Note from the Department Chair — August 2018

August 27, 2018

The quote ‘I am the last President of the United States’ is attributed to James Buchanan, supposedly spoken either shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln and/or the secession of South Carolina. In an analogous but more optimistic (and much less profound) vein, I can say that I am the last Chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Clemson’s Board of Trustees, at their July meeting, approved our proposal to rename the Department of Mathematical Sciences as the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, effective this Fall. The planned launch of the new School is set for October 1st. Reasons for the change are summarized in this excerpt from the proposal given to the Board: The proposed structural change will preserve the “breadth” strength of the current department . . . increase quality, . . . better support ClemsonForward goals; enhance strategic positioning for planned enrollment growth; and increase competitiveness of the new school’s director role. A draft version of the bylaws for the new School is nearly ready for distribution and discussion; we’re in the process of identifying the websites, links, contacts, etc. that will need to change by October 1st, and a search for the founding school director will begin soon. As most of you know I will be fully retired by the end of December, at which point Dr. Kevin James will become the Interim School Director.

At the College of Science fall semester kick-off meeting, each of the department chairs was allowed to share two ‘bragging points’. Choosing two out of many accomplishments over the past year by our students, faculty, and staff was difficult. I chose (1) the recent naming of Dr. Billy Bridges as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and (2) the fact that all seven of our PhD graduates who completed their degree in August are employed in positions spanning academia, industry, and government labs. I noted also that over the past two years we have seen full employment for all of our graduating PhD students.

Here are a few highlights from our department start-of-the-semester meeting on August 22nd. Dr. Elena Dimitrova, newly appointed as the Department Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies, reported that currently there are 244 Math Sciences undergraduate majors. Fifty percent of those who have declared an emphasis area (84 students) have chosen Actuarial Science & Financial Math. Coordinator of Graduate Studies Dr. Taufiquar Khan announced that we have 126 graduate students (64 MS and 62 PhD) enrolled this semester. Of these, 108 are on teaching assistantships and 12 are on research assistantships. Five are supported by fellowships. Dr. Leo Rebholz, newly appointed as Department Coordinator of Instruction, shared that utilizing large SCALE-UP classrooms requires more teaching assistants, making his job of stretching the number of TA’s to meet this need especially challenging this year.

Speaking of large SCALE-UP classrooms, over the summer Cooper Library 200B was converted from a study room to a classroom with 16 round tables each seating 9 students. Before and after pictures are included here.

September 14, 2017

August 21, 2018

Cooper Library 200B Before & After Renovation

The image on the instructor’s podium tablet is projected onto three monitors per table, and on walls around the room are large monitors on which a live image of the instructor is displayed, along with multiple white boards.

At our annual faculty Welcome Back/Celebration of the New Academic Year on August 24th, those present were fortunate to hear a presentation by Dr. Trudy Mackay, Director of the Clemson University Center for Human Genetics, and Clemson’s first and only member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Mackay provided an overview of her Center, and outlined a healthy list of possibilities for collaborative research available to students and faculty in our department. From the time that I invited Dr. Mackay and her husband Dr. Robert Anholt (also a great addition to our university) to this event, I looked forward to introducing them to the department, but not as much I looked forward to introducing the department to them. Based on their comments at the end of the evening, both were impressed by the talent and warmth of our faculty and staff members, just as I had expected.

I had the difficult task of speaking after Dr. Mackay’s presentation, and I wondered if people would run for the doors when I announced that I was about to show pictures from my summer vacation. To everyone’s relief, I only showed two slides, both with a purpose. The first one had pictures of a trip to the Southwest U.S. (part work, part fun) with Amy. The point of that slide was to indicate how much I’m looking forward to having more time, once I retire, to travel and most of all just spend time with Amy and our children. The second slide was a picture of a landscape block retaining wall that I’m building in our backyard. I used that picture to illustrate that walls can serve as either dividers or foundations/retention devices (and sometimes both). My hope and expectation is that becoming the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences will further shore up the foundation laid by those who founded and grew our department. I’m reminded especially of Clayton Aucoin, Ted Wallenius (who was with us on Friday) and others who had the foresight to build a graduate program, with both breadth and depth components, that is as relevant today as it was 40+ years ago when NSF funding supported the redesign of the masters and PhD degrees. In the months to come we have the exciting opportunity of carefully and creatively adding a few more blocks upon a well-laid foundation.

Lastly, I want to thank PhD student Peter Westerbaan who worked with newsletter editor Dr. Sean Sather-Wagstaff and our college communications staff to prepare this edition.