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Mathematics department hosts last in series of candidate lectures

Members of the Mathematics department know how to add; they just haven't decided whom to add.

But they're getting closer.

Last Friday, the department held its final in a series of guest lectures by candidates for the open tenure-track Mathematics professor position.

The lecture, delivered by University of California-Los Angeles' Aaron Reite, drew a handful of students and faculty to a small classroom in the Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics building.

The diminutive audience listened as Reite, who spent his undergraduate years investigating fractals in brainwave patterns, discussed some unusual properties of fractal geometry.

Over the course of the semester, several candidates like Reite were invited to meet with students and math professors, participate in open talks and lecture in the classroom as part of the interview process.

"This allows students and faculty to judge the applicant's presentation skills and ability to make mathematics exciting," said associate professor of Computer Science Ellen Spertus, who is part of the search committee.

One student in attendance, senior and Math major Nancy Ho, went to at least six of the candidate lectures this semester. She said she is looking for a professor who is approachable and can teach in a way that gets students involved. "I'd like to see what the candidates have to offer the math department," Ho said.

Candidates were asked to prepare lectures that were accessible to a broad audience. According to Spertus, top candidates for the position expressed an interest in liberal arts education, including teaching both majors and non-majors.

The department is looking for someone who is both a talented researcher and teacher, said Spertus. "Many of the top applicants have won teaching awards and made valuable contributions to mathematics," she said.

Reite said that part of what drew him to the position at Mills was the school's reputation as an internationally recognized and prestigious institution.