Alycia Marshall ’95, Mathematics, Wins National STEM Award

Alycia Marshall ’95, mathematics, was named one of 100 Inspiring Women in STEM by Insight into Diversity for her work with the Engineering Scholars Program at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC).

alycia-marshallMarshall drew on her experience working with Meyerhoff Scholars at UMBC to start the Engineering Scholars Program at AACC with help from a National Science Foundation grant. As the principal investigator for the program, Marshall was instrumental in connecting underrepresented students with scholarships, mentoring, and support services.

Read “AACC professor selected for national STEM award” on Eye on Annapolis.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, Reacts to Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage on Public Radio International

manil suriJust hours after the U.S. Supreme Court announced a nationwide right to same-sex marriage on Friday, June 26, Manil Suri was interviewed by Public Radio International (PRI) for his reaction to the ruling. Suri, a professor of mathematics and award-winning author, has written extensively about his experience as a gay Indian American. He has also written in the Washington Post and New York Times about Indian government policies and during the interview discussed Section 377 of the Indian penal code, reinstated by the Indian Supreme Court in 2013, which criminalizes homosexual conduct.

Suri shared his thoughts on PRI about what the implications of the U.S. ruling could mean for other nations around the world, including India. “They are bound to really look at what the US is doing,” Suri says. “It’s one of the largest countries in the world and it’s really putting its seal on this, saying marriage equality is here to stay.”

He added the American milestone is an important one as the worldwide conversations surrounding same-sex marriage continue. “There’s back and forth. And I think we’re going to see that in other parts of the world as well.” To listen to the complete interview that aired on PRI, click here.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, Writes New York Times Op-ed on The Politics of Yoga in India

In light of the International Day of Yoga, Mathematics Professor and New York Times Contributing Opinion Writer Manil Suri wrote about the viewpoints surrounding Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plans to promote it within the country: “Some Muslim preachers and opposition politicians have accused Mr. Modi of using the day to foist Hinduism on religious minorities under the guise of yoga.”

manil suriHowever, Suri explains in his column that, “Yoga is big business, estimated at $10 billion a year in the United States alone, and India needs to be associated with it — not just to attract tourists to yoga retreats, but also to assert its intellectual rights. The country has been fighting attempts by Western gurus to patent yoga poses, assembling a repository of over 1,500 asanas to keep them free.”

He added: “Within India, the goal is different. Those on the Hindu right have always harbored the vision of returning to India’s greatness as an ancient civilization. A practice with Vedic origins that has nevertheless attained such secular popularity is the perfect vehicle to create a shared national consciousness. The physical engagement, mental discipline and sublimation of desire enshrined in yoga meld seamlessly, yet discreetly, with the more militaristic tenets of organizations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.”

To read the full column titled “India and the Politics of Yoga,” click here. Suri also appeared live on CNN International on Sunday, June 21 to discuss his column.

“The Mathematics of Being Human” Reviewed in Siam News

Photo by Marlayna Demond.

Photo by Marlayna Demond.

Ahead of a scheduled performance of “The Mathematics of Being Human” on July 29 at the BRIDGES Conference in Baltimore, the play received a positive review in Siam News. It debuted at UMBC on November 4, 2014, and has since been performed across the country in San Antonio, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

Featuring Michele Osherow, associate professor of English, Manil Suri, mathematics professor, Savannah Jo Chamberlain ’16, theatre, Chaz Atkinson ’16, theatre, and directed by Alan Kreizenbeck, associate professor of theatre, the play chronicles the struggles of two professors trying to develop a joint seminar studying the intersection of math and literature.

“I was lucky enough to get a seat at a performance held at UMBC, along with apparently a dozen or more of the students who had taken the real-life freshman humanities seminar that inspired this play. Judging by their appreciative laughter at pivotal plot points, I think that much of the performance rang true to their experience as humanities students suckered into a mathematics class,” wrote Katherine Socha, who reviewed the play for Siam. 

