Chair's Column

Ralf Schmidt Dear members and friends of the UNT Math Department,

I just finished my second academic year at UNT, and it was quite different from the first one. Like most people, I spent very little time on campus, working mostly from home. The quick walk over to the next office to coordinate a task was replaced by many hours of staff meetings via Zoom. I taught my first "asynchronous" class, awkwardly making videos for my students. All regular phone lines have been eliminated, so now we call each other on Microsoft Teams. We had faculty interviews, but instead of bringing people to campus, everything was conducted 100% via video conference. While many things were strange, not everything was bad. We sure saved a lot of money on photocopies. And whenever you actually had to go to campus the parking situation was quite pleasant.

With almost everyone being new to remote instruction, the great majority of teachers had to invest significantly more time in their classes than under normal circumstances. How do you engage students that you never meet in person? How do you ensure academic honesty during remote exams? I am rather impressed with the various strategies that have emerged, and with the flow of information among instructors to ensure best practices. With 22,104 enrollments in MATH classes during the last year, the department contributed significantly to the teaching mission of the university.

In fall 2020 we (virtually) welcomed four new colleagues to the department. Visiting Assistant Professor Dr. Joseph Zielinski became the first member of our newly established post-doc program. Dr. Helen Elwood, who had been teaching for us in an adjunct position for a number of years, joined the ranks of our lecturers. Dr. Serdar Bozdag, who has a joint appointment with Computer Science and also maintains an office in BDI, was appointed as an Associate Professor. And biostatistician Dr. Yangqing Deng became a new Assistant Professor, with a joint appointment in Biology. Unfortunately, Dr. Deng resigned after only two semesters to take a new position at a cancer center in Canada.

Another unfortunate resignation was that of Assistant Professor Han Hao, who had been at UNT since 2016. Dr. Hao decided to take a position in private industry. While the departures of these colleagues represent a significant loss for the department, we wish them all the best in their new endeavours.

We have been further negatively affected by the budget cuts caused by the pandemic. Among the most visible consequences is the loss of one permanent staff position. Instead of two post-doc positions we were only allowed to fill one. Overall though, the worst-case scenarios did not come to pass. We were able to cover our classes without significant increase in teaching workloads, and we were even able to conduct two faculty searches. The graduate program has in fact experienced some healthy growth with now over 60 supported students.

A thriving area over the last year has been undergraduate research. Much of the credit here goes to Lior Fishman, who developed a unique model where graduate students guide undergraduate research, only loosely overseen by faculty members. Dr. Fishman got other colleagues on board, who are now guiding several research groups consisting of graduate and undergraduate students. He and Dr. Kiko Kawamura also created a very successful Students Talk Research Seminar (STaRS), where students have an opportunity to present their results.

Despite all the remote work, physical changes have come to the GAB as well. The space on the 4th floor previously occupied by Women's & Gender Studies and by International Studies was signed over to Mathematics in August 2020. Some mild renovations resulted in a much improved space for some of our adjunct instructors. We've also created a new research room, visitor space, and an undergraduate activities room. Hopefully everyone will be able to enjoy the new facilities when we return in person in Fall 2021, as is currently the plan.

Ralf Schmidt

2020-2021 Highlights

Mariusz Urbański is among the most-cited mathematicians in the world

Our department’s Mariusz Urbański is among the top 2% of the most-cited mathematicians, according to a study by a group of scientists led by John P.A. Ioannidis, a statistician at Stanford University. The study was published in the Public Library of Science Biology journal: “Updated science-wide author databases of standardized citation indicators.” Mariusz’s research interests are extensive and include fields such as dynamical systems, ergodic theory, fractal geometry, conformal dynamical systems, holomorphic dynamical systems, open dynamical systems, iteration of transcendental meromorphic functions, iterated function systems, thermodynamic formalism, gas lattices, statistical physics, potential theory (harmonic measure), number theory, Kleinian groups, and topology (topological dimension). His list of publications includes 3 books and totals more than 200 publications. He has worked with more than 30 collaborators and according to AMS MathScinet "Mariusz Urbański is cited 2984 times by 926 authors in the MR Citation Database".

