08 November 2017

VOYAGE WITH ONE OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST MATHEMATICIANS

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VOYAGE WITH ONE OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST MATHEMATICIANS

Dr. Joseph Malkoun, assistant professor, Mathematics and Statistics Department at Notre Dame University- Louaize (NDU), visited from February 18, 2017, to February 25, 2017, Sir Michael Atiyah in Edinburgh, Scotland, U.K.

Boasting a string of accolades, Sir Michael Atiyah is also a winner of both the “Fields” and the “Abel” prizes for mathematics; a past president of the Royal Society of London, the oldest scientific society in the world; a past president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh ; a former master of Trinity College, Cambridge; a knight and a member of the royal Order of Merit. His impressive work spans a large spectrum all across mathematics. Dr. Malkoun said, “Sir Michael is a geometer at heart, with the world geometer being very broadly understood.” Among his many results is the Atiyah- Singer index theorem, the outcome of a highly fruitful collaboration with Isadore Singer, and considered one of the 20th century’s top theorems.

Sir Michael Atiyah invited Dr. Malkoun to discuss a geometric problem, Dr. Malkoun earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics in 2012 from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His area of expertise is Differential Geometry.

Dr. Malkoun stayed at Sona’s Guest House, which is somewhere between the University of Edinburgh and the Maxwell Institute for Mathematical Sciences. On Sunday the 19th, he met with Sir Michael Atiyah at his apartment for a first face-to-face mathematical discussion. He had an impressive library full of mathematics and physics books. There were some picture hanging on the wall  of about 30 people formally dressed, which included Sir Michael Atiyah, as well as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles. Their conversation quickly turned to mathematics.  Atiyah can succinctly explain whole fields of mathematics and can explain links between various concepts in a geometric way.

Dr. Malkoun said, “During those seven days, I learned more from Sir Michael Atiyah than I did by myself in the past three years combined”. They met around four times that week, mostly in Atiyah’s office at the University of Edinburgh, and they attended a talk by French mathematician Pierre Cartier at the Maxwell Institute. That was a tremendous learning experience for Dr. Malkoun, which inspired him to continue his pursuit of the mathematical truth.

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