You are here

Invited Addresses

The following list of MAA MathFest 2019 Invited Address Speakers is updated as information becomes available. Please continue checking here in the weeks ahead for further information, details, and updates.

Earle Raymond Hedrick Lecture Series

Complex Dynamics and Elliptic Curves

Lecture 1: Thursday, August 1, 11:00 a.m. - 11:50 a.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A
Lecture 2: Friday, August 2, 10:20 a.m. - 11:10 a.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A
Lecture 3: Saturday, August 3, 10:00 a.m. - 10:50 a.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Laura DeMarco, Northwestern University


In a series of three talks, I will present connections between recent research in dynamical systems and the classical theory of elliptic curves and rational points. On the dynamical side -- specifically in the study of iteration of rational functions (Julia sets, bifurcations, the Mandelbrot set), but originating in the mathematical study of planetary motion -- the first connections to number theory were observed about 100 years ago. On the arithmetic side, it was probably the 1960s when dynamical ideas were first used as tools to understand the arithmetic geometry of elliptic curves and higher-dimensional varieties. My goal is to provide examples of how these relationships developed and where they have brought us today. The three talks will be independent.


Laura DeMarco is Professor of Mathematics at Northwestern University. She earned her PhD in 2002 from Harvard, and her undergraduate degree is in mathematics and physics from the University of Virginia. DeMarco's research is focused on the dynamics of polynomial or rational mappings on algebraic varieties, especially in dimension 1, with the primary goal of understanding notions of stability and bifurcation. Her recent work explores connections between dynamical properties of maps and the arithmetic geometry of the underlying varieties.

DeMarco was awarded the AMS Satter Prize in 2017, and she was an Invited Speaker at the 2018 International Congress of Mathematicians. She held a Simons Fellowship in 2015-2016, and she was a Kreeger-Wolf Distinguished Visiting Professor in the mathematics department at Northwestern University for one year before moving there in 2014. Prior to Northwestern, DeMarco was at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and before that she held an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship and Dickson Instructorship at the University of Chicago. DeMarco received the NSF Career Award and a Sloan Fellowship in 2008. She became a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in the inaugural class of 2012.


AMS-MAA Joint Invited Address

Learning in Games

Thursday, August 1, 10:00 a.m. - 10:50 a.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Éva Tardos, Cornell University


Selfish behavior can often lead to suboptimal outcome for all participants, a phenomenon illustrated by many classical examples in game theory. Over the last decade we have studied Nash equilibria of games, and developed good understanding how to quantify the impact of strategic user behavior on overall performance in many games (including traffic routing as well as online auctions). In this talk we will focus on games where players use a form of learning that helps them adapt to the environment. We ask if the quantitative guarantees obtained for Nash equilibria extend to such out of equilibrium game play, or even more broadly, when the game or the population of players is dynamically changing and where participants have to adapt to the dynamic environment.


Éva Tardos is a Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University, and she was Computer Science department chair from 2006 to 2010. She received her BA and PhD from Eötvös University in Budapest. She joined the faculty at Cornell in 1989. Tardos’s research interest is algorithms and algorithmic game theory, after a number of years as a postdoc, including at year at MSRI in Berkeley. She is most known for her work on network-flow algorithms and quantifying the efficiency of selfish routing. She has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is an external member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. She is the recipient of a number of fellowships and awards including the Packard Fellowship, the Gödel Prize, Dantzig Prize, Fulkerson Prize, ETACS prize, and the IEEE von Neumann Medal. She is editor editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the ACM, has been editor-in-Chief of SIAM Journal of Computing (2003-09), and editor of several other journals including Combinatorica; she served as problem committee member for many conferences, and was program committee chair for the ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms (1996), as well as the IEEE Symposium on the Foundations of Computing (2005) and the ACM Economics and Computing (2013).


