New BYU Math Professor Pays It Forward to His Students

Read more about the new math department professor at

BYU Mathematics Welcomes New Faculty

New Faculty Biographies:
            Blake Barker (far left) earned his bachelors and masters of science in mathematics at BYU and his PhD in mathematics at Indiana University. His research lies at the intersection of PDEs, numerical analysis, and dynamical systems. Dr. Barker is excited to work with the fantastic students at BYU as well as the great staff and faculty. He feels the mathematics department at BYU provides a unique and wonderful opportunity for scholarship and quality teaching and  looks forward to joining of the faculty there. Dr. Barker and his wife, Diana, are the proud parents of two young, lively boys.
            Nathan Priddis (left center) received his BS in 2007 and MS in 2009 from BYU. During that time, he also served in the Germany Frankfurt mission. In 2014 he received a PhD in mathematics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he also received the Karen Rhea Excellence in Teaching award. Dr. Priddis was offered a PostDoc position for two years at the Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany, which he accepted. This year he joins the faculty at BYU. He has been married for ten years and has four children. Apart from mathematics, he enjoys sports, mostly basketball and ultimate frisbee, and the outdoors, especially hiking and camping. He is glad to again be living where there are mountains.
           Mark Allen (right center) attended BYU as an undergraduate and received a B.S. in mathematics in 2007. He then attended graduate school at Purdue University where he received his PhD in mathematics in 2013. From 2013-present, he was an NSF postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin.  Dr. Allen is married to Tamri Allen, and they have four children. They are excited to move back to BYU and the Provo area. He enjoys outdoor activities and looks forward to living near mountains again.
            Curt Kent (far right) earned a BS in mathematics from BYU and a PhD in mathematics from Vanderbilt University in 2013.  He was a postdoctoral fellow at University of Toronto (2013-2014) and the Courant Institute of Mathematics at New York University (2014-2016). He will begin a tenure-track position at BYU in fall semester. Dr. Kent’s research interests are ow-dimensional topology and geometric group theory. He and his wife JaNae have 5 kids and now live in Springville, UT.

Dr. Jarvis Receives the Maeser Faculty Teaching Award

Dr. Tyler Jarvis, one of the math department faculty, was recently awarded the Maeser Faculty Teaching Award. This honor is presented annually to exceptional teachers across campus. Departments nominate their outstanding professors to be considered for the  award. A university committee reviews the nominations, and selects a few recipients every year. Dr. Jarvis is well respected by the students he teaches in the Applied and Computational Math Emphasis. On Rate My Professor, one student wrote, “Dr. Jarvis teaches math by day and protects the city of Gotham by night. Teaching this class was superhuman since it was the first time he taught it, the textbook was still being revised, and the material was very challenging. Through all that, Jarvis still gave us tons of help in office hours and individual help. We all dressed up as him one day.” Congratulations Dr. Jarvis!

Dr. Nielsen receives the College Young Scholar Award

The Brigham Young University Math Department is pleased to announce that Dr. Pace Nielsen has received the College Young Scholar Award from the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. This honor is awarded to a professor in the college who has completed excellent research within the first ten years of their career with BYU. Dr. Nielsen was nominated for his research in number theory and ring theory and for his work mentoring undergraduates.

Recently, Yitang Zhang proved that there were infinitely many pairs of primes less than 70 million apart.  Dr. Nielsen was a collaborator on the Polymath8 project, which improved upon the Zhang gap size, bringing the bound of 70 million down to 246!  Congratulations to Dr. Nielsen for this great honor!


BYU Hosts High School State Math Contest

BYU hosted the High School State Math Contest on Monday, April 25th. Several thousand students all across the state from junior high to high school came to participate in this competitive event. After completing the test, students recieved a free BYU Math t-shirt and got to eat lunch at the BYU Cannon Center. Students with exeptional scores will be invited to attend the recognition dinner, also hosted by BYU. Check this website in the near future to find this years scores from the event:

Congrats April 2016 Math Graduates!

On Friday, April 22nd, the College of Physical & Mathematical Sciences held their convocation in the Wilkinson Ballroom. The Math Department had the most its seen in attendance for many years. Following convocation, the department held a luncheon open for all family and friends of the graduates. Thanks to all those who attended and participated in this exciting event!
Like BYU Math on Facebook and check out all the graduation pictures here!

