News, On Campus

Chen Earns Grant For Geometry Study

Dawei Chen, an assistant professor in the mathematics department, was recently awarded a $429,359 grant from the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his study of algebraic geometry.

As one of the most prestigious awards offered by the NSF, the CAREER program highlights the research accomplishments and educational pursuits of junior faculty. The award recognizes those “who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations,” according to the NSF website.

The CAREER program supports the career development of its recipients through an academic grant that spans five years. The program seeks to foster the integration of academic research and educational application by providing incentives to universities to integrate research and education. It also looks to increase the participation of those typically underrepresented in the fields of science and engineering.

The CAREER grant size varies depending on the discipline and the scope of the research and education plans. The funding is intended to cover the costs of the future educational and research pursuits of the CAREER award recipients. The review and funding methods vary according to the practices of different directorates, divisions, and programs within the NSF.

Chen’s area of research is algebraic geometry, with a centralized focus on the algebraic connection to geometric structures. Chen plans to use the analytic definition of surface geometry to identify geometric structures and, in doing so, bridge the gap between these two distinct components of mathematical theory.

“The main objects of algebraic geometry are algebraic varieties, which are geometric manifestations of solutions of polynomial equations,” Chen said in an email. “My idea is to bring in algebraic equations to study the variation of their geometric structures.”

By using algebraic varieties to study the geometry of surfaces, Chen seamlessly combines these two fields of study. According to Chen, the fusion of these two fields is essentially analogous to using linear algebra to study calculus.

Chen’s current research focuses on the parameterization of surface structures.

“Through my research, I plan to apply polynomial equations to investigate the variation of surface structures,” Chen said. “As a long term goal, I plan to establish a correspondence between orbits of surface structure variation and intersection loci of algebraic varieties.”

Chen’s mathematical research has been published in a variety of national journals, including Advances in Mathematics, Geometry & Topology, and the American Journal of Mathematics. The CAREER grant will finance Chen’s future research and educational efforts.

Beyond merely supporting research alone, the CAREER program seeks to cultivate a relationship between research and education, with research impacting educational goals and educational activities informing research. The candidates are expected to involve others-students, faculty, and the general public-in research by utilizing the broader community to gather data for scientific pursuits.

The CAREER recipients are also encouraged to be innovative in sharing their research with those outside of the immediate research community. A potential way of doing so is searching for new methods to deliver research results to a broader audience and partnering with people from other communities that are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences and engineering. The goal is to share, educate, and foster the curiosity of those outside of the research community.

“Besides intellectual merit, the CAREER grant highlights an educational component as well,” Chen said. “I hope to use the grant to invite collaborators to BC, organize seminars and workshops, attend conferences to disseminate my research results, and provide financial support to student research projects.”

Chen hopes that this funding will be an avenue of expansion for the mathematics department at BC. In recent years, the Mathematics Department has gone through a transformative time period. With numerous research acclamations, an increasing population of students interested in mathematics, and the institution of a Ph.D. program four years ago, the department is improving and growing.

“The department has been recognized as one of the worldwide research centers in number theory/representation theory and geometry/topology,” Chen said. “We will continue expanding the research liaison in other areas such as algebraic geometry.”

Chen earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Peking University and his doctorate from Harvard University. After spending time as a research assistant professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago and serving as a post-doctoral fellow at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, Chen joined the BC faculty in 2011.

“My colleagues in the BC math department have provided me with a lot of support and guidance throughout my career development,” Chen said. “Receiving this grant award would have been impossible without their help.”

February 5, 2014