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Mentoring Mathematicians

Frank Connolly's Fordham mentors: Charles Lewis, S.J.; Frank Crippen, Ph.D.; and Peter Curran, Ph.D., FCRH ’43.

Frank Connolly’s Fordham mentors: Charles Lewis, S.J., Frank Crippen, and Peter Curran, FCRH ’43.

The world of mathematicians is small, explained Dave Swinarski, Ph.D., an assistant professor of mathematics.

“It is a close-knit community and we tend to know each other, perhaps a bit more than in other sciences,” he said.

It is also a community that by its very nature depends on faculty who speak the specific language of math to identify talent among their students. When they spot such talent, they encourage and they mentor.

Swinarski found just such a mentor when he was an undergraduate at Notre Dame in Frank Connolly, Ph.D., FCRH ’61. Last year the Council on Undergraduate Research, an organization that supports high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research, recognized Connolly’s contribution as a mentor by presenting him with the first-ever Goldwater Scholars Faculty Mentor Award.

Frank Connolly, FCRH '63

Frank Connolly, FCRH ’61 (Photo courtesy University of Notre Dame)

Aware of their shared Fordham connection, Swinarski has invited Connolly back to his alma mater deliver a talk on any subject of his choosing. Connolly has chosen to discuss Quaternions and the Irish mathematician who discovered them, William Hamilton. Connolly’s talk, titled “Quaternions, Four Squares, William Hamilton, and Catherine Disney,” will also include the backstory of Hamilton’s unfulfilled and tragic relationship with Catherine Disney.

The lecture will take place at Tognino Hall in Duane Library on Wed., Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Connolly dedicates the lecture to his own Fordham mentors: Charles Lewis, S.J.; Frank Crippen, Ph.D.; and Peter Curran, Ph.D., FCRH ’43. Curran is said to have thought very highly of his former protégé and is expected to be in attendance.

Swinarski said the event will be chance to celebrate Frank’s award, but also an opportunity to celebrate the Fordham mathematics department’s long tradition of mentorship. Alumni and current students are invited to celebrate.

“All of our professors are very serious mathematicians that would fit in at larger research institutions, but chose to be here where there is a strong focus on our undergrads,” Swinarski said. “Most of our energy goes toward mentoring.”


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