MAA Invited Address

Uncertainty: The Mathematics of What we Don’t Know

Thursday, August 1, 9:00 a.m. - 9:50 a.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Ami Radunskaya, Pomona College


Over the past few centuries, the theory of probability has been developed to quantify possibilities and to help us make decisions with incomplete knowledge. More recently, this theory has been refined to include predictions based on randomly perturbed dynamical systems, as well as providing a measure of our belief in future events based on observed data. As mathematicians, we like precision, patterns, predictions. As human beings we want to make wise, informed decisions. In this talk I will explore three questions: how can we quantify the uncertainty in our predictions, how do we make decisions in the face of uncertainty, and when is a bit of uncertainty helpful … or fun?


A California native, Professor Radunskaya received her Ph.D. in Mathematics from Stanford University. She has been a faculty member in the Math Department at Pomona College since 1994. In her research, she specializes in ergodic theory, dynamical systems, and applications to various "real-world" problems. Some current research projects involve mathematical models of cancer immunotherapy, developing strategies for targeted drug delivery to the brain, and studying stochastic perturbations of dynamical systems. Prior to her academic career, Professor Radunskaya worked extensively as a cellist and composer. Her music, described as "techno-clectic", combines traditional forms with improvisation, acoustic sounds with electronic, computer-generated, and found sounds.

Contrary to popular belief, Professor Radunskaya thinks that anyone can succeed in mathematics, and she has committed herself to increasing the participation of women and underrepresented groups in the mathematical sciences. She is the Past-President of the Association for Women in Mathematics, and co-directs the EDGE (Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education) program, which won a "Mathematics Program that Makes a Difference" award from the American Mathematics Society in 2007, and a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) in 2015.

Professor Radunskaya was recently been elected as a Fellow of the American Math Society, and she is the recipient of several awards, including a WIG teaching award in 2012, and the 2017 AAAS Mentor award.


MAA Invited Address

A Vision of Multivariable Calculus

Saturday, August 3, 11:00 a.m. - 11:50 a.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Robert Ghrist, University of Pennsylvania


This talk will address certain challenges in teaching multivariable calculus. Classical texts emphasize calculus in dimensions two or three, based on 19th and 20th century applications to physics. At present, many of our students are more motivated by data and systems in higher dimensions. How can a calculus course best adapt to these needs, without overwhelming students (or professors)? This talk will outline a plan for increasing both the dimension and sophistication of multivariable calculus instruction with the use of video. Topics covered will include the use of visualization, matrix algebra, and differential forms.



Robert Ghrist is the Andrea Mitchell University Professor of Mathematics and Electrical & Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a recognized leader in the field of applied algebraic topology, with awards including the NSF CAREER, NSF PECASE, SciAm50, and Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship. He is a recipient of the Chauvenet Prize, the highest award given for mathematical expository writing. He is also a dedicated communicator of Mathematics, with teaching awards that include the MAA James Crawford Prize, Penn's Lindback Award, and the S. Reid Warren award in Engineering at Penn.


MAA Invited Address

Solving Algebraic Equations

Friday, August 2, 11:20 a.m. - 12:10 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Irena Swanson, Reed College


Abel and Ruffini, and later Galois showed that general polynomials of degree five or higher are not solvable with the usual arithmetic operations. Nevertheless, algebra offers powerful methods for solving many equations and for determining the structure of solutions even when the solutions themselves cannot be found. In this talk I will cover some classical and more recent methods, including Hilbert's Nullstellensatz and Gr\"obner bases. A running theme will be computational complexity, and the talk will end with more recent results in commutative algebra.


MAA James R.C. Leitzel Lecture

What's at Stake in Rehumanizing Mathematics?