Math Department Announces New Chair, Dr. Michael Dorff

The BYU Math Department is excited to announce the appointment of Michael Dorff as the new chair of the Department of Mathematics. Drs. Paul Jenkins and Darrin Doud will serve as associate chairs. Dr. Dorff is replacing Dr. Robin Roundy, who served as the Department of Mathematics chair for three years.


Michael J. Dorff, Mathematics—

Dorff received his BS in Mathematics Education from BYU and his PhD in Complex Analysis from the University of Kentucky in 1997.

Dorff is the founder and director for the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics (CURM), which began in 2007. He also started and leads BYU’s “Careers in Math” Speaker Series and BYU’s summer 8-week Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). He has received over two million dollars in grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support and fund these programs.

Dorff has received national recognition for his dedicated work in developing mentored undergraduate research in mathematics. In 2010, Dorff won several awards, including the Distinguished Teaching Award from the college, the Maeser Excellence in Teaching Award from BYU, and the Haimo Award from the Mathematics Association of America. Dorff has also received BYU’s Lawrence K. Egbert Teaching and Learning Fellowship and was named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2012.

Retired Coach Leads Team to Victory

“Retired coach leads team to victory” – a seemingly unlikely headline, but an accurate description of a recent BYU event.

Retired professor David Wright led a group of thirteen high school students to a fifth place finish in the online “Math Madness” AMC Interstellar High School Mathematics National Championship. These students, sponsored by the BYU Department of Mathematics, may just be the newest generation of BYU Mathletes. A total of 346 high school teams competed in the Mathematical Association of America-sponsored event. After three preseason contests, BYU’s team was put in a bracket with 64 teams with average team size between 11 and 15. The BYU team won its bracket and earned a fifth place ranking.

The team score is the sum of the top five students.  In the championship match, BYU defeated eighth ranked Davidson Academy of Nevada by a score of 39 to 34.  BYU’s top five scorers are:  Nicholas McConnell (10/10), Thomas Draper (8/10), Annie Yun (7/10), Josh Speckman (7/10), and Quinlan Leishman (7/10).  All of these contestants are currently in grades ten and eleven and are likely to compete again for BYU next year. Dr. Wright invited students who had previously attended BYU Math Camps, BYU Math recognition programs, or whom he had connections to through BYU Math majors and alumni to join the Math Madness team. Students from out-of-state are able to participate on the BYU team because the competition is entirely online.

Dr. Wright retired in August 2015, but has remained involved in the BYU math community, especially with student outreach programs. He coordinates competitions, math summer camps, and other activities for junior high and high school students, hoping that some of the students will attend BYU and compete on the Putnam mathematical team.

For more information, visit this link (

Here is a list of the members of the BYU team who have contributed to a winning score in at least one match:

Annie Yun, Junior at West High, Utah

Rohan Jairam, Junior at West High, Utah

Daniel Swingle, Senior at Seven Lakes High School, Texas

Ben Baker, Senior at West High, Utah

Josh Speckman, Sophomore at West High, Utah

Thomas Draper, Sophomore at Montgomery High School, New Jersey

Nicholas McConnell, Junior at Princeton High School, New Jersey

Quinlan Leishman, Junior at Bountiful High School, Utah

Lucy Ward, Ninth Grader at Mill Creek Jr. High, Utah

Emil Geisler, Ninth Grader at Mill Creek Jr. High , Utah

Eli Child, Ninth Grader at Mill Creek Jr. High, Utah

Alex Cheng, Ninth Grader at Midvale Middle School, Utah

Collin Allred, Eighth Grader at Mountain Ridge Junior High, Utah


Team members who are nationally ranked in the top 1,000 out of 17,539 participants.


Nicholas McConnell:  5

Josh Speckman:  93

Thomas Draper:  104

Annie Yun:  194

Rohan Jairam:  511

Lucy Ward:  551

Alex Cheng:  625

Ben Baker:  975

“To Be or Not To Be” a Math Major

Choosing a major is tough.  BYU’s wide variety of options can be a bit overwhelming, and gathering information on each one can feel virtually impossible.

