News and updates for UIUC Department of Mathematics alumni and friends
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[ Alumni + Friends Math Monthly | September 2021 ]

A student passes by Altgeld Hall as they head to the first classes of the day for the fall semester.  |  Photo by Fred Zwicky, UI Public Affairs

From the Department of Mathematics chair

Vera Hur  

It is my great honor to introduce myself as the chair of the Department of Mathematics. I began my new role on Aug. 16 after serving for 11 years as a faculty member of the department. I look forward to leading the department during this critically important era.

I’m going to be doing everything I can over the next weeks and months to better understand this big and beautiful department. In the future, I anticipate that I will be sharing many new ideas and initiatives that the department is engaging in. As an interdisciplinary researcher, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside people from all across the campus. I'd like the department to foster a broader view of what it means to be a mathematician. Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the department is really one of the four or five priorities that I have identified for my leadership. 

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my predecessor, Jeremy Tyson, who played pivotal roles in the long-awaited renovation of Altgeld and Illini Halls and our participation as a founding member of the newest National Science Foundation (NSF) mathematical sciences research institute. Jeremy will take with him the profound appreciation and respect of the department for his effort to lead the department during the COVID-19 pandemic as he moves to the NSF as a program director in the analysis program.

Vera Hur signature

Professor Vera Hur
Chair, Department of Mathematics




Mathematics faculty, alumnus receive ASTIN Best Paper Award

Architectural detail, and lettering above north exterior doorway of Altgeld Hall.  |  Photo by UI Public Affairs  

A paper by Professor Runhuan Feng, alumnus Chongda Liu (MS, ’16, financial engineering; PhD, ’21, mathematics), and Stephen Taylor, assistant professor of finance in the Martin Tuchman School of Management at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, was one of two winners of this year's ASTIN Colloquium Best Paper Award. The paper, “Peer-to-Peer Risk Sharing with an Application to Flood Risk Pooling,” was commended for introducing a novel algorithmic approach to the construction of decentralized risk pooling mechanisms, a method that could inspire innovation in financial services. ASTIN is the Non-Life Section of the International Actuarial Association.
View the paper →


University of Illinois welcomes record-breaking incoming class

First-year students explore their majors at this year's LAS Liftoff event on the Main Quad. This year's incoming class is the largest since 2008 in the College of LAS. (Photo by Melissa Kuhl).  

With a first-year student enrollment of 8,303, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has welcomed a record-breaking incoming class for the 2021-22 academic year. The new class brings total student enrollment to 56,299, the largest in university history.

The trend is mirrored in the College of LAS, where first-year enrollment this fall stands at 2,678. It’s the highest since 2008, when the Division of General Studies, home for thousands of undeclared students, moved out of LAS to become a campus-wide unit. Total student enrollment in the College of LAS is 14,712, which includes 12,160 undergraduates and 2,552 graduate students, according to the Division of Management Information.

“We're thrilled and proud to welcome the class of 2025,” said Venetria K. Patton, Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS Designate. “This year's strong LAS enrollment is testament to both the value of the liberal arts and sciences and the resilience of faculty, staff, and students during this challenging time. We continue to work together toward a brighter future.”
Learn more →


One big week for students

One Big Week: Supporting our students, Sept. 12-18, 2021  

Make your gift to help transform Illinois students’ lives as we partner with our Big Ten peers in #OneBigWeek for students, Sept. 12-18! From the start, serving students has been at the forefront of the Big Ten universities’ missions. We believe students deserve access to a quality education, positive campus experiences, and fulfilling opportunities to equip them to become the next generation of leaders.
Learn more →



Math Library leadership: retired librarian Tim Cole and current head librarian Alex Cabada  

After 20 years of service, Tim Cole retired as math librarian in December 2020. As lead librarian since 2000, Cole expertly guided the Mathematics Library throughout his time and we all thank him for his dedicated service to the department and university. 

