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TTU News

Math is not usually associated with emotion, but mathematicians and computer scientists in this country are facing “math wars,” according to Margaret H. Wright, who will speak at this year’s Harry and Joan Stonecipher Lecture on Science and Society.

Wright, Silver Professor of the Computer Science and Mathematics Department in the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University, will speak at 7 p.m., Nov. 10, in Derryberry Auditorium. Her topic, "Math Wars and Offshoring: Hype, Politics, Public Opinion, Mathematics, and Computer Science," will address the emotion associated with math and computer science issues in the United States.

"Everyone agrees that research and education in mathematics and computer science are important — many would say crucial — to the future prosperity, health, and security of the United States,” said Wright. “Because both math and computer science are ‘hard science,’ it might seem that discussions about related policies would focus on facts, careful studies, and a rational assessment of alternatives.

“On the contrary, polarizing 'math wars' about math education have led to bitter personal confrontations in many states, and overheated news stories about 'offshoring' the migration overseas of U.S. jobs in computer science assert completely opposite realities,” she said.

Wright said she will shed light on the current status of several questions and explain why the public should care and be informed about them.

“There are several questions to address,” Wright said. “What are the issues in the math wars'? Why is there so much emotion about math education? Is there or is there not a serious problem with offshoring? Should U.S. students abandon computer science in favor of fields in which their future employment is more secure?”

Wright served at the Computing Sciences Research Center at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies (formerly AT&T Bell Laboratories) from 1988-2001, where she was named a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff in 1993 and a Bell Labs Fellow in 1999. She served as head of the Scientific Computing Research Department from 1997-2000.
From 1976-1988 she was a research staff member in the Systems Optimization Laboratory Department of Operations Research, Stanford University. She is the co-author of two books on optimization and has published numerous scientific papers. She has received a variety of prestigious awards, including being elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1997 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001.

She is serving on several committees for the Office of Science, Department of Energy, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Science Foundation.
She chairs the 2006 Nevanlinna Prize Committee for the International Mathematical Union and serves on the President's Committee for the National Medal of Science.

The Stonecipher Lecture, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored
by Harry Stonecipher and his wife, Joan, to fund the appearance of leading scientists like Wright to speak about the interrelationship between science and contemporary society.

Stonecipher, a 1960 Tennessee Tech physics graduate, worked for major industrial firms including General Motors, General Electric, Sundstrand and McDonnell Douglas before becoming president and chief operating officer of The Boeing Co.
For more information, contact TTU's College of Arts and Sciences at 372-3119.