Saturday, August 3, 9:00 a.m. - 9:50 a.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Rochelle Gutiérrez, University of Illinois


Embracing an "equity" standpoint that has been poorly defined (Gutiérrez, 2002) or constantly shifting (NCTM, 2008) has led to a state of “tinkering” as opposed to real change within mathematics (Gutiérrez, 2017). That is, our progress has often focused on, and ended with, closing the achievement gap or recruiting more diverse students into the mathematical sciences, but not trying to radically reimagine a mathematics that supports students, teachers, and members of society to thrive, something I refer to as Rehumanizing Mathematics. This approach begins with 1) acknowledging some of the dehumanizing experiences in mathematics for students, teachers, and citizens and 2) designing ways for people to be provided with windows and mirrors onto the world and relating to each other with dignity through mathematics. This focus on Rehumanizing Mathematics allows us to think differently about student misconceptions, teachers as identity workers, the histories of mathematics, our bodies in relation to mathematics, and why it is not just that diverse people need mathematics but mathematics needs diverse people. In this talk, I explore “what’s at stake” along two dimensions: 1) what it means for teachers, students, and society if we do not rehumanize mathematics and 2) what knowledge bases, sensibilities, and forms of risk taking it will require from us as mathematicians (and mathematics educators) if we commit deeply to rehumanizing mathematics.


Rochelle Gutiérrez is Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Latina/Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. Her research interrogates the unearned privilege that mathematics holds in society and the roles that race, class, language, and gender play in teaching and learning mathematics so as to open up new possible relationships between living beings, mathematics, and the planet. Her current research projects include: theorizing the roles of mathematics in relation to power, identity, the body, and authority in society; supporting mathematics teachers who engage their students in rigorous and creative mathematics and who are committed to social justice; and documenting moments of "Nepantla" and “creative insubordination” in the everyday practices of mathematics teachers.


AWM-MAA Etta Zuber Falconer Lecture

Dance of the Astonished Topologist ... or How I Left Squares and Hexes for Math

Friday, August 2, 1:30 p.m. - 2:20 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Tara Holm, Cornell University


Topology is often called ``rubber sheet geometry" and is described as ``floppy" while geometry is more ``rigid". Symplectic geometry, the natural geometry of classical mechanics, is floppier than Riemannian geometry but more rigid than topology. I will give a friendly introduction to some geometric and algebraic techniques in topology, proving along the way that a topologist can turn her trousers inside out without taking them off. I will then give an overview of the floppy/rigid spectrum, motivated by many pictures and examples. I will conclude with a description how covering spaces have been useful in my own work in symplectic geometry, and how they can make square dancing more challenging.


Tara Holm is a Professor of Mathematics at Cornell University. She was an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, studied in Budapest through the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics, and earned a PhD at MIT. She serves on the Board of Governors of Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics and is the President/CEO of Pro Mathematica Arte, the non-profit corporation which runs the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics and the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics Education.

Holm is an expert in symplectic geometry, the mathematical framework for classical and quantum mechanics. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Association for Women in Mathematics, and the Simons Foundation. In 2012, Holm was named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society. She has served as an Oliver Smithies Lecturer and Visiting Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford, and a von Neumann Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. She will be a Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge, in 2019-2020.


MAA Chan Stanek Lecture for Students

Secrets of Grad School Success

Thursday, August 1, 1:30 p.m. - 2:20 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Mohamed Omar, Harvey Mudd College


Around this time of year many rising seniors and even rising juniors are wondering what to do after college, and many contemplate the idea of going to graduate school. Naturally, they seek advice from peers, professors at their college and the internet. In this talk, we'll give some pretty unconventional advice based on the speakers experiences through the same process.


Dr. Mohamed Omar is an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. He is one of the 2018 recipients of the MAA's Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching, and has been featured online in Forbes and Scientific American. Dr. Omar's mission is to change the world from math phobic to math loving, fiercely devoting his life to inclusion in mathematics.


