Presidents, Pulitzer Prize winners join UH prof in high honor

Mathematician Martin Golubitsky elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

HOUSTON, May 10, 2006 Joining past U.S. presidents and Pulitzer Prize winners, Martin Golubitsky, a University of Houston mathematician, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Golubitsky, Cullen Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at UH, is among 175 new Fellows and 20 new Foreign Honorary Members. The Academy will welcome the new class at its annual Induction Ceremony Oct. 7 at its headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. This year's Fellows include former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and film director Martin Scorsese.

"It is an outstanding honor to be invited to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and I am delighted for Professor Golubitsky and for the entire math department," said UH Provost Donald Foss.

In existence since 1780, the Academy was founded by John Adams, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots. The current membership includes more than 170 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners and has included such historical greats as George Washington, Ben Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill.

Recent inductees have conducted research in science and global security, social policy, the humanities and culture, and education. Current membership is comprised of both scholars and practitioners from math, physics, biology, social science, the humanities, public affairs and business, giving the Academy the ability to conduct a range of interdisciplinary studies and public policy research.

"I'm thrilled to have been elected to the American Academy," Golubitsky said. "This award recognizes research much of which was produced here at UH in collaboration with a great group of faculty, postdoctoral associates and students."

Golubitsky's election as a member of the Academy was based on his research in a new subbranch of mathematics called symmetric bifurcation theory that studies how solutions to symmetric equations change as a parameter is varied. One example of symmetry-breaking bifurcations includes transitions between different gaits in four-legged animals. His work has shown how animal gaits such as walk, trot and pace can be described by symmetries involving the interchanging of the legs.

In a collaborative effort with Ian Stewart, a professor at the University of Warwick and adjunct math professor at UH, Golubitsky developed a theory that describes the simplest kinds of mathematical equations that can produce the rhythms of the walk, trot and pace. These equations can produce the jump, as well, which was found by the duo while watching a bareback bucking bronco at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Golubitsky's research on gaits led to his current interest in mathematical neuroscience and network dynamics.

"In addition to my work with Stewart, I have had the good fortune to work with many talented researchers over the years," Golubitsky said. "My Cullen Chair has provided the resources to continue my research in a way that research grants by themselves cannot do. It has made funds available that have helped make our dynamical systems group known internationally, as well as make visits by internationally respected researchers to UH easy to arrange."

Coming to UH in 1983, Golubitsky became Cullen Distinguished Professor of Mathematics in 1989. Earning his Ph.D. in 1970 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he has contributed to the development of symmetric bifurcation theory throughout the past 25 years and has lectured at Duke University, the University of California at Berkeley and Arizona State University, among others. He is also president of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and director of the Institute for Theoretical Engineering and Science.

In 1997, Golubitsky earned the Farfel Award, UH's highest faculty honor. Proving that lightning can strike twice in one family, his wife and fellow mathematician, Barbara Keyfitz, the John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Mathematics at UH, just recently won the Farfel Award for 2006. See related story at

Previous UH inductees to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences are Paul Chu, T.L.L. Temple Chair of Science and professor of physics, in 1989; Neal Amundson, UH Cullen Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and Mathematics, in 1992; and Adam Zagajewski, UH Distinguished University Professor of English, in 1999.


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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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