On Sept. 7 Davidson welcomed to campus 55 mathematicians with expertise in number theory for the Palmetto Number Theory Series XX (PANTS) conference. The 20th in a series of conferences sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency, the event was an opportunity for participants to share research, refine ideas, and collaborate with colleagues in the field.
Planned by Davidson math professors Michael Mossinghoff and Justin Peachey with support from the college's Academic Affairs Office and the Math Department, the conference included more than 20 talks on current number theory research. Attendees hailed from 23 schools in 10 states, and topics included new discoveries in the distribution of prime numbers, the behavior of the Riemann zeta function, the theories of elliptic curves and modular forms, and other algebraic, analytic, and computational aspects of number theory.
Of the 20 speakers, four were featured guests, and included two professors, a postdoctoral assistant professor, and a graduate student. Prof. Andrew Sutherland, from MIT, recently was involved in a worldwide collaborative effort - and breakthrough - regarding a famous problem about gaps between prime numbers.
The featured speakers and their topics were:
While on campus, Prof. William Banks also spoke separately to a group of Davidson students about applications of number theory in cryptography during the Math Department's weekly Math Coffee.
Math conferences like PANTS benefit working professionals as well as future professionals, Mossinghoff said. Graduate students gain knowledge of different research opportunities, postdoctoral students get the chance to present their work and make professional connections that can help them in the job market, and faculty members from different schools get to collaborate.
"These conferences foster the trading of ideas," Mossinghoff said. "It's a good thing when a presenter says, ‘I hadn't thought of that. I should try that.'"