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Mathematics Professor Hans Schoutens Named 2010 Scholar on Campus

City Tech has named Professor Hans Schoutens (mathematics) the 2010 Scholar on Campus. He will present his lecture, "A Mathematician's Divina Commedia and His Travels through the Three Realms: the Physical, the Virtual, and the Platonic," on Monday, April 19, 5 p.m., in the Atrium Ampitheater.

In his lecture, Schoutens says he will explore “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 explains, “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 has hired four logicians and four algebraists – who participate in the workshop and/or seminar – to teach at the College.

His recent research, supported by National Science Foundation and PSC-CUNY grants, will 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,” says 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, who resides in Manhattan’s financial district, 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.


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