Following Cole's retirement, Professor Elisandro “Alex” Cabada was named interim head of the Mathematics Library, beginning Dec. 16, 2020. Cabada holds faculty appointments as an assistant professor in the University Library and Carle Illinois College of Medicine. He has been working at the University Library since 2000 in various roles. Cabada is also a lifelong Illini, having completed both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the UIUC. His research interests include studying the barriers to access, affordances, and integration of emerging and immersive technologies in research and instruction in higher education. 




Past and present MDAB members gather for virtual reunion

A screen shot of the virtual MDAB reunion held on Zoom.  

The Department of Mathematics held a reunion of current and former members of the Mathematics Development Advisory Board (MDAB) over Zoom on Aug. 6. The board was formed in 2010 and now has more than 45 current and former members, almost all of whom are alumni of the Department of Mathematics. 

Reunion attendance was strong with almost 20 current and former members of MDAB in attendance, in addition to seven participants from campus. 

The reunion was conducted in the spirit of a happy hour, and a good time was had by all. Participants who had not seen each other for many years were able to catch up with each other and engage in lively conversation on a wide range of topics. The reunion also included an update about the renovation and replacement of Altgeld and Illini Halls

The idea of the reunion developed from the work of the Alumni Engagement Committee of the MDAB, which has been identifying alumni cohorts for similar reunions to be held in the future.  

The Alumni Engagement Committee welcomes suggestions for alumni cohorts for future reunions. Please send your ideas and suggestions to Professor Sheldon Katz, MDAB chair, at
Share your ideas and suggestions →

Share your alumni news!

Have news you would like to share with your fellow alums in an upcoming issue of Math Monthly? Submit your items using our online form.
Send us your news →




Memories of Altgeld Hall

Cover of the fall 2021 issue of LAS News magazine  

Altgeld Hall is an academic crossroads, with students from virtually every college on campus taking class there to lay a foundation for their careers. The fall 2021 issue of LAS News Magazine shares some alumni memories that have helped make Altgeld the campus icon it is today.
Learn more →



R. Ranga Rao  

Professor Emeritus R. Ranga Rao passed away Aug. 27, 2021, in Chennai, India. A prominent mathematician from India, Rao joined the Department of Mathematics faculty in 1961. He was recognized for his contributions to statistics, Lie groups, and Lie algebras. After 40 years of service, he retired in 2001 and moved back to India in 2015.
View the obituary →



Dean Patton kicks off a new academic year

The Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Venetria K. Patton welcomed in the fall semester with a visit to Altgeld Hall.
Watch the recording →



Mathematics library book stacks in Altgeld Hall.  |  Photo by UI Public Affairs  

The Mathematics Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has one of the finest subject-specific collections in the U.S. It includes materials in both pure and applied mathematics, the mathematics of computation, and mathematical statistics. This month, let’s test your knowledge on this outstanding UIUC resource and campus gem.
Test your knowledge →



Fall Statistics & Mathematics Career Forum | Sept. 21, 2021

Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to attend the career forum to meet and network with various companies who may be hiring for full-time, part-time, or internship work. Interested in learning how your company can participate? Contact AJ Schmidt, academic program coordinator for the Office of Undergraduate Studies, at

Homecoming 2021 | Oct. 4–9, 2021

Save the date for this year's homecoming, “Close or Apart, We’re Illini at Heart.” Learn more about this year’s plans, events, and updates on the university’s Homecoming website.

2021 MDAB Annual Meeting | Oct. 22, 2021

Members of the Mathematics Development Advisory Board (MDAB) will gather for the 2021 MDAB annual meeting.

Alumni Awards Nomination Deadline | Nov. 15, 2021

Each year, the Department of Mathematics recognizes exceptional alumni who have made significant contributions through outstanding professional achievement in academia, research, and industry. 
Learn more and nominate today →

LAS Alumni Events

View the upcoming alumni events hosted by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at

Seminar & Event Calendar

View all the upcoming seminars, colloquia, and events hosted by the department at

University of Illinois Alumni Association Calendar

View all University of Illinois-sponsored alumni events and activities, including clubs, colleges, and departments at

University of Illinois Calendars

View a variety of Illinois event, academic, and programming calendars at

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