The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has named Steven Strogatz as the recipient of the 2013 AAAS Public Engagement with Science Award, recognizing "his exceptional commitment to and passion for conveying the beauty and importance of mathematics to the general public."
Strogatz, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University, has contributed widely to the popularization and public understanding of mathematics through his newspaper articles, books, radio and television appearances, documentaries and public lectures.
"Over the course of his career, Dr. Strogatz has had a truly exceptional record of public outreach and accomplishments in communicating mathematics and its scientific applications," said Shirley Malcom, head of Education and Human Resources at AAAS.
In nominating Strogatz for the award, Alan T. Zehnder of the Cornell University School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering noted the range of interests in his many radio interviews with NPR. "Known for his clarity, humor, and exceptional teaching ability, he has introduced the public to such issues as the statistical likelihood of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, the importance of horizontal gene transfer in the evolution of life, and the significance of chaos in Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia."
Strogatz wrote a weekly series of 15 essays for The New York Times on elements of mathematics, including negative numbers, calculus and group theory, and the mysteries of infinity. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Michael Schrage wrote: "There is no better English-language explicator of complex quantitative concepts than Steven Strogatz. His work is a model for how mathematics needs to be popularized." Schrage called Strogatz's pieces "a public health prophylactic for the quantitatively impaired."
In 2003, Strogatz published his first book for the general public, about the mathematics of synchronization and its applications in science and everyday life: Sync: The emerging science of spontaneous order. His second book for the general public, The Calculus of Friendship, appeared in 2009. It told the very personal and moving story of his 30-year correspondence and friendship with Don Joffray, his high school calculus teacher.
Strogatz also has appeared in various television shows and documentaries, including "The Math Life" on PBS in 2002 and "How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer" (also known as "Connected: The Power of Six Degrees"), which aired in the United States and the United Kingdom in 2008 and 2009. He has also filmed a series of 24 lectures on chaos for the Teaching Company's Great Courses series.
Strogatz has worked in support of under-represented groups in the mathematical sciences and gave a keynote address in 2012 to the national Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).
Strogatz received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Princeton University. He received a master's degree in mathematics from Cambridge University and a doctorate in applied mathematics from Harvard University. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics in physics and biology, coupled oscillators, complex systems, and networks. In 2009 he was elected a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics "for investigations of small-world networks and coupled oscillators and for outstanding science communication." In 2007, he received the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award, a lifetime achievement award presented jointly by the four major American mathematical societies.
The AAAS Award for Public Engagement with Science, established in 1987, recognizes scientists and engineers who make outstanding contributions to the "popularization of science." The award conveys a monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, complimentary registration and travel to the AAAS Annual Meeting.
The award will be bestowed upon Dr. Strogatz during the 180th AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill., 13-17 February 2014. A ceremony and reception will be held in the Rouge Room of the Fairmont Chicago Hotel on Friday, 14 February at 6:15 p.m.
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