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

Bert Fristedt.

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."