Rice University Math

Recent Department News

Fall 2016

Professor Veech passed away August 30. Professor William Austin Veech from Rice University passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, August 30, 2016, at age 77 in Houston, Texas.

Professor Veech was born on Christmas Eve in 1938 in Detroit, Michigan, and obtained his BA from Dartmouth College in 1960 and earned his Ph.D. in 1963 under the supervision of Salomon Bochner at Princeton University. He joined the faculty of Rice University in 1969. He served as department chair for three years between 1982 and 1986 and held an endowed chair since 1988, Milton Brockett Porter Chair, 1988-2003; Edgar Odell Lovett Chair, since 2003.

Professor Veech believed in the importance of developing one's own unique perspective: all of his more than 60 papers were single-authored, and with a characteristic blend of dynamics, geometry and deep analytic technique, they often transformed whole subjects. Much of his earlier work is related to topological dynamics. Two central subjects of his research are interval exchange transformations and geodesic flows on translation surfaces.

In 1982 Professor Veech had solved (coincidentally with H. Masur) the Keane’s conjecture, which stated that typical minimal interval exchange maps are uniquely ergodic. In an earlier work, Veech constructed natural examples of minimal but not necessarily uniquely ergodic dynamical systems; in particular, he showed that certain delicate Diophantine conditions are intimately connected to ergodic properties of these systems.

Veech’s zippered rectangle construction for interval exchange transformations and Rauzy-Veech induction, used in his argument, became a cornerstone of study in the case of translation surfaces and the Teichmuller geodesic flows.

Perhaps Veech’s most influential contribution in mathematics (1989) concerned what is now called "Veech surfaces”, whose dynamical properties induce subsets of the heavily-studied Riemann’s moduli space of curves with astonishing properties. The study of such surfaces (and their generalizations) has become one of the most active topics in mathematics today.

One remarkable property of Veech surfaces is what is now called “Veech’s dichotomy”: every infinite (geodesic) orbit is either periodic or it is uniformly distributed in the surface. In particular, “Veech’s dichotomy” applies for billiard dynamical systems in some plane polygons, including all regular polygons.

Most recently, Veech made contributions related to Sarnak's conjecture concerning Mobius orthogonality.

Professor Veech was an Inaugural Fellow of the American Mathematics Society. He worked at the Institute for Advanced Study during his numerous visits there during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. His publications spanned more than 50 years. He was an excellent and generous mentor and a great friend to his students, colleagues and anyone else who had the honor of meeting him. He will be fondly remembered by all people who knew him.

Texas Analysis and Mathematical Physics Symposium 2016 was held at Rice on October 21-23, 2016. For more details check the conference website.

Spring 2016

Rice Program in Mathematics for students entering the 10th or 11th grade in the Fall of 2016 was held on the Rice campus June 13-June 24, 2016. More information can be found on the program website.

Patterns, Math & You for students entering the 8th or 9th grade in the Fall of 2016 was held on the Rice campus May 31-June 10, 2016. More information can be found on the program website.

Topology in dimension 3.5: A conference in memory of Tim Cochran was held at Rice on June 1-4, 2016. For more details check the conference website.

103nd Commencement May 13-14 - Congratulations to our 2016 graduates!

Analysis of PDEs of Fluid Mechanics was held at Rice on May 9-12, 2016. For more details check the conference website.

Cochran Prize in Mathematics - To honor Professor Tim Cochran, the Department has established a memorial fund to create a Cochran Prize in Mathematics which will be awarded to an outstanding female undergraduate or graduate student in mathematics. For more information on how to contribute to the fund, please see this webpage.

Honoring Rice Graduate Claude LeBrun - After receiving his BA degree from Rice in 1977, Claude LeBrun went on to have an accomplished career in Mathematics. To recognize his achievements, a Conference on Differential Geometry honoring Claude LeBrun's mathematical contributions will be held in Montreal in July of this year.

2016 Wolfe Lecture in Mathematics - Dr. John Pardon (Stanford University) presented this year's Wolfe Lecture on Thursday, April 14. Details can be found on the Lecture homepage.

Letao Zhang recommended for NSF Mathematical Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship - May 2014 graduate Letao Zhang has been recommended for the prestigious NSF postdoc research fellowship. This award supports future leaders in Mathematics by facilitating their participation in postdoctoral research environments that will have maximal impact on their future scientific development. Zhang proposed continuing her research in algebraic geometry at Stony Brook, where she is currently a James H. Simons Instructor, under the guidance of Robert Lazarsfeld.