Dr. Rajeev Azad receives the UNT Early Career Award for Research and Creativity

Rajeev Azad The Department of Mathematics wants to celebrate Dr. Rajeev Azad for receiving UNT's Early Career Award for Research and Creativity! This award is given to a full-time University faculty member within their first 10 years in a full-time appointment whose research accomplishments or creative endeavors have been outstanding and whose scholarly/creative products are considered to have had high impact in the faculty member's discipline and/or on society, as is the case with Dr. Azad's contributions to the fields of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Research in the Azad lab is focused on development and application of interdisciplinary methods and approaches to understand how microorganisms innovate to adapt to changes in the environment. Dr. Azad and his team analyze large omics datasets to determine how organisms respond to stress at the molecular and physiological level, decipher structural and functional features in genomes and elucidate their relationships in the context of evolution. More specific information about Dr. Azad's recent research is available here.

Dr. Allen Mann receives award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Rajeev Azad We congratulate Dr. Allen Mann for being the first recipient of the Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, a new annual award established by the TAMS & Honors College. This award recognizes a full-time UNT faculty member of any rank for a record of undergraduate teaching excellence that includes instruction in TAMS or Honors over at least a three-year period.

Dr. Mann, a senior lecturer who joined the department in 2015, has continuously taught TAMS students for the last few years and has made a name for himself as an outstanding instructor. He also currently serves as the department's TAMS liaison. His students benefit from his rich and unique background, which includes research, teaching at a variety of institutions large and small, domestic and abroad, as well as non-academic employment.

Kristi Nelson receives the 2021 UNT Staff Rising Star Award

Kristi Nelson The Department of Mathematics wants to celebrate Kristi Nelson for receiving the 2021 UNT Staff Rising Star Award. This award is for staff who have been with the University for less than 2 years. Only one employee per year is selected to receive this honor and we believe this year it was an easy decision due to Kristi's perfectly exemplifying UNT's commitment to building community. For one, she has been a constant physical presence in the department ever since last spring (on the great majority of days she is the only one in the main office ) and she has tirelessly and competently been answering the phone and handling e-mails throughout this crisis. Moreover, while we were still allowed on campus, she single-handedly and in record time turned the Math Quest Center into a socially distanced computer lab for students who wouldn't have internet access, complete with a detailed cleaning schedule for the workstations. She kept track of many things, from equipment requests to remote teaching forms, time reporting and more. Kristi also mixed together her own cleaning materials when we weren't able to buy it anymore. As the last woman standing in an otherwise deserted department, she even delivered teaching equipment and other items to people -- or met them in the Walmart parking lot -- after work! She traveled as far as Keller to make sure all employees had what they needed to succeed remotely. Above all, Nelson kept her colleagues' spirits up with some great office humor. "The list of examples to illustrate Nelson's commitment goes on, but we are just so thrilled to share the type of employees we have working here at UNT," says Jana Watkins, office manager and assistant to the chair.

Faculty News

John Neuberger’s Obituary

John William Neuberger (August 14, 1934 – December 12, 2020) was born in northern Iowa of farming parents. He began his education at the age of five in a one-room school house. There were nine grades and only six students, giving him the opportunity to eavesdrop on the older students. When he was nine, his parents moved to Brownsville, Texas. He graduated as valedictorian of his class of seven students from El Jardin, a country high school located on Boca Chica Blvd (the road to the beach and, now, to an Elon Musk Space X missile site). John entered the University of Texas in 1951, where he studied mathematics and physics as an undergraduate, got his senior ring in 1954, and finished a PhD in mathematics under H. S. Wall in 1957. John held academic positions at Illinois Institute of Technology, in Chicago; the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville; Emory University, in Atlanta; and the University of North Texas, in Denton. He spent most summers as a consultant, mainly in cryptography. By the time he retired from academia, he had mentored 30 successful PhD students, totaling 75 academic descendants. The website has a list of his mathematics publications and vita, as well as an interesting and somewhat humorous autobiographical account of his education. John and his wife Barbara travelled extensively, both in the U.S. and abroad, where he gave numerous talks and seminars. They had many adventures, ate great food, and acquired wonderful friends all across the globe. In 2016, shortly after his retirement from UNT, he and Barbara moved to the Stayton at Museum Way, in Ft. Worth, Texas. John is survived by his wife Barbara Osher Neuberger of Fort Worth; son John Michael Neuberger (Dina) of Flagstaff, Arizona; daughter Sandra Neuberger Blackwell (Jerry) of Seattle, Washington; grandchildren Samantha and Jerry “Jay” Blackwell, also of Seattle, and John Nicholas “Nick” Neuberger of Flagstaff; and many friends. Several former colleagues and students have shared their memories of John.

