UT Arlington Math Department wins national honor for exemplary Ph.D. program

The American Mathematical Society honored UT Arlington for doubling the size of its doctoral program over five years and bolstering those ranks with historically underrepresented student groups, including women and minorities. 

The American Mathematical Society has named The University of Texas at Arlington the winner of its 2013 AMS Award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department. The award honors the mathematics department at UT Arlington as a model of excellence among the group’s 570 member institutions.

The Society recognized the UT Arlington mathematics department for doubling the size of its doctoral program over five years and bolstering those ranks with historically underrepresented student groups, including women and minorities.

From 2005 to 2010, the number of doctoral students in the UT Arlington math department grew from 23 to 52. Large gains were also made in the number of U.S. citizens or permanent residents pursuing doctoral degrees.

“This is an extraordinary honor and recognition of the achievements of the UT Arlington Department of Mathematics,” said Ronald Elsenbaumer, UT Arlington provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Our nation needs more leaders who have achieved the highest degrees in math, science and engineering. We are pleased to see the tremendous work of our math faculty recognized on the national stage.”

The UT Arlington mathematics department now joins ranks of elite math programs that are former winners of the award, such as University of California at Los Angeles and University of Iowa.

In their citation, the selection committee said that UT Arlington’s math department stood out because of its focus on students. Over several years, faculty and staff created an environment where undergraduate and graduate students of all backgrounds could flourish, the judges said. Mentoring programs, professional development, active recruiting and study groups that build connections among students were essential components, they said.

The math department also significantly increased its number of undergraduate majors during the same period of time.

“Departmental faculty are truly dedicated to training a culturally and ethnically diverse group of students with the potential to thrive in our profession, and they have had great success,” said Phil Kutzko, a University of Iowa math professor who served as chairman of the award selection committee. “This commitment on the part of a significant percentage of the faculty is what sets departments like the one at UT Arlington apart from other departments with similar goals.”

The Department of Mathematics is housed within the College of Science , one of the University’s fastest-growing academic units. Pamela Jansma, dean of the College of Science, said math faculty members have actively pursued federal and state grants to improve their department and to provide students the support they need to finish their doctoral degrees. She credited the leadership of former UT Arlington math department chair Jianping Zhu and current chair Jianzhong Su.

“Many of these students would not have been able to attend graduate school without the financial help of these grants,” Jansma said. “By seeking out these funds, our faculty has ensured that the University doesn’t miss out on the contributions these talented individuals can make.”

Two of the essential grant programs are:

  • The Department of Education’s Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need, or GAANN, program. UT Arlington has been awarded nearly $2 million since 2006 through this program, which supports departmental fellowships for U.S. citizens, nationals or permanent residents. The program provides doctoral students with up to $30,000 each year in stipend support as well as coverage of tuition and other educational expenses. Those students participate in supervised teaching and mentoring activities. Professor Tuncay Aktosun, principal investigator of the grant, and his team of co-principal investigators have created an effective system of recruiting and mentoring U.S. doctoral students in mathematics. The GAANN program currently supports 16 doctoral students and has already helped ten students to receive their doctoral degrees.
  • The National Science Foundation funded GK-12 Initiative. In 2009, the department received a five-year, $2.85 million award through this program. The money provides fellowships for eight graduate students a year. They work with teachers in the Arlington school district at schools with large, low-income populations to incorporate math research ideas into high school and middle school classrooms. Those fellowships also provide $30,000 a year and additional support for educational expenses. Associate Professor Minerva Cordero-Epperson, principal investigator of the grant, and her team of co-principal investigators have developed an innovative program that vertically integrates mathematics research and education by involving middle and high school students, school teachers, doctoral fellows and mathematics research professors.

Many of UT Arlington’s efforts have been in coordination with the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences . The department is now working with that group to establish the Gulf States Math Alliance. That group would make sure students in the region who are interested and capable of pursing undergraduate and graduate degrees in the mathematical sciences get appropriate support and mentoring.

The official announcement of the award to the UT Arlington Mathematics Department, including the selection committee's citation, is available from the AMS Public Awareness Office and appears in the May 2013 issue of the NOTICES OF THE AMS.  That issue is available on the NOTICES web site http://www.ams.org/notices . No subscription is necessary.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,800 students and 2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas and the second-largest member of The University of Texas System. Research activity has more than tripled over the past decade to $71.4 million last year with an emphasis on bioengineering, medical diagnostics, micro manufacturing, advanced robotics and defense and Homeland Security technologies, among other areas. Visit  www.uta.edu  to learn more.

About the American Mathematical Society

Founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship, today the more than 30,000-member American Mathematical Society fulfills its mission through programs and services that promote mathematical research and its uses, strengthen mathematical education and foster awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and to everyday life.


Media contact: Traci Peterson, tpeterso@uta.edu, 817-272-9208

The University of Texas at Arlington, www.uta.edu