Numbers Game

Artist rendering of sculpture


Thanks to a $1 million award from The Fletcher Jones Foundation, USD’s math department is poised to transform its Serra Hall home into a dynamic, state-of-the-art environment for student collaboration, faculty research and community gathering.

Glass walls and open spaces are the hallmarks of the re-design, providing space for both quiet work and collaborative learning, to help students and faculty deepen their understanding of mathematics. The centerpiece is the Math Studio, a workspace created to promote a physical dimension to math research, borrowing ideas from manufacturing, art studios and design principles.

A brand-new professorship in applied mathematics, funded by The Fletcher Jones Foundation, allowed the College of Arts and Sciences to hire Satyan Devadoss, who is passionate about bringing an integrated approach to the subject.

“We just don’t think with our minds,” says Devadoss. “We have hands, we have feet, we have bodies. If you look at most [other academic] disciplines, those are being used for the sake of the discipline. People assume that all you need for math is a piece of chalk, or pen and paper. What would happen if we made math embodied?

“The main goal of this math studio will be to do research,” Devadoss adds. “The two other pieces of the puzzle are to teach students what math physical space could look like, and also to promote and showcase this new wonder that we have.”

Faculty and students from the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, along with the Theatre and Theology departments, are working together with those in mathematics to create a massive 11-foot interactive sculpture that brings in unsolved ideas from math, physics and the humanities. Viewers will be able to open the sculpture (pictured above), step inside and view reflective surfaces that capture a possible shape of our universe. Fundraising is underway to complete the project, with a goal of showcasing it at USD and nationally.

The Fletcher Jones Foundation is a longtime supporter of USD, having funded construction and equipment for the Shiley Center for Science and Technology and Mother Rosalie Hill Hall, along with endowed professorships. — Timothy McKernan

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