Gray to lead School of Mathematics
Professor Larry Gray is accustomed to seeing the big picture—a
skill that will serve him well in his new post as chair of the
School of Mathematics. Gray will succeed Professor Naresh Jain
as department head July 1.
The department's director of undergraduate studies since 1999,
Gray oversees the math instruction of thousands of undergraduates
each year. "Math has a big impact on lots of fields, and
University-wide our department teaches 6,000 to 7,000 students
each semester," he says.
Gray served on the 80-member Minnesota Academic Standards Committee
that produced a framework for revising state K-12 standards in
mathematics, reading, and English. Appointed in March by Minnesota
education commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke, the committee—parents,
teachers, business leaders, and representatives from higher education—wrote
and revised a draft of standards that incorporated suggestions
from the public. Besides serving on subcommittees that wrote the
initial drafts of standards for grades 6-8 and for high school,
Gray was also on committee responsible for the final version of
the entire math standards document.
Gray received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Cornell University
in 1977 and joined the Minnesota faculty later that year. His
areas of expertise include probability theory, Markov processes,
and interacting particle systems. He's currently studying the
mathematics of traffic jams, an area that's also related to problems
in condensed-matter physics and Internet traffic. He is coauthor
of the graduate-level text A Modern Approach to Probability
Theory, written with his mathematics colleague, Professor
Budget issues promise to be among the most difficult challenges
awaiting Gray when he assumes his new responsibilities. "It's
a tough time to be in a leadership position, but I know that IT
values our department and what it does," he says. "We'll
need to take a fresh look at how we do things to find solutions."