Martin Gardner Lecture

Recreational Mathematics and Computer Science: Martin Gardner's Influence on Research

Saturday, August 3, 2:00 p.m. - 2:50 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Erik Demaine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Martin Gardner's beautiful writing about fascinating mathematics, puzzles, and magic tricks has attracted and inspired many people to become mathematicians. At an even deeper level, Martin's writings highlighted exciting research directions and posed open problems which directly influenced mathematical research. Much of my own research was deeply influenced by Martin Gardner, in both recreational mathematics and a branch I call "recreational computer science". While most of this research may have started out recreational, many of the results also have practical applications. I will give a tour of many examples of Gardner's writings and how it inspired new research, from paper folding to mazes to penny puzzles to polyomino packing to magic. I encourage you all to read more Martin Gardner and look for more unsolved research questions and directions.


Erik Demaine is a Professor in Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Demaine's research interests range throughout algorithms, from data structures for improving web searches to the geometry of understanding how proteins fold to the computational difficulty of playing games. He received a MacArthur Fellowship as a "computational geometer tackling and solving difficult problems related to folding and bending—moving readily between the theoretical and the playful, with a keen eye to revealing the former in the latter". He appears in the origami documentaries Between the Folds and NOVA's The Origami Revolution, cowrote a book about the theory of folding (Geometric Folding Algorithms) and a book about the computational complexity of games (Games, Puzzles, and Computation), and coedited two books in tribute to Martin Gardner (Tribute to a Mathemagician and A Lifetime of Puzzles). Together with his father Martin, his interests span the connections between mathematics and art, including curved-crease sculptures in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Renwick Gallery in the Smithsonian.


Pi Mu Epsilon J. Sutherland Frame Lecture

Alice in Numberland --- Adventures in Cryptography, Number Theory, and Life

Wednesday, July 31, 8:00 p.m. - 8:50 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Alice Silverberg, University of California, Irvine


I will give an account of some of my adventures in the wonderlands of mathematics and cryptography, offering some food for thought on how mathematics can be useful in cryptography, and mentioning some useful things I learned along the way that I wish I had learned sooner.


Alice Silverberg is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of California, Irvine, with an additional appointment in Computer Science. Her research areas are cryptography and number theory. She earned her undergrad degree summa cum laude from Harvard University, a Masters degree and PhD from Princeton University, and a Master of Advanced Study degree from the University of Cambridge. She was also a Professor at the Ohio State University, and has held visiting positions at industrial labs and international research centers.

Silverberg is an inaugural Fellow of the American Mathematical Society and a Fellow of the Association for Women in Mathematics, and has been awarded Humboldt, Bunting, Sloan, IBM, and NSF Fellowships. She has given over 300 invited lectures, has consulted for film and television, writes about Alice's Adventures in Numberland (at, and occasionally writes mathematically-inspired Scottish country dances.


NAM David Harold Blackwell Lecture and National Association of Mathematicians Celebration

Dudeney's No Three-In-Line Problem: Problem, Solutions, Conditions, Progress, and Conjectures

Friday, August 2, 4:00 p.m. - 5:45 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center, Grand Ballroom A

Johnny L. Houston, Elizabeth City State University


In 1917, Henry Dudeney, an Englishman who had done some intriguing things with mathematical puzzles and games, posed an interesting question for persons interested in discrete geometry. Let an n x n grid be given in the Euclidean plane for any natural number n, what is the maximum number of points that can be identified in the grid so that no three of these points are in the same line (no 3 colinear). For various natural numbers n, solutions have been discovered and certain conditions have been encountered.

The presenter discusses many of these solutions and conditions. For large natural numbers n, even for some n < 60, progress (or lack of progress) is being made slowly. By the Pigeon Hole Principle, the maximum number of such points that can exist is 2n. The problem of finding for which n this value is reached is known as the No-Three-In-Line Problem. Several conjectures exist. These conjectures and their motivations are discussed as well as some related problems. However, the No-Three-In-Line Problem is still an open problem.

The year 2019 is the centennial year of the honoree for which this lecture was named. The presenter will also discuss the life and contributions of David H. Blackwell.

Additionally, a light reception will follow the lecture to celebrate the National Association of Mathematicians's Golden anniversary.