“Wonderful selections of mathematics connections in literature and art highlight the rich opportunities for the cross-cultural battles led by these sharply defined faculty characters,” she added.

To read the complete review “Play Takes Aim at the ‘Two Cultures’ Divide,” click here. For more information on the July 29 performance in Baltimore, click here.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, Writes New York Times Op-Ed on Math’s Application to the Maryland Blue Crab Population

manil suriPublished in the Sunday edition of the New York Times on May 3, Mathematics Professor Manil Suri wrote his third column since being named contributing opinion writer on the application of math to predict Maryland’s blue crab population. He examined the complexities and various factors that can go into a mathematical formula to predict the population.

“Fecundity and survival rates — so innocuous as algebraic symbols — can be difficult to estimate. For instance, it was long believed that a blue crab’s maximum life expectancy was eight years. This estimate was used, indirectly, to calculate crab mortality from fishing. Derided by watermen, the life expectancy turned out to be much too high; this had resulted in too many crab deaths being attributed to harvesting, thereby supporting charges of overfishing,” Suri wrote.

In his column, Suri further discusses the difficulty in finding an accurate quantitative formula to calculate the blue crab population, which depends on a number of factors that are not easy to predict.

“In some sense, that might be the wrong goal anyway. Randomness is built into biological processes, so predicting a population is never going to be like calculating the interest on a bank account. The best we can do is use available science to make educated guesses about various outcomes,” he wrote.

To read the full column titled “Mathematicians and Blue Crabs,” click here.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, Writes New York Times Op-Ed on Recent Beef Ban in Parts of India

manil suriIn his second published column since being named a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, mathematics professor Manil Suri wrote about the recent ban of beef in some parts of India. Suri’s column, titled “A Ban on Beef in India is Not the Answer,” examines the political and historical motivations for the ban and its implications on personal freedoms and the economy.

“The laws have affected more than just restaurants. Thousands of butchers and vendors, their livelihood abruptly suspended, have protested in Mumbai. The leather industry is in turmoil. Beef is consumed not only by Indian Muslims and Christians, but also by many low-caste Hindus, for whom it is an essential source of affordable protein,” Suri wrote.

Suri also analyzed the recent beef ban in the context of the larger debate on equality in India: “Indian civilization has evolved over the centuries to include multiple diverse communities with competing interests. Despite its secular Constitution, India remains strikingly unequal. The government must make every effort to balance majority sentiments with minority needs. This is what the previous rules that restricted cow, but not bull, slaughter did,” Suri wrote, adding, “Imposing ideals from a mythic past is not the answer. The true lesson to take away from history is how utilitarian goals can shape religious custom. Hinduism has always been a pragmatic religion; what today’s India needs is accommodation.”

To read the full New York Times column, click here.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, Named Contributing Opinion Writer for the New York Times

Mathematics professor Manil Suri has been named a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. In this role, Suri will publish columns around once a month. To read an announcement published in Capital New York, click here.

Manil Suri 2In light of Pi Day celebrated on March 14 and this year celebrated as a once-in-a-century event with the full date in line with the first five digits of pi’s decimal expansion, Suri published his first column about understanding what pi truly is, the history behind it, and why it remains so significant.

At the beginning of his column, Suri explained how pi’s importance can be found in many places: “And yet pi, being the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, is manifested all around us. For instance, the meandering length of a gently sloping river between source and mouth approaches, on average, pi times its straight-line distance. Pi reminds us that the universe is what it is, that it doesn’t subscribe to our ideas of mathematical convenience.”

Suri also discussed what pi can tell us about computers as they’ve developed over the last several decades: “With the advent of computers, pi offered a proving ground for successively faster models. But eventually, breathless headlines about newly cracked digits became less compelling, and the big players moved on. Recent records (currently in the trillions of digits) have mostly been set on custom-built personal computers. The history of pi illustrates how far computing has progressed, and how much we now take it for granted.”

To read the full column published in the New York Times, click here.