The Catholic University of America

Sept. 27, 2010

CUA Math Professor Receives Historic Grant

  Alexander Levin

Alexander Levin, a math professor at CUA since 1995, has been awarded a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in the amount of $143,074. Levin’s research is aimed at developing constructive methods for the analysis and solution of systems of difference-differential equations.

“This project will have wide applications in algorithms and computational techniques for a variety of scientific and technological fields. I especially applaud the fact that the research will also entail an educational component, with training of potential value to students in mathematics, computer science, physics and engineering,” said L.R. Poos, dean of CUA’s School of Arts and Sciences.

Levin’s grant proposal was one of eight selected from among 191 proposals. Levin was competing against research teams from larger universities that often included graduate students. Catholic University is smaller than most of Levin’s competition and does not have a graduate math program. “I was not just the principal investigator,” says Levin with a laugh. “I was the only investigator.”

“Grants of this significance do not happen often in mathematics,” notes Poos. In the university’s more recent history, there were only two other NSF grants in mathematics in the last 40 years. This is the largest NSF grant in mathematics in Catholic University’s history.

“I knew I had a strong proposal,” said Levin. “But given the history of NSF grant funding in mathematics and the number of applications from large graduate programs, I was particularly delighted to get the grant funding.”

Among his 67 published works, Levin’s most recent is the fundamental research monograph Difference Algebra published in 2008. The book has become a reference for many math researchers and students, and helped establish him as a leader in his field.

Speaking about the broader impact of his three-year research project — “Computational Methods for Difference-Differential Equations” — that is just underway, Levin explained, “The resulting methods and algorithms will be useful to analysts, physicists and scientists who work with systems of automatic control and biological systems.” He also noted that his research will promote teaching and learning, as well as interdisciplinary studies and international collaborations. The educational component to Levin’s project will involve CUA mathematics, computer science, physics, engineering and biology students. “I am excited about this level of interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Levin.

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