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SU mathematician wins Simons Fellowship

J. Theodore Cox to use fellowship to study probability theory

May 14, 2013 | Article by: Rob Enslin

Photo of J. Theodore Cox

J. Theodore Cox

J. Theodore Cox, professor of mathematics in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has been appointed a 2013 Simons Fellow. Cox will use the $110,000 award, along with support from The College and SU, to provide for a yearlong sabbatical to study probability theory.

Although most of his sabbatical will take place at SU, Cox also plans to attend several international conferences and to make a series of short research trips to Duke University, The University of British Columbia (Canada), and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg (Sweden).   

“We are delighted Professor Cox is receiving this critical support from the Simons Foundation,” says Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric F. Spina. “An accomplished scholar-teacher, Ted is adept at advancing mathematical theory—using it to not only address problems of broad concern, but also connect the dots between them and students. The College of Arts and Sciences and The University celebrate his earning this prestigious fellowship.”

Cox joins physicist Cristina Marchetti, also a member of The College’s faculty, as SU’s two Simons Fellows. “These appointments say a lot about The College’s commitment to cutting-edge research,” says Arts and Sciences Dean George M. Langford. “As Simons Fellows, professors Marchetti and Cox give us the potential to revolutionize knowledge and put us at the forefront of scientific and mathematical inquiry.”  

Cox works in “interacting particle systems,” a subfield of probability theory concerned with mathematical models that come from statistical physics, theoretical ecology and biology, and mathematical genetics. These models incorporate randomness and spatial structure. One example is the “stepping stone model” of mathematical genetics, which is a model for the spread of a genetic trait through a geographically structured population.

He will use his fellowship to continue work in this area and to study more recently proposed models from computer science, network theory, and social dynamics: “My goal is to provide rigorous mathematical techniques to analyze the behavior of these systems, providing a firm mathematical background for current and future work.”

Professor and chair Gene Poletsky considers Cox to be among the department's strongest mathematicians. “Since coming to SU in 1979, Ted has received research support, almost without interruption, from the National Science Foundation and National Security Agency,” he says. “Ted is also a good citizen of the department, as evidenced by his involvement with our executive, graduate, and undergraduate committees, and his undergraduate advising work.”

The author of more than 70 scholarly articles, Cox has served on editorial boards for several mathematics journals and has been invited to give talks all over the world. He also has participated on NSF and NSA advisory panels. Outside of the mathematical community, Cox has served on the Chancellor’s Citation committee, The College’s promotion and tenure committee, and SU’s United Way campaign.

“Without a doubt, Ted is a great asset to the department, The College, and The University,” says Poletsky.

Simons Fellows are chosen based on research accomplishment in the five years prior to application and the potential scientific impact of the fellowship. The New York City-based Simons Foundation is a private foundation whose mission is to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences. It funds a variety of grants, fellowships, and projects.
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Rob Enslin