Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

From Mexico to Advanced Math

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

From Mexico to Advanced Math

Article excerpt

Mexican transplant Eduardo Gonzálezs work at UMass Boston is attracting major federal grant dollars.

Dr. Eduardo González's parents never attended school because they had to work in the agricultural fields of Mexico. They were in no position to provide any guidance to their son as he made choices about his own schooling.

"I was always trying to do what felt right because I never had that influence," says González. He found his way into a science - oriented high school, where he fell in love with mathematics and physics. He enrolled in a Mexican college that also specialized in science and technology.

Two Mexican mathematicians who completed their Ph.D.s in the United States helped González understand in the late '90s that he too needed to follow that path in order to be on the cutting edge of math. He arrived at Stony Brook University in 1999 and plunged into his doctoral studies.

González has emerged exactly where he wanted to be, doing high-level research on theoretical math that has attracted the attention of his peers and federal grantmakers.

"What I do is pure mathematics with applications toward physics," says González, who arrived at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2008 as an assistant professor of mathematics.

Gonzalez's research involves math several levels beyond calculus. His work does not have immediate practical applications yet, but neither did Newton's discovery of gravity. His specialty is trying to understand how objects exist in a theoretical space with higher dimensions above three. The answer is of interest to physicists and thus could have universal meaning.

"For instance, a basic question is, what is the shape of the universe?" González asks. "Does it make sense that the universe has any shape at all?"

Those are difficult questions, he says, because the universe is so large and humans exist within it.

"Perhaps we are trapped in small dimensions, and that's why we only can perceive three-dimensional objects," González says. "The other dimensions are either too big or too small for us to really perceive. We have no idea at the moment. This is what occurs in this type of science. You create models that explain physical phenomena. At some point, experiments can verify or refute the theory. …

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