Professor Hans Schoutens
» Spring 2010
City Tech Professor Hans Schoutens (mathematics) was named New York City College of Technology’s Scholar on Campus in spring 2010. His Scholar on Campus Lecture, "A Mathematician's Divina Commedia and His Travels through the Three Realms: the Physical, the Virtual, and the Platonic," was presented on April 19 in the College’s Atrium Ampitheater.
In his lecture, Schoutens said he explores “the physical world, which produces geometry and physics; the virtual world, which produces the universe of finite fields; and the 'divine' sphere of pure mathematics, with its intrinsic beauty and irrefutable truth, and how, from my perspective, they are connected.”
Citing philosophy as a “hobby,” he explained that “since ancient times, mathematics has been used to model and describe our physical world, eventually leading to the powerful theories of contemporary physics, such as relativity theory, quantum theory and string theory. More recently, it has been assisted in this task by computers, leading to many 'applied' branches of mathematics. However, I am a pure mathematician, so where do I fit in? A pure mathematician is one to whom results – the applications of math – are not necessary.”
Schoutens, who has spent the 2009-2010 academic year on sabbatical at Ohio State University in Columbus, is the co-founder of the Commutative Algebra and Algebraic Geometry Seminar and of the Logic Workshop (one of the leading logic centers in the country), both initiatives of The City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. As a result of his involvement with these activities, City Tech hired four logicians and four algebraists – who participated in the workshop and/or seminar – to teach at the College.
His recent research, supported by National Science Foundation and PSC-CUNY grants, is to appear in his forthcoming book, The Use of Ultraproducts in Commutative Algebra (part of the “Lecture Notes in Mathematics” series), to be published by Springer in either late 2010 or early 2011.
“To me,” said Schoutens, “math is an art form. Art can have its applications, but ideally it is pure. Mathematics shows intrinsic unexpected patterns and connections; the beauty is when you see how it fits so nicely together. When mathematicians talk to one another, that’s what they mean by ‘a beautiful theorem’.”
Schoutens grew up and was educated in Leuven, Belgium. Visiting the U.S. in 1996, he met his future wife, a professor of medieval Persian history, and settled here. He has been teaching at City Tech since 2003 and at the Graduate Center since 2005, and has presented at seminars and conferences in Canada, Germany, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Israel, Iran and numerous U.S. cities.