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March 13, 2008

National organization honors math professor


By Tim Crosby

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CARBONDALE, Ill. — A national mathematics organization has honored a professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale for his achievements as a scholar.

The Mathematical Association of America recently named Salah E. A. Mohammed as this year's David Blackwell Lecturer for the group's annual event. Mohammed is a professor and distinguished scholar in the Department of Mathematics in the College of Science.

Mohammed, who in 2006 was honored as SIUC's outstanding scholar, will give the lecture during MAA's annual MathFest, set for July 30-Aug. 2 in Madison, Wis. MathFest is one of the largest summer meetings for mathematicians throughout the country, drawing more than 1,400 last year to San Jose, Calif.

Mohammed will give a lecture titled "Random Dynamics and Memory: Structure Within Chaos," at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1. You can find an abstract of the lecture at http://sfde.math.siu.edu/Blackwellabstract1.pdf.

The National Association of Mathematicians, a non-profit group that holds increasing the number of mathematicians among underrepresented populations as one of its goals, sponsors the Blackwell Lecturer. The lecture is named for David H. Blackwell, a noted African-American mathematician who earned his doctorate in 1941 at the University of Illinois at age 22, making him one of the first blacks to do so. The first such lecture occurred in 1994.

Blackwell became a professor of statistics at the University of California Berkeley in 1954, serving as chair of that department for years. He broke down many barriers for black mathematicians during his career.

Mohammed is a world leader in the field of stochastic analysis, which looks at random systems and variables as they cause changes over time. Examples of such systems include weather patterns, sporting events and stock markets, all of which are influenced by numerous factors and simple chance. He focuses his work on understanding such systems and predicting in mathematical terms how they will likely evolve.

Andrew G. Earnest, chair of the mathematics department at SIUC, said Mohammed is well deserving of the honor, which recognizes not only his fundamental research contributions, but also his talent for mathematical exposition.

"The lecture will provide valuable visibility for our department in the national mathematical community, particularly among members of groups traditionally underrepresented in our discipline," Earnest said. "As many students, at both undergraduate and graduate levels, attend the MathFest, this could have long-term benefits for our efforts to recruit diverse, highly qualified faculty and graduate students to SIUC."

Mohammed joined the faculty at SIUC in 1984 after earning his doctorate in mathematics in 1976 at the University of Warwick, England. He became a full professor at SIUC in 1989. Past honors include holding a visiting professorship at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at UC Berkeley. He also was a scientist in residence at Mittag-Leffler Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. The National Science Foundation has provided continuous support to Mohammed during his time at SIUC.

He earned his bachelor's degree in 1970 at the University of Khartoum in Sudan and his master's degree in 1972 at the University of Dundee in Scotland.

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