Special issue on the advances in Applied Mathematics dedicated to Joseph Kung

Joseph Kung Our department’s Joseph Kung has been honored by the Journal of Advances in Applied Mathematics via a special issue dedicated to his life and work. Kung served as an editor-in-chief of Advances in Applied Mathematics from 2000 to 2018. It includes papers contributed by scholars and friends whose research and life intersected with Joseph.

Joseph P.S. Kung was born on April 22, 1952 in Hong Kong. He received a Bache­lor of Science (Hons.) degree at the University of New South Wales in Australia with the University Medal in Pure Mathematics. He carried out his graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), earning a Ph.D. in 1978, under the su­pervision of Gian-Carlo Rota. After two years as an Applied Mathematics Instructor at MIT, Joseph joined the University of North Texas and was a faculty member until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 2017. Throughout his career, Joseph made nu­merous contributions to mathematics and to the mathematical community. His research interests cover many areas, including matroid theory, lattice theory, classical invariant theory, and enumerative combinatorics.

Much of Joseph's work is in matroid theory. An important early result (done with Jeff Kahn) is a complete description of varieties of finite matroids. This shows that apart from very disconnected examples, the only varieties are matroids representable over a fixed finite field and Dowling matroids constructed from graphs edge-labeled by a fixed finite group. Motivated by this result, he made the growth rate conjecture ( now a theorem) which limits the size functions of a minor-closed class of finite matroids to three kinds: linear, quadratic, and exponential. In the 1990's, Joseph wrote two survey papers, one sketching how extremal matroid theory might develop, and the other summarizing the past and suggesting the future of the theory of critical problems for matroids. In his later years, Joseph's work focused on Tutte polynomials and their generalizations. In particular, he provided an account of "discrepancy" interpretations of evaluations of characteristic and Tutte polynomials. And one might mention his "trivial" convolution­/multiplication identity for Tutte polynomials, which reveals in an elementary way the coalgebra structure underlying those polynomials. In lattice theory, Joseph proved Rival's conjecture, that there is a matching respecting the partial order, between the join-irreducible and meet-irreducible elements in a modular lattice. He also developed the theory of concordant sets, giving general conditions for a matching to exist between two subsets of lattice elements related by order duality. In enumerative combinatorics, a paper on counting matrices by their Jordan structure in the general linear group over a finite field initiated much work on counting in other matrix or algebraic groups. His joint work with Catherine Yan includes explicit formulas for higher moments of classical parking functions. Joseph's work on invariant theory were mostly joint expository papers with Rota. These papers formalized or "straightened" many results in classical invariant theory, reinstating many old theorems and methods as living mathematics.

Joseph has made extensive editorial and scholarly contributions to mathematics. From 2000 to 2018, he was an editor-in-chief of this journal. Through his tenure Joseph has gone far beyond maintaining the high standards. He was an active editor who created numerous opportunities for special issues, helped fos­ter the careers of new generations of researchers, and had a personal impact on many mathematicians. He served as an editor of the book series Contemporary Mathematicians and on the editorial board of Algebra Universalis, Annals of Combinatorics, and the Electronic Journal of Combinatorics. In addition, he is the editor of five books, in­cluding "Gian-Carlo Rota on Combinatorics", which contains a selection of Rota's work that reformed combinatorics in the 1960's and is now part of the canonical literature of combinatorics and (with Ken Bogart and Ralph Freese) "The Dilworth Theorems", a volume which conserves the legacy of a pioneer in lattice theory. With Catherine Yan and Gian-Carlo Rota, he wrote "Combinatorics: The Rota Way", which bundles into a coherent whole many of Rota's favorite topics in mathematics, and was described by one reviewer as "masterfully moulded".

New Faculty Members

Serdar Bozdag

Serdar Bozdag Serdar Bozdag received his BS degree in Computer Engineering at Marmara University and Ph.D. degree in Computer Science at the University of California, Riverside. After a postdoctoral fellowship in National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, in 2012, he joined Marquette University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. In 2015, he received the Way Klingler Young Scholar Award. In 2019, he received the NIH's prestigious Maximizing Investigators' Research Award (MIRA), a 5-year single-PI research grant. In 2020, he joined UNT as an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Department of Mathematics with an affiliation with the BioDiscovery Institute. Dr. Bozdag's research goal is to develop open source integrative computational tools to analyze high dimensional biological, clinical and environmental exposure datasets to infer context-specific gene regulatory interactions and modules, and to predict disease associated genes and patient-specific drug response.