The Math Department wants to do everything possible to make this selection process easier for students.  If you have ever had any interest in mathematics, or maybe you just did really well in a math class, you are invited to attend an info session about the Mathematics degree on Thursday, October 17.  The meeting is intended to provide all the basic information you need to know about being a mathematics major or minor.  In addition, there will be a discussion on all the different career options you would have with a degree in mathematics.  A question and answer session after the general presentation will follow.

If a successful future in mathematics is not enough to convince someone to attend the info session, pizza may do the trick.  Free pizza will be provided for all who attend.  So if you have an interest in mathematics, and have friends who also enjoy math and free food, then come and join us on the 17!

The “To Be or Not To Be” a Math major/minor info session will be on Thursday, October 17 at 5:30pm in room 1170 TMCB.

To learn more about the benefits of a degree in mathematics, visit

Leaving a Legacy

You might see Dr. Donald Robinson’s name on a plaque in the Talmage, unaware of the legacy he left behind.

Born in 1928 on a leap day, this 84 year-old retired BYU professor was one of the first Mathematics PhDs to teach at BYU when he started teaching here in 1956.

“I’m proud of him for the way he’s tried to live his life, do the best he could, and serve other people,” said Allen Robinson, Dr. Robinson’s son.

The math department awarded Dr. Robinson with a plaque that is now displayed in the Talmage Building and thanked him for his generous endowment that has allowed and will continue to allow four math students every year to have a full-ride scholarship, for many years to come.

Dr. Don Robinson demon­strated an exceptional love for mathematics and the students who study it. A former professor and chair of the department, Don first discovered his passion for mathematics in grade school, as he recalled finding entertainment in working on extra problems his teacher would challenge the class to solve. He met his sweetheart, Helen, in Junior High School where they both played in the orchestra. Don and Helen were married by 1952 in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple.

Don pursued his doctorate in math­ematics from the Case Institute of Technology, Ohio. His studies were almost interrupted, as he was drafted into the army. However, he was discharged due to eyesight problems. Don graduated from the Case Institute of Technology and then went on to teach at various institutions. He eventually came to Brigham Young University, and was only the second professor with a PhD to join the Math Department faculty. Dr. Robinson remained at BYU for 43 years. His area of research was linear algebra dealing with the matrix theory.

Don enjoyed his teaching career and was a dedicated faculty mem­ber, receiving many awards for his outstanding contributions to the Math Department. He served as Chair of the Math Department three times, and many of the programs enjoyed by students today are due to his contributions and dedicated service.

You may also see Marcellus Burton’s name, along with the name of his wife, on a plaque in the Talmage.

Shirley and Marcellus Burton also had a passion for learning and education. Growing up, Marcellus would often be found at the kitchen table working calculus problems. A child of the Great Depression, he observed that his civil engineer uncle always had a good job, and, not wanting to be poor, Marcellus decided early on he wanted to follow the same path.

Upon the beginning of the second World War, Marc anticipated service in the army and shifted his studies to meteorology so he could be immediately inducted. In 1944, as a newly minted 2nd Lieuten­ant, his first duty assignment was Marana Army Air Base. It was here that he met his future wife, Shirley Etheredge.

Shirley was born in Norfolk, Vir­ginia, where she attended school and became a teacher. She always encouraged a healthy curiosity and emphasized its strong connection with books. Not satisfied to teach only Monday through Friday, she also taught Sunday school through­out her life. Her love of young people and of teaching inspired the Shirley and Marcellus Burton Scholarship.

Shirley and Marc married in 1945 and spent 26 years of service in the Air Force. During this time they raised five children and traveled with them all over the world as Marcellus completed 18 duty as­signments. The couple retired from the Air Force in 1970, and Marcel­lus returned to San Jose State, where he had attended in his youth, and taught meteorology there for the next 14 years. To this day, Marcellus considers himself to have a profound love of numbers.

To date, six students have benefit­ed from these generous scholarship donors. To learn more about how to donate to the Math Department, contact Dr. Robin Roundy at or call 801-422-1747.

—Curtis Penfold, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences