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University of Iowa News Release


April 25, 2007

UI Hosts 2007 Midwest Geometry Conference May 18-20

The University of Iowa Department of Mathematics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will host the 2007 Midwest Geometry Conference Friday through Sunday, May 18-20, in Lecture Room 1 of Van Allen Hall on the UI campus.

Featuring some 24 plenary speakers from Princeton University, Stanford University, MIT and other leading research universities in Asia, Australia, Europe, the United States and New Zealand, the conference will be attended by more than 160 mathematicians from around the world. Also, younger researchers will deliver parallel session presentations. The free, public conference opens at 8:15 a.m. Friday, May 18, with a short welcome, followed by the first plenary talk by Mike Eastwood, professor of mathematics at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

In addition, Eastwood and Rod Gover, professor of mathematics at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, will deliver three pre-conference colloquia in Room 301 of Van Allen Hall:

--1:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 15, "Conformal Laplacian operators and Q-curvature on Einstein manifolds."

--3:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 15, "The X-ray transform on complex projective space."

--3:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 16, "Higher symmetries of the Laplacian."

The conference is being funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, as well as the Institute for Mathematics and its Application, the Office of the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and the UI mathematics and physics and astronomy departments. The UI Department of Mathematics, the UI Program in Applied Mathematical and Computational Sciences, and the UI Department of Physics and Astronomy are jointly organizing the event. Conference activities will include an informal evening reception Thursday, May 17, and a conference banquet Saturday, May 19. A special panel discussion and forum on open problems will be held Saturday evening.

In encouraging the general public to attend the sessions, UI Mathematics Professor Palle Jorgensen refers to a quote by Mathematics Professors Edward B. Burger of Williams College and Michael Starbird of the University of Texas at Austin, co-authors of "Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz" (2006): "We believe that all curious people can enjoy and understand great mathematical ideas without having to brush up on garden-variety school math or relive their painful algebra daze."

The 2007 conference is being held in memory of the late Thomas P. Branson (1953-2006), who received his doctorate from MIT in 1979. He served as UI professor of mathematics from 1985-2006, and worked in a variety of fields including mathematical physics. The American Mathematical Society, where he was a member from 1979, notes of his research that: "He is widely known for his Branson-Paneitz operators. And he was known especially for his pioneering and deep work on conformal invariance and conformal symmetry. In particular, he introduced Q-curvature, and his work on the functional determinant of the conformal Laplacian on 4-manifolds is profound." The conference combines themes from geometry, physics, and symmetry and, to a large extent, is motivated by Branson's work, which was distinguished as a highly original blend of those three elements.

UI conference organizers say that the impact of what Branson started will always be felt and that he would have been the principal investigator of the Midwest Geometry Conference, had he lived. Instead, his colleague, Professor Palle Jorgensen, and an enthusiastic team have accepted the organizational responsibilities, including obtaining additional funding, for what has become a major, international conference.

They note that Tom's thinking and life philosophy are reflected in the words of English Poet William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence":

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour."

Additional information about the conference can be found at the conference Web site:

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 301, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,