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Project NExT Helps Sloan Fellow Get Started

Davidson College Professor Tim Chartier wasn’t sure he had read the e-mail correctly.
Taking a break from trudging through one of his research papers trying to make grammar corrections, he noticed that his inbox had filled up with a few e-mails. On sabbatical in Seattle, Chartier doesn’t receive his mail on a regular basis, so e-mail is his primary connection to his friends and family back in North Carolina.  He read one after another, finally getting to the note from his department chair Richard Neidinger that informed him he had been selected as a 2008 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow.

“I read the e-mail twice to make sure I hadn’t misread,” Chartier said.

Considered one of the most prestigious honors that can be placed upon a young professor, a Sloan Fellowship provides winners with flexible grant funding to stimulate research and very positive recognition among their peers. Chartier will use the grant to support his research in numerical analysis, and hopes the funding can help lay a stronger foundation for his research at Davidson.

“My goal is for Davidson to be considered an academic research center for mathematical computational investigation. The results of the various avenues of research that I pursue could ultimately have direct use for, and impact on, researchers in a wide variety of applications,” Chartier notes. “More generally, the work promises to lead to basic advances in computational mathematics and numerical linear algebra.”

Chartier credits Project NExT, a professional development program of the MAA, with playing a fundamentally important role in his career. “When I attended my first Project NeXT events in 2001, I was unsure what direction my academic career would take after my postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington,” Chartier said.  With the guidance and leadership of people like Carl Cowen, Aparna Higgins, and Joe Gallian, Project NExT helped Chartier make the important career choices that often trouble young professionals in the field.

“The first question regarding my preference of a type of institution that would become an academic home was first answered in part by Carl Cowen's comments delivered during a panel discussion on tenure,” Chartier recalls.  “Carl said, ‘My strongest advice is to find an academic institution where the goals of the college or university align with your own. What do you want to be doing? If your department answers such questions in a manner similar to the way you do, those untenured years can be most successful and rewarding.’”

Chartier credits Higgins’ Project NExT workshop on undergraduate research with giving him clear direction in proceeding with his future research, and Gallian’s motivational talks with reminding him to consider all possibilities, even the unexpected ones, carefully.

Chartier will be the first to tell you that Project NExT has helped him become the professor he is today, and earn the recognition that comes along with a Sloan Fellowship.

“I have already found the recognition of the Sloan Fellowship rewarding,” Chartier said. “Generally, a natural conversation follows about my research both now and in the future…and colleagues ask about my plans for the funding which has led to a variety of stimulating conversations regarding my ideas and the work of my colleagues."—R. Miller

News Date: 
Tuesday, March 11, 2008