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Graduate students honored with national math prize

Travis Dillon and Alex Cohen are recognized with 2022 AMS-MAA-SIAM Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics.
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Headshot photos of Travis Dillon and Alex Cohen
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Travis Dillon (left) received the 2022 AMS-MAA-SIAM Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics, and Alex Cohen received honorable mention.
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Photos: Courtesy of Alex Cohen and Narmada Varadarajan

Travis Dillon, a graduate student in mathematics at MIT, has been awarded the 2022 AMS-MAA-SIAM Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student, and fellow math doctoral student Alex Cohen has received an honorable mention.

Dillon earned this year’s honor for his significant work in number theory, combinatorics, discrete geometry, and symbolic dynamics as an undergraduate at Lawrence University, where he studied mathematics and music theory.

Dillon has completed seven papers, six of them published or accepted, four single-authored, and with two more in preparation. In addition to independent studies with Lawrence faculty, Dillon attended summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates at Bucknell University, Texas A&M University, and Baruch College, and he spent a year in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program.

Dillon says he is committed to communicating mathematics to a broader audience, and seeks to lure others into active engagement with the field through his clarity of presentation and sense of humor. He has been a volunteer tutor or instructor both in Budapest and at Lawrence, and he has written a 200-page textbook for a general audience titled “Graphs, Groups, Infinity: Three stories in mathematics.”

Growing up near Newport, Washington, Dillon developed an interest in mathematics after spending two summers at Canada/USA Mathcamp. He joined the MIT mathematics doctoral program this past fall, as an MIT Presidential Fellow.  

“I have been fortunate to have a large number of mentors, mathematical and otherwise, who made this possible,” he says. “And to my parents: Thank you for supporting me unconditionally, even when you weren’t entirely sure what I was doing or why I was doing it.”

Cohen receives an honorable mention for the 2022 AMS-MAA-SIAM Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student for solving a number of long-standing open problems, covering areas from combinatorics to analysis and partial differential equations. 

A New York City native, Cohen graduated from Yale University in 2021 with a dual BS/MS degree in mathematics. His mathematical interests including harmonic analysis, partial differential equations, and additive combinatorics. He has written eight research papers, and has made important progress on the study of different notions of the rank of a tensor, a topic of central importance in combinatorics and theoretical computer science. Cohen has also done outstanding work in combinatorial geometry.

Cohen thanked his mentors, friends, and collaborators “who made learning math all the more fun, as well as my family for their ceaseless support.”

Dillon and Cohen will be recognized Jan. 5, 2022, during the Joint Prize Session at the 2022 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Seattle.

The AMS-MAA-SIAM Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student is awarded annually to an undergraduate student (or students for joint work) for outstanding research in mathematics.  The prize was established in 1995 and is entirely endowed by a gift from Mrs. Frank (Brennie) Morgan. The prize is made jointly by the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

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