Johnny L. Houston is Professor Emeritus at Elizabeth City State University-ECSU (1984-2010) in Elizabeth City, NC and Executive Secretary Emeritus of the National Association of Mathematicians- NAM (1975-2000); he is also a Founder of NAM (1969). He earned three degrees in mathematics: BA, Morehouse College (1964); MS, Clark Atlanta University/AU. (1966); and PhD, Purdue University. (1974) {Dissertation title: “On the Theory of Fitting Classes in Certain Locally Finite Groups,” Eugene Schenkman, Adviser}; he did additional study at the University of GA (Sum-1969) and at L’Universite Strasbourg in France, 1966-67. Nationally Selected as a Science History Maker (recorded in the Library of Congress, USA), Houston has received some $15 million dollars in grants for development of scholarly activities; he has produced some 30 publications, including 7 books (some in French), of which he is author, co-author or editor-in-chief; and he has made scores of scholarly presentations as an Invited Speaker while traveling globally: 6 continents, 70 different countries (25 in Africa), and all 50 states in the USA. He has taught and guided many students in scholarly pursuits at the BS, MS and doctoral levels while teaching at ECSU, CAU/Atlanta U., Fort Valley St. U., Savannah St. U, Purdue U, Stillman College and Morehouse College as well as while administering national programs for NAM and while serving in positions of Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Senior Research Professor, Callaway Professor of Computer Science, Dept Chair: Math and SC, Dir. of a Computational Science - Scientific Visualization Center and Dir. of a Global Leadership Academy. He has served as a Visiting Scientist at NASA Langley Research Center, Lawrence Livermore Nat’l Lab, Argonne Nat’l Lab, Oak Ridge Nat’l Lab, and the Nat’l Center for Atmospheric Research. Houston’s Current Research Interests are Computational Science, Combinatorics, Discrete Geometry and the History of Mathematics. He plans to publish another book by 2020: “Profiles of African American Mathematicians.” Houston is a Life Member of NAM, SIAM, MAA (Bd of Gov, 1992-95), Purdue National Alumni Association, Clark Atlanta National Alumni Association, Morehouse College National Alumni Association, NAACP and has been a member of AMS, ACM, IEEE, ADMI (2nd VP, 1990-94), MSRI (Advisory Com, 1993-98), NC Super Computer Center (Advisory Com, 1994-2003), APARC, Benjamin Banner Assn, Purdue University Mathematics Dept (Advisory Com 1999-2002); and in Community: EC-RCCDC, Bd Ch; EC-Airport Auth. Bd Ch; Soc Ser-Bd Ch; EC-PC Found Bd-V Ch.; His. Soc. Bd; PC Adj Bd. Houston is also active in ecumenical and missionary activities and in his local church.

Houston has received many honors-recognitions, including being a guest at the White House for a State Dinner (Sept 2008), Who’s Who in America, the annual Johnny L. Houston Mathematical Sciences Colloquium (every Oct, ECSU) in his honor, NAM’s Lifetime Achievement Award, NAM’s Founder Award, QEM Award of Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and Science, UNC Board of Governor’s Teaching Excellence Award, NC Governor’s Award for Outstanding Volunteer Services, ECSU Foundation Award, ECSU Chancellor Award, Selected to establish the Professor. Claude B. Dansby Display at Morehouse College, and the Purdue University Black Cultural Center (BCC) Pioneer Award (Houston was the first Manager/Director of Purdue’s Black Cultural Center in 1971-72); the BCC is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2019)

In 1969, Houston married Virginia Lawrence of Macon, GA. They have two daughters:.Mave T. Houston, PhD (Computer Sc) and Kaiulani M. Houston, PhD (Bio-Chem). Houston was born Nov. 19, 1941 in Sandersville, GA, the youngest son of the late Mrs. Catherine Houston Vinson, whose Centennial Year he is Celebrating in 2019.