Harvey Mudd Professor First American Awarded Colombian Math Prize

October 16, 2013

Nearly 500 people petitioned for rule changes that would allow his nomination.

Among their reasons, they cited Harvey Mudd College mathematics Professor Alfonso Castro’s involvement with the Colombian mathematical community. He co-authored 14 of his published papers with Colombian mathematicians, advised six Colombian doctoral students, and organized four national Colombian mathematical meetings.

He introduced specialists and thought leaders who joined the Colombian mathematical community and presented talks at several Colombian Mathematics Congresses.

Yet, before Castro could be awarded his native land’s most prestigious math prize, the Colombian Mathematical Society had to change a rule that required award recipients to live and work in Colombia. And, change it, they did.

The society awarded Castro its 2013 National Mathematics Prize on July 17, during the 19th Colombian Mathematics Congress in Barranquilla, Colombia, in recognition of his contributions to the development of mathematics in Colombia.

“Professor Castro’s career is a remarkable example for the Colombian mathematical community. He’s one of the most prominent mathematicians in the field of nonlinear partial differential equations,” said National University of Colombia math Professor Jorge Cossio, who presented the award to Castro at the July ceremony. “He was my teacher and Ph.D. advisor. He always helped his students, emphasizing the most important mathematical concepts and the importance of being creative in mathematics.”

Castro joined the Harvey Mudd faculty in 2003. He chaired the Mathematics Department between 2004 and 2008. During his tenure as chair, the department was distinguished with the inaugural American Mathematical Society award for an Exemplary Program or Achievement in a Mathematics Department. Castro’s research areas include partial differential equations (including semilinear equations with discrete spectrum), variational methods, inverse-function theorems and water waves (solitons).

“Alfonso has an international reputation for his research in differential equations, and he also has deep roots in the Colombian mathematics community,” said Mathematics Department Chair Andrew Bernoff. “It is great to see his many years of hard work and dedication recognized in this way.”

Castro was awarded a Simons Foundation Collaboration Grant in 2012 for his project, “Solvability of semilinear equations with discrete spectrum.” His book, “Ecuaciones semilineales con espectro discreto” (Semilinear equations with discrete spectrum), was co-authored with NUC math Professor Jose Caicedo. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from the National University of Colombia (NUC) and his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Cincinnati.