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Updated 2:30 PM April 12, 2006




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  Distinguished University Professor lecture April 11
Mentors help students make moves in mathematics

Melvin Hochster, the Jack E. McLaughlin Distinguished University Professor (DUP) of Mathematics, will celebrate McLaughlin's effective work to mentor undergraduate and graduate students, and detail his own guiding efforts at 4 p.m. April 11 in the Rackham Amphitheatre.
(Photo courtesy Melvin Hochster)

"He (McLaughlin) had a substantial number of Ph.D. students, but he had even more success in convincing undergraduates to go on to graduate study in mathematics, and he did it partly by presenting the subject in an amazingly beautiful way and partly by challenging his students with unbelievably hard problems," says Hochster, himself an eminent mathematician who has had a transforming impact on his field of commutative algebra.

Hochster is the originator of topics discussed at commutative algebra conferences everywhere, and the tools, techniques and basic theorems of the field often are of his design. His influence on the field of commutative algebra—a central branch of mathematics with intimate connections to algebraic geometry—has included the formation of the famous Hochster-Roberts Theorem.

"It has been a great pleasure for me to work with undergraduate students, whether they are extremely talented and destined to do graduate work in mathematics or whether they find mathematics incredibly hard and need help in understanding it," Hochster says.

He has had 31 doctoral students since 1972 and seven postdoctoral students.

"I think that mentoring is difficult in that different people have different psychological needs," he says. "Some need support and encouragement, others perhaps need a bit of a taskmaster, and there are some who do best when left almost entirely on their own. It is not easy to judge what will be most effective.

"Over the last few years I have also been working with high school students in intense two-week summer sessions aimed at giving them some feeling for what is involved in mathematical research," Hochster says.

Hochster received the Frank Nelson Cole Prize in Algebra in 1980 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1982. In 1992, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He won the Margaret and Herman Sokol Faculty Award in the Sciences in 2001.

DUPs earn an annual salary supplement of $5,000 and an annual research supplement of $5,000. The duration of the appointment is unlimited and the title may be retained after retirement. DUPs have earned the highest honor accorded faculty members by the University.

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