A widely respected expert in complex dynamical systems, Devaney has also achieved acclaim for his pioneering use of technology in teaching. He has directed the National Science Foundation's Dynamical Systems and Technology Project since 1989, a project that helps high school and college educators use technology to more effectively teach modern mathematics such as chaos, fractals, and dynamics. He was the first mathematician to win the NSF Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars (2002), for contributions to enhancing undergraduate education, and has received the Mathematical Association of America's Teacher of the Year Award (1995). In 2003, Devaney received Boston University's Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The Professors of the Year program was established in 1981. It is co-sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and CASE. The Carnegie Foundation, the only advanced-study center for teachers in the world, is the third-oldest foundation in the United States. CASE is the largest international association of educational institutions, with more than 3,200 colleges, universities, and independent elementary and secondary schools in nearly 50 countries.
Faculty in Boston University's Mathematics and Statistics Department conduct research in a number of areas including algebra, applied statistics, dynamical systems and their applications, mathematical physics, number theory, partial differential equations, and probability. Boston University is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States.