“I draw a lot of pleasure and satisfaction in seeing how mathematical models and concepts can be applied in real-world systems,” says UMass Amherst’s Panos Kevrekidis, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, who was recently elected to the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, one of the world’s premier learned societies. 

Panos Kevrekidis
Panos Kevrekidis

Kevrekidis, whose work is an interdisciplinary mix of applied mathematics and physics, is an expert on nonlinear waves, which occur widely throughout nature, from acoustics and cancer to hydrodynamics and atomic physics. “The beauty of waves,” he says, “is that they apply to many different areas of science and engineering.”  They are challenging to model, because their patterns are complex and often subject to instabilities, but they also are fundamental to well-balanced, coherent structures. “I find all this fascinating,” says Kevrekidis.

Kevrekidis is as comfortable in the world of physics as he is in the world of applied mathematics: his Ph.D. was in physics, but his advisor was a mathematician and he always took all the math electives that he could cram into his disciplinary training in physics. Though the world has not always welcomed interdisciplinary work, Kevrekidis says that times are changing for the better, “because people are realizing the importance of cross- and interdisciplinary work, recognizing the value of intellectual diversity.”

“I am grateful and humbled to have received this honor,” he says. “I do what I do because of the excitement and joy of the research enterprise and the gratification in seeing young people emerge from UMass Amherst who will carry the sciences into the future. For instance, I am delighted that my first Honors Thesis undergraduate student, Heather Harrington, is now a full professor at the University of Oxford and a director of the Max Planck Institute in Dresden, Germany, while my first graduate student, Zoi Rapti, is now a full professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My colleagues and I do what we do not for these honors, but because of the ability to create new research, to nurture a new generation of increasingly diverse students, while also continuing to learn from past generations of scientists.”

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