Al Doerr, 1938-2018

Prof. Alan Doerr, Mathematical Sciences

Professor Alan Doerr, one of the longest serving professors at UMass Lowell, passed away on October 14, 2018 at the age of 80. Al retired in 2016, completing a career that spanned the entire history of the UML Mathematical Sciences department.

A Lawrence MA native, Al started his career as a high school mathematics teacher in New York City in 1960. After earning a graduate degree from Hunter College, he was hired as part of the Lowell Technological Institute’s Physics Department. Soon afterward, he was among the physics faculty who became founding members of the Mathematical Sciences Department. He was instrumental in creating both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the department.

From 1976 to 1987, Al chaired the department as Lowell Tech merged with Lowell State to become the University of Lowell. After completing four terms as chair, he spend another twelve years as associate chair, during which the institution became UMass Lowell. He also was a coordinator in Lowell’s Continuing Education program from 1966 to 2015.

Al’s mathematical interests were primarily in Linear Algebra, Abstract Algebra and Discrete Mathematics. He taught courses in these subjects countless times, but taught virtually every course in the curriculum except statistics (which he admitted to disliking). In 1985, he co-authored Applied Discrete Structures for Computer Science, with his colleague, Ken Levasseur. The book was successful in the 1980’s and has been re-released as an open content text that is currently used at several universities. In 1994, he also coauthored College Algebra and Trigonometry with Leonard Andrusaitis and Ken Levasseur.

The department hopes to establish a scholarship in Al’s name in the near future. As of January 1, 2019, we have raised almost half of what is needed to establish an endowment.   If you’d like to pledge any amount, please contact Ken Levasseur.

UML Participation in the 2018 William Lowell Putnam Math Competition

2018 William Lowell Putnam Math Competition at UML

Forty-six UMass Lowell students participated in the 2018 William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition on Saturday, December 1. The competition, sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America, took place concurrently throughout the US and Canada. Last year, 4,638 students from 575 institutions participated. There were two 3 hour sessions, each with six problems. As usual, the problems were tough. Here is one of them:

Find all ordered pairs (a,b) of positive integers for which 1/a + 1/b = 3/2018.

A complete list of problems:  putnam2018probs

Professor Kenneth Levasseur served as supervised competition at UML.   Thanks to the Honors College for providing refreshments for the students on the day of the event.

Results will be announced in late March.

Rida Mirie, 1953-2018

On February 16, 2018, UMass Lowell Professor Rida Mirie passed away.  Rida joined the faculty of the University of Lowell in 1986. His main area of research was in the modeling of water waves, specializing in the theory of solitary waves.  He also contributed to early work on Buckyballs.

Rida loved teaching.  While at Lowell, he taught Calculus, Differential equations, Numerical Analysis, and several graduate courses. It is estimated that in Differential Equations alone, he taught over 3,000 students. His lectures were sprinkled with anecdotes and jokes that related the theory to his other interests, including people, gardening and John Deere tractors.

Here is a typical student comment on his teaching:

Exceptional mind. It takes some time to learn how he thinks but once you’re there it is hilarious and informative at the same time. He is the only professor who has mastered the art of teaching without the need for a textbook. But you have to do your part – homework and taking a lot of notes. Will definitely take his class again.

Rida was born in Beirut, Lebanon. He graduated from the American University in Beirut and earned a Ph. D in Applied Mathematics from Brown University in 1980.

He is survived by his daughter, Aysha Rida Mirie. We’ll miss Rida, particularly for his generosity and humor.

A daughter’s last words:

“ You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You could swear, curse the fates, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go” – Benjamin Button


I will truly miss my father’s full out belly laugh and his ability to never complain about life. He would often say “take it like a man” when things didn’t go as planned. My father was a true fighter for what he believed – in life, love and education. He challenged everyone: myself, his students and even his friends. He absolutely loved his land- tending to his fruit bearing trees, rose bushes, grape vines and often had numerous projects in the works.


I will find comfort remembering him relaxing on top of the grape pergola he built all by himself. (His last project)

He was a very proud man. To honor the remarkable man that he was,  as you drive by his pergola “beep” your horn and find comfort as you picture a huge smile on his face.

If you would like to share memories of Rida, use the comments box below.

UML Participation in the 2017 Putnam Math Competition

Twenty-six UMass Lowell students competed in the 2017 William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition on Saturday, December 2. The competition, sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America, took place concurrently throughout the US and Canada. Last year, 4,164 students from 568 colleges and universities participated. There were two 3 hour sessions, each with six problems. As usual, the problems were tough. Here is one of them:

The 30 edges of a regular icosahedron are distinguished by labeling them 1, 2, …, 30.  How many different ways are there to paint each edge red, white, or blue such that each of the 20 triangular faces of the icosahedron has two edges of the same color and a third edge of a different color?

In case you’ve forgotten, an icosahedron looks like this:

A complete list of problems:  Putnam2017.

Professor Kenneth Levasseur served as supervised competition at UML.   Thanks to the Honors College for providing refreshments for the students on the day of the event.

