Outstanding student, professor earn top math awards

May 21, 2015

Arizona State University student Jakob Hansen and ASU professor Horst Thieme have received Charles Wexler awards for their excellence in mathematics.

Charles Wexler was the founding chairman of the Department of Mathematics at ASU. At the time of his retirement, he had accumulated 47 years of service, the longest period of faculty service in the university’s history. In 1977, the A-Wing of the Physical Sciences Complex was named after Wexler in appreciation of his outstanding service to the university. two people holding award plaques with award namesake Download Full Image

Jakob Hansen

Hansen, a mathematics and economics student, received the Charles Wexler Mathematics Prize. The award is presented each year to the outstanding undergraduate senior mathematics major in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, selected by an awards committee based on faculty nominations.

Hansen said he is honored to receive the prize: “It means I am now responsible for representing ASU well in my future mathematical endeavors, which is a great responsibility.”

“I’m very grateful to the Wexler family for everything they’ve done,” Hansen said. “My grandfather studied mathematics at ASU and told me that he had had Charles Wexler as a professor. So the Wexlers have had an impact on the mathematical training of more than one generation of my family.” 

Hansen initially decided to major in mathematics in order to prepare himself for graduate school in economics.

“Math classes started to fascinate me more and more, and I realized that I could make broader and more important contributions if I focused on the mathematical side," Hansen said.

After receiving multiple graduate-school offers, Hansen plans to attend the Applied Mathematics and Computational Science program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is interested in taking pure mathematics concepts and applying them to real problems. 

As a sophomore, Hansen participated in ASU’s Computational Science training for Undergraduates in the Mathematical Sciences (CSUMS) with Rosemary Renaut, professor of mathematics, who praised his mathematical sophistication. 

“I first met Jakob as part of a team of three students working on an REU [Research Experiences for Undergraduates] project. I was immediately impressed by his attention to the mathematical details of the problem, and ability to independently research the background,” Renaut said. “… He has made great progress and shows a mathematical sophistication far beyond his academic standing.”

“Our school reserves the Wexler Prize for the best and the brightest student selected from a highly competitive pool of mathematical science majors,” said Al Boggess, director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. “Jakob Hansen's selection reflects the high regard we have for [him], and we are very proud of his accomplishments.”

In 2014, Hansen was one of 300 students nationwide who received a Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s premier award for undergraduates studying science, math and engineering. This year, in addition to the Wexler Prize, he was also named Dean’s Medalist for the Department of Economics and received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship honorable mention.

Horst Thieme

Thieme, professor of mathematics, was named the recipient of the 2015 Charles Wexler Teaching Award. The award is presented each year to an outstanding teacher of undergraduate mathematics in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, based on nominations made by undergraduate mathematics majors.

Thieme said he was honored to win the award and thanked everybody who nominated him.

 “My colleagues got the impression that I would not retire without having won the award," the 27-year ASU veteran said jokingly. "I think I am the oldest Wexler awardee so far."

He facetiously added that his new choice of clothing could have also contributed to his nomination: “In all the years, I taught in dress pants, but I switched to jeans roughly a year ago.”

Originally from Germany, Thieme earned his master’s in mathematics and a doctorate in natural sciences at the Westfalische Wilhelms University in Munster. He also completed the habilitation (the highest academic qualification a scholar can achieve by his or her own pursuit in Germany) in the natural sciences at the Ruprecht-Karls University in Heidelberg.

“Professor Horst Thieme has had a long and distinguished career in teaching and research here at ASU,” said Boggess. “He is an outstanding classroom teacher and an excellent mentor to both undergraduates and graduate students who pursue research in mathematical biology. His selection for the Wexler Teaching Award is long overdue.”

Students who nominated Thieme praised him for his thoroughness, precision and organization.

Thieme said he became interested in mathematics in high school, “when we got to integration. I still like integrals. To some degree, I have built my mathematical career on changing the order of integration in various contexts.” 

In college, Thieme started out as a mathematics and philosophy double major but then discovered what he calls “Mind Trek.”

“Mathematics offers the best opportunity for your mind to go where no mind has gone before,” he said.

Thieme is well known for his research in mathematical biology, with numerous works on subjects centered on population biology and transmission and control of infectious disease.

Hansen and Thieme were honored at the 38th annual Charles Wexler Awards ceremony on April 10, held in Wexler Hall on the ASU’s Tempe campus.

Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences


Sun Devil salute: 10 facts about the military at ASU

May 21, 2015

ASU has a long and proud history with the military, from strong academics to support services.

