Faculty Excellence Awards
Faculty Excellence Awardselections are made by the Executive Committee of the department. While the decision is based primarily on research excellence, teaching and service contributions are also taken into account. There are always a large number of deserving colleagues; the committee often (but not always) gives preference to assistant and associate professors. You will find below brief descriptions of the work of this year's Faculty Excellence Award recipients, Chuck Doran and Isabella Novik.
Chuck Doran is a geometer and string theorist. He went to Harvard for graduate school, studying several subjects with several advisers. He studied differential geometry and theoretical physics with Shing-Tung Yau, and number theory and algebraic geometry with Barry Mazur. It turns out that each of these subjects, even number theory, has become an important ingredient in Chuck's current field, string theory, and his knowledge of these fields helps him stay in the leading pack. After graduating from Harvard, Chuck spent a year at the Pennsylvania State University and then landed a prestigious VIGRE Postdoctoral Fellowship at Columbia University, where he started a fruitful collaboration with John Morgan, a well-known topologist. They are studying the topology and geometry of Calabi-Yau threefolds, a topic central to the mathematical side of string dualities.
In the short time Chuck has spent here he has developed close relations with the string theorists in the physics department and co-organized two international math/string workshops here in Seattle. One of these, "K-Theory and Supersymmetry," quickly led to a grand collaboration that now involves three west-coast mathematicians and three east-coast physicists at various institutions. Besides this, Chuck is collaborating with several mathematicians from across the country.
Chuck has also taken this collaborative attitude to teaching: he is now team-teaching a class on "Exceptional Structures in Mathematics" with Henry Cohn, a researcher in the Theory Group of Microsoft Research.
One of Chuck's favorite pastimes, other than working, is riding his bicycle on the Burke-Gilman Trail. Chuck's brother, Brent, is also a mathematician, with a position at Oxford University. While Brent was in town for the decennial AMS algebraic geometry conference this summer, the two brothers took part in another classic Seattle activity: attending the full Ring Cycle in the new opera house.
Isabella Novik joined the UW Math department in 2001 as an Acting Assistant Professor after having been a Morrey Assistant Professor at the University of California in Berkeley. Since 2004 she has been an Assistant Professor in the Math department at UW.
Novik received her award-winning Ph.D. in 1999 from Hebrew University in Israel under the supervision of Gil Kalai. Her research is centered around the study of face (f)-vectors of simplicial complexes, a major theme in algebraic and geometric combinatorics with deep connections to commutative algebra and algebraic topology. Her contributions to this field extend fundamental results by some of the best combinatorialists in the world: Richard Stanley (MIT), Lou Billera (Cornell), Anders Björner (KTH, Sweden), Peter McMullen (University College, London), Victor Klee (UW) and Gil Kalai (Hebrew University, Israel).
Novik's first paper, "Upper bound theorems for homology manifolds," proved the Upper Bound Conjecture for a large class of triangulated manifolds. This conjecture, put forward by Motzkin in 1957, states that the maximal f-vector of a d-dimensional simplicial polytope with n facets is achieved by cyclic polytopes. It was proved for polytopes by Klee and McMullen in 1964 and 1970 and extended to simplicial spheres by Stanley in 1975. In her 2005 paper, "On face numbers of manifolds with symmetry," she further extended these results to non-oriented manifolds and manifolds with group actions. Her most recent work ventures into analytic techniques for proving results in discrete geometry. She recently became one of four chief editors of the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics, a central journal in combinatorics.
Isabella Novik regularly teaches both graduate and undergraduate classes and is currently supervising Andy Frohmader's Ph.D. work.