Results will be announced in late March.

New Faculty: Erica Yankowskas

Ms. Erica Yankowskas  is a Visiting Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences.  She teaches traditional and applied/business calculus courses, both on-campus and on-line.

Professor Yankowskas holds a Master of Science in Applied and Computational Mathematics from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Assumption College.

New Faculty: Sedi Bartz

This fall we are welcoming Dr. Sedi Bartz to the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Dr. Bartz’ research focuses on topics of nonlinear analysis and variational analysis. He develops refinements of abstract convex analysis, and in turn, transforms his refinements into a unifying language for phenomena in variational analysis which used to be considered quite apart. Dr. Bartz is also a specialist in classical convex analysis and monotone operator theory, theories which are among the most popular tools of modern optimization.

Dr. Bartz holds a Ph.D. from The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. He arrives to UML after a 3 year term as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of British Columbia, Kelowna, Canada.

New Faculty: Nilabja Guha

This fall, we are happy to welcome Dr. Nilabja Guha to the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Dr. Guha is a statistician who was at Texas A&M University in a postdoctoral position prior to joining UML. He received his doctoral degree in statistics from the University of Maryland Baltimore County where his adviser was Dr Anindya Roy.

Dr Guha’s research interest include Bayesian Modeling, Inverse problems, Uncertainty Quantification, High-dimensional Problems and Graphical Modeling.

Some of his recent publications are

  • Guha, Nilabja, Anindya Roy, Yaakov Malinovsky, and Gauri Datta., 2016. An optimal shrinkage factor in prediction of ordered random effects. Statistica Sinica 26: 1709-1728.
  • Guha, N. and Tan, X., 2017. Multilevel approximate Bayesian approaches for flows in highly heterogeneous porous media and their applications. Journal of Computational and Applied Mathematics, 317, pp.700-717.
  • Yang, K., Guha, N., Efendiev, Y. and Mallick, B.K., 2017. Bayesian and variational Bayesian approaches for flows in heterogeneous random media. Journal of Computational Physics, 345, pp.275-293.

The River Hawk Prime

At first glance the 1680 digit number


would not appear to be remarkable, other than in the preponderance of 1’s and 9’s that comprise its digits. However, there are two interesting observations about this number. First, it is prime. The only integers that divide evenly into it are 1 and itself. Second, if the digits are arranged in a rectangular fashion, 60 digits to a row, we see why it has been dubbed the “River Hawk Prime.”

Cho and Schille recognized for outstanding teaching

The winners of the 2017 Teaching Excellence Awards in Mathematical Sciences are Min Hyung Cho and Theresa Schille.

Min Hyung Cho


Min Hyung Cho (Ph. D.  UNC Charlotte 2005)  is completing his second year at UML. He teaches a variety of graduate and undergraduate courses. His research focuses on developing fast computational algorithms for wave scattering such as Maxwell’s equations and Helmholtz equation.



Theresa Schille

Theresa Schille (B. S. UMass Lowell, 1992, M. S. UMass Lowell 1994) is completing her sixth year as a Lecturer in the Mathematical Sciences.  She has taught calculus and precalculus courses in the day, evening and industrial settings.

Congratulations to both Min Hyung and Theresa on this well-deserved honor!


Prof. Enrique González-Velasco completes work the definitive work on on John Napier

Mathematical Science Professor Enrique González-Velasco recently completed  a book on the life and works of 16th-17th century Scottish mathematician John Napier.  The Life and Works of John Napier, co-authored with a descendant of Napier and an authority on Napier’s life, Prof. González-Velasco has made all of Napier’s mathematical works available in English for the first time.

From the the publisher’s description:

The Life and Works of John Napier, 1st ed. 2017 Edition by Brian Rice, Enrique González-Velasco, Alexander Corrigan, Springer; 1st ed. 2017 edition, ISBN: 978-3319532813.


For the first time, all five of John Napier’s works have been brought together in English in a single volume, making them more accessible than ever before. His four mathematical works were originally published in Latin: two in his lifetime (1550–1617), one shortly after he died, and one over 200 years later. The authors have prepared three introductory chapters, one covering Napier himself, one his mathematical works, and one his religious work. The former has been prepared by one of Napier’s descendants and contains many new findings about Napier’s life to provide the most complete biography of this enigmatic character, whose reputation has previously been overshadowed by rumour and speculation. The latter has been written by an academic who was awarded a PhD for his thesis on Napier at the University of Edinburgh, and it provides the most lucid and coherent coverage available of this abstruse and little understood work. The chapter on Napier’s mathematical texts has been authored by an experienced and respected academic, whose recent works have specialised in the history of mathematics and whose Journey through Mathematics was selected in March of 2012 as an Outstanding Title in Mathematics by Choice magazine, a publication of the American Library Association. All three authors have revisited the primary sources extensively and deliver new insights about Napier and his works, whilst revising the many myths and assumptions that surround his life and character.

Prof. González-Velasco is a member of the UMass Lowell Department of Mathematical Sciences.