually compelling, pedagogically well-planned and professionally nurturing environment in which undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs will thrive,” said the department’s Dino Lorenzini, a Distinguished Research Professor of Mathematics.

Modern digital communication offers an array of job opportunities for students with mathematics training. This initiative is meant to help students with an interest in math explore their options, learn more about the field and cultivate the skills needed for employment in the future.

“There are at least two areas of real-world impact of the research in algebra-algebraic geometry-number theory: in cryptography and in coding theory,” Lorenzini said. “Cryptography is about making communications secure, for instance when you send your credit card number to an Internet vendor. Coding theory is about correctly transmitting information and identifying errors in communications and, if possible, correcting the errors made, for instance during a download of a movie.

“All modern digital communication uses some encryption and some error correcting code technology.”

Several of the department’s graduates have gone on to work for the National Security Agency, Lorenzini said, “which is probably the single largest employer of mathematicians in the country.”

Through a variety of initiatives, AGANT will use the grant to help pave the way for future mathematicians. The bulk of the funding will go toward graduate student fellowships—in 2014-2015, the department will fund six graduate students with $25,000 fellowships each. Additionally, funds will pay the salaries of postdoctoral fellows.

“The fellowships in the award will allow us to compete at the national and international levels to continue to attract to UGA outstanding graduate students and postdocs,” he said. “We will ensure that they thrive in our intellectually challenging, but also nurturing, research environment.”

Further, the grant will fund an undergraduate summer program in 2015 and three research conferences in 2016, 2017 and 2018. It also will support guest speakers as well as the yearly UGA High School Mathematics Tournament.

“This award is a tremendous recognition by the National Science Foundation of the strength of the research, and of the quality of the graduate program, offered by the UGA mathematics department and by its Algebra, Algebraic Geometry and Number Theory group,” Lorenzini said. “We are all very excited by the opportunities that this award provides and look forward to continuing to develop research and learning opportunities for the undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs in our program.”

For more information on the mathematics department and its various programs, see