June 09, 2004

Faculty member wins prestigious fellowship

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An assistant professor of math at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is receiving a prestigious fellowship to continue her theoretical study of aspects of a far-reaching mathematical program.

Dubravka Ban is the recipient of a research fellowship from Germany's Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The nonprofit foundation, which dates to 1860, provides research fellowships and research awards to highly qualified non-German scholars and scientists.

"This is a very exciting thing for Dubravka," said Andrew G. Earnest, who chairs the University's mathematics department. "She is just kind of getting some momentum going in her research career and the Humboldt Fellowship will be a tremendous boost for her."

Ban's fellowship, which begins Aug. 1, is for 12 months.

Ban will conduct her research at the University of Muenster and center on the Langland program, a systematic approach to integrating topics from different mathematical subject areas. The program, which has been a very active research topic since the late 1960s, describes connections of seemingly unrelated concepts between number theory, representation theory, algebraic geometry and automorphic forms, said Earnest.

Ban's area of research is primarily the representation theory, which is part of abstract algebra. Representation theory has applications in physics and chemistry, she said.

"I am very happy for being selected to receive a Humboldt Fellowship. It will be wonderful to spend a whole year dedicated to the research," said Ban.

She said it is "extremely important" to talk to other mathematicians, share ideas and clarify concepts.

"The Mathematics Institute at the University of Muenster is very active, they have lots of visitors," she said, adding that her host, Peter Schneider, is "one of the leading scientists in my area."

Ban, a native of Croatia, is currently in that country. She is an invited lecturer in the upcoming Third Croatian Congress of Mathematics, June 16-18, in Split, Croatia.

She has been as SIUC since 2001, when she served as a visiting assistant professor. She has been an assistant professor at the University since 2002.

She earned her bachelor's degree in mathematics at the University of Split. She earned her master's and doctoral degrees in mathematics at the University of Zagreb. Before coming to SIUC, Ban was a visiting assistant professor for two years at Purdue University.

She has taught math classes at all levels from basic calculus to graduate-level courses, and participates in all aspects of the department's programs, said Earnest.

"She is just a wonderful colleague in every sense of the word. She is a wonderful classroom teacher," he said.

Ban's selection also means recognition for the department, said Earnest.

"These Humboldt Fellowships are recognized as going to very top young people in their fields," he said. "It's a very early recognition in a person's career that these are people who have the potential to be the stars in their field in the future. There is no question that just the selection is very prestigious for her and the University."

The recognition will also help Ban compete for research grants from federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, said Earnest.

"That kind of funding is very competitive and it's very difficult for young people to break in and start getting that kind of funding," he said. "This is the sort of thing that we are hoping will help to set her apart a little from so many other young people who are doing good research work."

Mathematics professor Salah-Eldin A. Mohammed is a previous Humboldt Fellowship recipient.

Supporting and fostering faculty excellence are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the University's development by the time it reaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.