Math Dept. Partners Up With Tsinghua University
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013 02:09
The Boston College Mathematics Department has become one of nine math departments in the nation to enter into a partnership with Tsinghua University in Beijing, a move that the University hopes will both contribute to the growth of the department and increase BC’s international visibility.
Although the program does not currently carry course credit, it will enable faculty and possibly students to lecture and take classes at Tsinghua.
“The vision is that BC faculty, if they want to, can go there for a few weeks over the summer, teach a course for graduate students, and even more advanced researchers, and if some BC graduate students want to go over as well, I think that would be possible,” said Solomon Friedberg, a Mathematics Department McIntyre Endowed Chair and professor. “Probably they won’t carry formal course credit, they’ll be things people will do to learn advanced mathematics, which then the students might use in their dissertation, or to get a broader sense of an area of mathematics that is important to them.
“In mathematics, you never stop learning, so post-docs might be interested as well,” he said. “If I were to go over and teach a course there, and somebody else was teaching a course, I might benefit from going to that course as well.”
Although the program is aimed at graduate and doctoral students, Friedberg doesn’t rule out the possibility of opportunities for undergraduates. “Possibly we would have some very, very advanced undergraduates who could take advantage of it. That would be wonderful but I think that would be exceptional,” he said. “But of course, once we start building these bridges, we can always add to them.”
The partnership could also enable Tsinghua faculty to come to BC, to give lectures of interest to the students and faculty.
He considers simply being asked to participate in the program an honor for the Mathematics Department and for BC as a whole.
“Looking at the list of the other U.S. schools they’ve invited to participate, they’re really some of the most elite math departments in the entire country,” Friedberg said. “So it’s exciting to be in that group. It’s a very select group, and we’re part of it, and I think that’s a nice sign for all of us.”
That several of the department’s professors have already spent time at Tsinghua helped to develop the relationship between the two universities, beginning with professor Dawei Chen in the summer of 2012 and professor David Treumann this past summer. Friedberg also visited, visiting Tsinghua to give a lecture while teaching at another school. One of BC’s current graduate students was introduced to the school by this lecture, an experience Friedberg described as rewarding.
“It really shows the impact of our faculty going and talking in other places,” he said. “There are a lot of competing institutions, but when you see someone with a face, who gives a really exciting series of talks, with energy and enthusiasm both for what they’re doing and for the institution they represent, I think the message gets across very, very clearly.”
Ultimately, he hopes that the program will prove mutually beneficial to both universities. “We’re interested in developing ties, and they’re interested in developing ties,” he said. “They’re interested in having us come and add to their scholarly environment, because they see BC as a place where there’s a lot of exciting scholarship, and we’d like to bring that to Asia. I think that’s a really good statement for everybody.
“There’s a big investment in Asia in intellectual capital, and China sees math, science, and technology really as the future of the country, so there is a big investment in it,” Friedberg said. “There are a lot of great, wonderful, talented people, also great human beings, who are getting involved with it. So when we can connect with them, there will be more opportunities for everyone, and I think it’ll be great for our students. There’s so much intellectual energy in Asia right now that it’s really a big advantage for Boston College to be very visible there. It’s good for all of us.”