Yangqing Deng

Yangqing Deng Yangqing Deng joined the department in Fall 2020 as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Deng graduated from the University of Minnesota with a PhD in biostatistics. Besides methodology research in statistical genetics, he also enjoys collaborating with people from different fields on medical and biological problems using statistical methods. To our regret, Dr. Deng resigned from UNT at the end of Spring 2021.

Helen Elwood

Helen Elwood Helen Elwood joined the department in Fall 2020 as a Lecturer. She received her PhD in mathematics from the University of Houston and has been teaching as an adjunct lecturer for UNT Math since 2014. She enjoys teaching many different classes across the undergraduate curriculum, especially Survey of Math, the Calculus sequence, and Linear Algebra. Some of her favorite parts of teaching are surprising students with new interesting concepts, and showing them areas of applications of mathematics.

Joseph Zielinski

Joseph Zielinski Joseph Zielinksi joined the department in Fall 2020 as a Visiting Assistant Professor. He earned BS and PhD degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Before coming to UNT he was the Zeev Nehari Visiting Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. His research interests are in descriptive set theory, especially in the complexity of analytic equivalence relations and the dynamics and geometry of Polish groups.


Several faculty members were awarded grants this year:

  • Pieter Allaart was awarded a Collaboration Grant for Mathematicians from the Simons Foundation for a duration of 5 years.
  • Helen Elwood was awarded a teaching development grant from UNT Career Connect for restructuring a course to include high impact teaching practices.
  • Yanyan He was awarded a grant from the US Army Research Laboratory (subcontracted from University of Utah). The title of her research project is Material Design under Uncertainty.


John Krueger

John Krueger The UNT Provost has recommended Dr. John Krueger for promotion to full professor. Dr. Krueger’s research interest is in mathematical logic, more specifically, in forcing, large cardinals, and combinatorial set theory. He has 37 publications in peer-reviewed journals in mathematics. He has graduated two Master's students (Thomas Gilton 2014 and Jose Chavez 2017) and one Ph.D. student (Jose Chavez 2020) and is currently advising two Ph.D. students. He is currently holding a five year Simon's Foundation Collaboration Grant (2019-2024) and formerly had a National Science Foundation Standard Grant (2015-2019). He started employment at UNT in 2009 as an Assistant Professor. He was granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor in 2015, and he was approved in Spring 2021 by the provost to be promoted to Full Professor starting September 1, 2021. Before coming to UNT he held postdoctoral positions at the University of California Berkeley (2006-2009) and the University of Vienna (2003-2006). He graduated with a Ph.D. in Mathematical Sciences from Carnegie Mellon University in 2003 under the supervision of James Cummings. He was on the organizing committees for the conferences BLAST 2015, RTG Conference in Logic and Dynamics in 2014, and the RTG Conference in Logic and Dynamics in 2012, which took place at UNT.

Huguette Tran

Huguette Tran The UNT Provost has recommended Dr. Huguette Tran for promotion to Principal Lecturer. Dr. Tran has taught many courses across the mathematics curriculum but her main focuses at UNT have been working with TAMS students, teaching Linear Algebra courses, and developing courses and seminars for aspiring actuaries. She has been the Director of the Actuarial Certificate program for the department since 2013 and has been instrumental in building UNT’s reputation as an attractive option for actuarial students. Dr. Tran also serves as an undergraduate adviser and has received both the department’s Teaching Award (2016), and Service Award (2017). Her employment at UNT began in 2010 as an adjunct; she was hired as a lecturer in 2010 and promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2016. Before coming to UNT she worked in both the actuarial science and software development fields, as well as teaching mathematics and software. Dr. Tran earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics from Tulane University, and a Ph.D. in Marketing and Logistics from UNT in 2016.

Number Facts

2020 Research by the Numbers

Alumni News

Where are they now?

Our alumni live and work all over the world. Here are some updates.

Graduate Student News

This year the department welcomed 19 new fully supported graduate students, 16 in Fall 2020 and 3 in Spring 2020. We also saw 9 students complete their degrees: Congratulations to all of them!

Undergraduate News

Math Club

The Math Club is devoted to promoting interest in mathematics and fellowship among students of all mathematical backgrounds. Meetings are at 1pm in GAB 473 to discuss math, play games, prepare for the Putnam exam, and to plan departmental picnics. The semester picnics take place at North Lakes Park.

