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April 5, 2006

Mohammed named SIUC's Outstanding Scholar

By K.C. Jaehnig

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Salah E. A. Mohammed

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Probability theorist Salah E. A. Mohammed, professor of mathematics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is the University's 2006 Outstanding Scholar.

He will receive $7,500 in cash, $7,500 in professional development support, a wristwatch and a framed certificate under SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler's "Excellence Through Commitment Awards Program" established in 2004. The honor also allows him to use the title "Distinguished Scholar" after his name.

Mohammed will be honored at the Chancellor's Excellence Through Commitment recognition dinner on April 27.

Mohammed specializes in stochastic analysis, a mathematical study of the dynamics of random variables that focuses on random changes taking place over time.

Stochastic systems – the weather, the stock market and such – are influenced by many factors, including chance. The effects of some of those chance happenings don't become apparent until later, sometimes much later. But they can't be ignored because they will play a part in what happens in the system on down the road. Most of Mohammed's research focuses on trying to understand these systems, figure out how they're likely to evolve and describe his findings in mathematical terms.

While the intricacies of his work are beyond the ken of people outside the field of mathematics, other researchers can — and do —draw upon his results to further their own work in such fields as meteorology, engineering, ecology, oceanography and even finance, among others.

"Salah is an extraordinarily gifted mathematician with an excellent track record in research, especially on stochastic partial differential equations, an increasingly important area for applications, which is currently undergoing rapid theoretical developments," wrote Aubrey Truman, head of mathematics at the University of Swansea in Wales (UK), in a letter supporting Mohammed's nomination for the SIUC award.

Calling him a "leading world expert" on stochastic functional differential equations, Truman noted that a research monograph on that subject, published in 1984, is "regarded as the classic text pioneering methods which are now standard…These results have been the basis for many existing new developments in this area."

Several researchers, among them Michael Cranston, a mathematics professor at the University of California, Irvine, cited this monograph and a second as "definitive texts. In addition, Cranston wrote that Mohammed "has written many articles on the subject (of stochastic delay equations), that have appeared in first-rate mathematical journals (such as Journal of Functional Analysis, Duke Mathematical Journal, Annals of Probability, and Probability Theory and Related Fields). His work has extended many of the most sophisticated ideas from probability theory…to stochastic delay equations."

Peter Imkeller of the Institute for Mathematics at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, not only noted Mohammed's "impressive spectrum of research papers" (he is the author of 37 journal articles) but pointed as well to his "extraordinary" scientific standing internationally.

"This is strongly underlined by numerous invitations to give courses and lecture series on his research at various conferences and meetings," Imkeller wrote.

"This clearly indicates his strengths a world leading scholar."

Many reviewers pointed to Mohammed's yearlong research professorship during 1997-98 at the University of California, Berkeley's Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, an intensely competitive award granted to only a few top mathematicians.

Several also noted his success in obtaining grants. He is the recipient of continuous funding from the National Science Foundation since 1989; his most recent, grant a five-year award, runs through 2007 and is supporting a long-term study of broad aspects of finite- and infinite-dimensional stochastic dynamic systems.

Mohammed came to SIUC in 1984 as a visiting associate professor in mathematics, joining the faculty permanently in 1985. He became a full professor in 1989.

He earned his bachelor's degree in 1970 from the University of Khartoum in Sudan, his master's in 1972 from the University of Dundee in Scotland and his doctorate in 1976 from the University of Warwick in England.

Seeking and celebrating faculty excellence are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

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