Mathemalchemy Symposium

Exploring the Intersections of Mathematics, Art, & Education

Friday, February 24th – 10 am to 4:00 pm
808 Gallery – 808 Commonwealth Ave. Boston, MA

Register Here


Participant bios below

10 am – Coffee, Pastries, & Social time
10:30 am – Welcome & Introduction to the Day – Li-Mei Lim (Boston University) & Ty Furman (Boston University)
10:45 am – Talk by Ingrid Daubechies (Duke University)
11:30 am – Panel – Math as a Source of Artistic Inspiration
Panelists: Gregory Gomez – Boston University, Bathsheba – Independent Artist, Erik Demaine – MIT, Thaddeus Beal – Independent Artist
12:15 pm – Light lunch
1:15 pm – Talk by Bronna Butler (Artist) – 

2:00 pm – Panel – Mathematicians’ Perspectives on Teaching with Art – Panelists: Diana Davis – Phillips Exeter Academy, Christine von Renesse – Westfield State University, Thomas Hull – Western New England University, Debbie Borkovitz  (Boston University) – Moderator
2:45 pm – Closing Talk by Edmund Harriss (University of Arkansas) –

3:30 pm – Reception

Biographies (alphabetical order)

Bathsheba likes to think about shapes. 3D printed steel is her primary medium along with subsurface laser damage in glass. The shapes she explores aren’t moldable, so most artmaking and manufacturing methods don’t work well for her which is why she got into 3D printing. Around the turn of the millennium a window opened, as 3D printing (which had been around for many years at that point) got cheaper and better. The technology suited her style, and her designs were among the first printed objects to be sold outside the industry.

Thaddeus Beal was educated at Yale, Stanford, and The Museum School. He has shown all over New England and in New York City, and is currently represented by the Soprafina Gallery, Boston. He has won three fellowships (and been a finalist twice) in the Mass Council competitions and one from the NE Arts Foundation. His work is is in collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Debbie Borkovitz is a Clinical Professor of Mathematics and Education in both the College of Arts and Science and the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. Debbie seeks to share mathematics in ways that are respectful, intellectually challenging, and joyful, and which especially welcome and support those who have previously been excluded.

Bronna Butler’s early interest in both the arts and science/math resulted in two rotating careers, one in art and another in finance/science. Her current artwork – multifaceted glass, mirror, and metal sculptures focusing on recreational mathematics, portraits of mathematicians and physicists, and science in general – unites her two passions. She strives to include puzzles, enigmas, and optical illusions in her pieces. Stylistically, her glass and oil painting techniques are derived from the Baroque and Renaissance periods when artists were involved in the “science” of the arts (the chemistry of their paints/materials, precise anatomy, and perspective, etc.) and the content and purpose of art frequently included science and mathematics.

Ingrid Daubechies is a Belgian physicist and mathematician and the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University. She is best known for her work with wavelets in image compression. Daubechies is recognized for her study of the mathematical methods that enhance image-compression technology. She was awarded a Leroy P. Steele prize for exposition in 1994 for her book Ten Lectures on Wavelets. From 1992 to 1997 she was a fellow of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronical Engineers.

Diane Davis is passionate about transforming math courses, at every level of education, to active learning. To teach her own college courses, she built on Exeter’s materials, modifying them and also writing her own problem books from scratch. Since 2012, she has taught courses for high school math teachers at Exeter’s Anja S. Greer Conference on Mathematics and Technology, on how to write and teach problem-based curricula. In 2016, she did a study comparing the pedagogical effectiveness of discussion-based and lecture-based math courses. She showed that while students in the two types of courses learned a similar amount of material, students in discussion-based courses learned more communication skills, and chose to take significantly more math classes in subsequent semesters than those in lecture-based courses. 

Erik Demaine is a Professor in Computer Science at MIT.  Demaine’s research interests range throughout algorithms, from data structures for improving web searches to the geometry of understanding how proteins fold to the computational difficulty of playing games. He received a MacArthur Fellowship (“genius grant”) as a “computational geometer tackling and solving difficult problems related to folding and bending—moving readily between the theoretical and the playful, with a keen eye to revealing the former in the latter”. He appears in the origami documentaries Between the Folds and NOVA’s The Origami Revolution. He cowrote a book about the theory of folding (Geometric Folding Algorithms), and a book about the computational complexity of games (Games, Puzzles, and Computation). Together with his father Martin, his interests span the connections between mathematics and art, including curved-crease sculptures in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Renwick Gallery in the Smithsonian.

Gregory Gomez is a sculptor and painter and an Associate Faculty and Chair of Undergraduate Sculpture in Boston University’s College of Fine Art. His works reference nature, found graphic information, lost language, references to mathematics and other archetypical forms to inform his work. The resulting sculptures, paintings and drawings are mysterious, semi-scientific messages filled with symbology that draw viewers in with their cryptic meaning, visually and tactilly rich materials. His body of public sculpture can be found at Harvard Medical School, The Challenger Learning Center in Tallahassee, Florida, and Addison Elevated Train Station and Austin Branch Library in Chicago, Illinois. He has permanent installations in the Williamson College of Business Administration, in Ohio, and most recently completed commissions for Grinnell College, in Iowa and the Transit Center in Montpelier, Vermont.

Edmund Harris is a mathematician, teacher, artist and maker, working at the University of Arkansas. He has done research on the geometry of tilings and patterns, such as the Penrose tiling, but these days he usually describes myself as pursuing unusual applications of mathematics. Some of these are really quite traditional, for example working with physicists to model the geometry of two dimensional crystals, but others are more exotic controlling robots and working with architects and designers. In all this he is driven by a passion to communicate the beauty and utility of mathematical thinking.

Tom Hull is a leading expert is a leading expert on the mathematics of origami and has given talks on this topic all over the world.  His research uses graph theory, combinatorics, geometry, and other areas of math, with applications in engineering, materials science, art, and education.  He is an associate professor at Western New England University, and one of his origami creations, the Five Intersecting Tetrahedra, was awarded in 2000 by the British Origami Society as one of the top 10 origami models of all-time.  He regularly uses origami in his math classes and also does research with undergraduate students on origami-math.

Li-Mei Lim (Mathemalchemy at BU collaborator) is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Boston University. She earned her BS from MIT and her PhD from Brown University, both in mathematics. Her research is in the field of analytic number theory and automorphic forms. Her other professional interests include mathematical education and outreach. She also currently serves as the Executive Director for PROMYS, a summer program for talented high school students.

Christine von Renesse is a passionate teacher, who loves teaching at all levels — from elementary school through College. She uses open inquiry techniques in all her classes, believing that this is the most effective and enjoyable way of learning and teaching. Her students learn to take responsibility, to think independently and to enjoy the endeavor of challenging questions with growing confidence. The mathematics for liberal arts classes at Westfield State University allow Christine to bring her passion for dance and music into her mathematics life, exploring the deeper connections together with her students. In the mathematics courses for future K-12 teachers she brings her students into the classrooms, collaborating with the teachers in finding effective ways to explore mathematics together.