Putnam Competition

The 2020 William Lowell Putnam Exam was held virtually. David Duhon took the Putnam and earned a score of 7 – great job David! The usual median score for the Putnam is 0, although this year it was a 2. The William Lowell Putnam exam is offered every year on the first Saturday in December to undergraduates and it is planed to go back to giving the exam in person in December, 2021. The problems are quite challenging; getting even 1 question correct is an achievement! For the last several years in the fall Dr. Allaart and Dr. Iaia have team taught Math 3010 – a one credit hour problem solving class which helps undergraduates prepare for the Putnam exam.

Texas Section of the MAA

The Texas Section of the MAA was to have its annual meeting at UNT in March 2020 but this was another casualty of Covid-19. UNT will get a do over and the 2022 annual Meeting of the Texas MAA will be held at UNT in the spring of 2022. The conference is geared a lot towards undergraduates and many of them give 10 minute presentations.

Problem of the Month

Every month during regular semesters, the math department and the math club feature the problem of the month competition. This contest is open to all currently enrolled undergraduate students. Students who submit correct solutions receive cash prizes and certificates of excellence. For more information, please see The students who participated and submitted correct answers from September 2020 until March 2020 are: Michalis Paizanis, Subiksha Sankar, Angela Yuan, Alejandro Castellanos, David Duhon, and Neel Shanmugam.

Incubator Program

The department has started the Incubator program in which faculty and grad students work with undergrads on research. The program results in several successful projects. Some of these projects have been presented at the STaRS (Students Talk Research Seminar) seminar, organized by Kiko Kawamura and Lior Fishman, in which undergrads give a presentation on some of the research they are conducting. These talks’ schedule is on the department’s website: This years STaRS seminars were given by:

  • Rilee Burden and Sydney Le (mentored by Dr. Lior Fishman and Dr. Houston Schuerger)
  • Tobey Mathis (mentored by Dr. Kiko Kawamura)
  • Kenzie Fontenot (mentored by Dr. Lior Fishman and Dr. Houston Schuerger)
  • Taylor Jones (UNT graduate student, mentored a group of undergraduates)
  • Nathan Dalaklis (UNT graduate student, shared his undergraduate research, mentored by Dr. Elizabeth Sattler)
  • Skylar Werner, Brandon Mather, and Andy Dilks (mentored by Dr. Lior Fishman and Sarah McCall)
  • Josiah Sweatt and Angela Yuan (mentored by Dr. Stephen Jackson, Dr. Nam Trang, and Cody Olsen)
Previously, Rilee Burden, Sydney Le, Noah Fredrickson, McKenzie Fontenot and August Sangalli gave talks in MAA conference at UT Tyler in November 2019.

Rilee and McKenzie also gave a talk at the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics in February 2020

2021 Department Awards and Scholarships

Faculty Awards

  • Faculty Research Award: Pieter Allaart
  • Faculty Teaching Award: Douglas Brozovic and Marc Grether
  • Faculty Service Award: Mary Ann Barber and William Cherry
  • Outstanding Adjunct Award: Benjamin Schwaighofer

Graduate Awards and Scholarships

  • Outstanding Graduate Student: Dillon Hanson
  • Academic Excellence Award: Jon Erickson
  • Outstanding Teaching Fellow: Colin Lawson
  • John Ed Allen Scholarship: Hyung Kang
  • Dan Mauldin Scholarship: Tekendra Bhatt
  • John Neuberger Scholarship: Aaron Jackson
  • Altermann Bradford Scholarship: Dillon Hanson

Undergraduate Awards and Scholarships

  • Outstanding Undergraduate Student: Dalton Pettway
  • Outstanding Student in Actuarial Science: Jerrimae Lopez
  • David Dawson Scholarship: Paulette Evans and Kyle Rosengartner
  • E.H. Hanson Scholarship: Kyle Rosengartner and Cameron Bernstein
  • Mildred Masters McCarty Scholarship: Cameron Bernstein and Margaret Otto
  • Roger L. Perry Scholarship: Margaret Otto and Suja Tiwari
  • Ram Lal Seekri Scholarship: Suja Tiwari and Paulette Evans

You Can Help!

Every year the Mathematics Department awards a number of scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students, made possible by your financial contributions. If you would like to support our efforts, please consider filling out this donation form. Thank you!

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