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Bard College Mathematics Professor Gregory D. Landweber Awarded Grant for Research in Supersymmetry

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.––Gregory D. Landweber, associate professor of mathematics at Bard, received a collaboration grant from the Simons Foundation for his research project “Supersymmetry and K-Theory.” The $35,000 grant will support collaboration, travel, and research expenses for Landweber over five years and includes discretionary funds for Bard’s Mathematics Program to enhance the research atmosphere of the department.

Landweber's research explores the mathematical theory of supersymmetry. In physics, there are two types of elementary particles: bosons, which typically carry force and energy, such as photons; and fermions, the particles that make up matter, such as electrons and quarks. Supersymmetry is the principle that this dichotomy is not accidental, but rather is due to a requirement that the universe contain both bosons and fermions, paired off as supersymmetric partners. Supersymmetry is a vital ingredient in string theory, and it elegantly explains the appearance of both types of particles in nature. Landweber and his collaborators are attempting to classify all of the possible collections of particles that can appear in a supersymmetric physical theory using diagrams they call “Adinkras,” graphs with vertices corresponding to the particles in the theory and edges corresponding to the supersymmetry pairings. This project also involves the representation theory of Clifford algebras, error-correcting codes, and K-theory.

“Identifying the symmetry that underlies a problem allows us to simplify that problem,” says Landweber. “In mathematical physics, and in particular, string theory, supersymmetry is a symmetry between fermions and bosons. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) is currently attempting to find the first evidence for supersymmetry. My Simons Foundation award supports my collaboration with a team of mathematicians and physicists who are distilling the algebra of supersymmetry into mnemonic diagrams, which can be studied by Bard undergraduates and my summer research students.”

About the Mathematics Program at Bard
Mathematics is at the core of human civilization and is the cornerstone of all modern science and technology. The Mathematics Program at Bard has three main functions: to provide students in the program with the opportunity to study the primary areas of contemporary mathematics; to provide physical and social science majors with the necessary mathematical tools for work in their disciplines; and to introduce all students to serious and interesting mathematical ideas and their applications.
    For students who choose to major in mathematics, our program combines high academic standards with a great deal of flexibility. As part of their graduation requirements, students engage in a yearlong research program (Senior Project) in mathematics. Each research project is individually tailored to meet the interests of the student, and a student often chooses his/her topic with guidance from the faculty as opposed to being required to work on the current research interests of the professor. Additionally, standard course requirements are balanced with the needs and interests of each student through Bard’s moderation process. In particular, students can tailor their course of studies toward either the more pure or the more applied aspects of mathematics.
    At Bard we do not force mathematics students to fit into a preexisting mold. Students who wish to apply to graduate school in mathematics are encouraged to do so, and will leave Bard well educated; students who want to study mathematics as undergraduates, but who are not aiming for careers in mathematics, are equally welcome. Indeed, we prefer our mix of diverse student interests to a homogeneous student body. In particular, we encourage students majoring in mathematics to take advantage of the strong programs at Bard outside the sciences, particularly the arts. We have had mathematics majors who have double majored or completed a concentration in a field outside the sciences, such as theater, studio arts, or economics.
    Bard’s Mathematics Program gives our students an incredible level of individual attention, both in the availability of faculty members for discussion outside class, as well as the possibility of tutorials, independent study, and individualized senior projects. Because our faculty is dedicated to teaching whatever it is that our students need, a look at our catalogue will reveal a well-thought out selection of courses at all levels. The faculty members at Bard want to teach, and the students want to learn; in that situation, great things can happen.

For more information about the Mathematics Program at Bard College, please visit

About the Simons Foundation
The Simons Foundation is a private foundation based in New York City, incorporated in 1994 by Jim and Marilyn Simons. The Simons Foundation’s mission is to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences. The foundation sponsors a range of programs that aim to promote a deeper understanding of our world.

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This event was last updated on 08-28-2012