Through the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, ASU staff helps veterans, military members and their dependents manage their GI Bill benefits. Student advisers can also match military training with course credits and assist students as they apply for scholarships or other support.   Pinning ceremony for naval cadet's transition to officer The Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through educational scholarships – building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others. There are more than 347 scholars across the U.S., including students at ASU. Photo by: Tom Story Download Full Image

More facts to know about veterans, ROTC and the military at ASU:  

1. We are home to one of the oldest Army ROTC programs in the nation.

Arizona State University has a proud history of embracing our nation’s veterans, their families and those who continue to serve on active duty, in the National Guard or reserves. AROTC was established in 1935. Air Force ROTC was established in 1948 and our Navy and Marine Corps ROTC in 2010. We are home to 500 ROTC cadets.

2. We offer some of the top language training in the U.S. for ROTC.

The Critical Languages Institute in the Melikian Center: Russian, Eurasian & East European Studies offers intensive training in Armenian, Russian, Bosnian and 12 other lesser-known languages. The ASU center also supports ROTC-specific training through Project Go, a summer program in Persian, Russian, Turkish and Uzbek.

A pilot program for ROTC students is also part of ASU’s Chinese Language Flagship Program through the School of International Letters and Cultures. The flagship’s undergraduate programs provide intensive, professional-level proficiency in Mandarin Chinese and study abroad. 

3. We recognize military, veterans and their families annually with a two-week “Salute to Service” celebration.

The ASU community is invited to attend all of the Salute to Service events, which include military appreciation football and basketball games, performances, faculty and staff training, panel discussions and activities sponsored by student clubs.

4. ASU has benefits tailored to meet ROTC and service member’s needs:

• The Pat Tillman Veterans Center is the focal point for veterans to access benefits, transition to university life and get assistance on a wide range of topics.

• The Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement helps integrate veterans into scholastic life and serves as platform to capture their voices on range of topics.

• ASU accepts credits earned through military courses or training, has offered in-state tuition for honorably discharged veterans since 2011 and provides priority registration.

• Scholarships include ASU’s Veterans Education Fund, Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, Tillman Military Scholars, ROTC and more.

• Veterans Upward Bound Program helps low-income or first-generation vets improve academic skills through free, federally funded prep courses.

5. The College of Public Service and Community Solutions has the highest percentage of veterans at ASU. 

Although the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering enrolls the most veterans and service members, followed by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Public Service and Community Solutions has the highest percentage of veterans, topping 9.5 percent. ASU is also working to advance civilian-military collaborations through the new Public Service Academy, promoting public service while developing cross-sector leadership skills. 

6. Our researchers are contributing to national defense and military technology.

Our faculty members submitted $96.4 million in proposals to the Department of Defense and received $37 million in award obligations in 2014. Key projects have included the establishment of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict (to understand root causes of conflict), and the Flexible Display Center (development of cutting-edge electronics).

7. ASU has a new Center for Veterans' Wellness to support and treat battle trauma/PTSD.

Led by inaugural director Mary Davis, an ASU pyschology professor, the center draws together experts from a variety of disciplines across the university and its partner organizations to expand their work and develop new ideas. The center will build national visibility for research and treatment advances, bringing in scientists who have an accomplished record in veterans’ health research.

8. We are widely and consistently recognized as a veteran-focused school.

ASU was recently ranked among the top schools in the nation for Best Online Programs for Veterans by U.S. News. The university has also been named a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs magazine each year from 2010 to 2015.

9. We present graduating veterans with honor stoles to recognize their service and status as veterans.

10. We are home to a Veterans ASU Alumni Chapter. How many of our notable military alums do you recognize?

• Allan McArtor: ’71 M.S.E., former Air Force fighter pilot and Vietnam veteran, chairman and CEO of Airbus Group and former administrator of U.S. Federal Aviation Administration

• Barry Bruner: ’80 B.S., retired Navy rear admiral, commanded Submarine Group 10, Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, Georgia

• Daniel Yoo: ’84 B.S., Marine Corps, commanding general Marine Corps Recruit Depot

• John Goodman: ’71 B.S., retired Marine lieutenant general, commanded Marine Forces Pacific and served as director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance

• John Kenyon: ’85 B.S., retired Coast Guard captain, former commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Activities Europe

• Margaret Woodward: ’82 B.S., retired Air Force major general, commanded air forces during Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya

• Mark “Marshal” Dillon: ’83 B.S., retired Air Force brigadier general, former commander of the 86th Airlift Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany

• Pat Tillman: ’97 B.S., former Army corporal, star ASU and Arizona Cardinals football player

• Ronald “Ron” Shoopman: ’72 B.S., retired Air Force brigadier general, president of Southern Arizona Leadership Council

• Ryan Cleckner: ’08 B.S., former Army Ranger sniper, veterans activist and vice president at Remington Outdoor Company

• Vern “Rusty” Findley: ’76 B.S.,  retired Air Force lieutenant general, former vice commander Air Force Air Mobility Command

• Victor Petrenko: ’83 B.S., Army brigadier general, former deputy commanding general and chief of staff for U.S. Army Accessions Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost