"I am fortunate to work at an institution that values interdisciplinary scholarship and allows me to pursue two different research tracks."

Since joining the Bucknell faculty in 1999, Tom Cassidy has conducted his scholarship in the two very different fields of pure and applied mathematics. Pure mathematics involves abstract theories — the exploration of ideas for the sake of knowledge alone. Cassidy's specialty in pure mathematics lies in noncommutative ring theory.

"My current projects in ring theory include studying connections between abstract structures called Koszul algebras and layered graphs that come from partitions of integers," he says. "I am also investigating correspondences between the representation theory of graded skew Clifford algebras and of the enveloping algebras of Lie superalgebras."

Conversely, applied mathematics addresses real-world concerns. An interest in the practical problems of mathematical demography prompted Cassidy to spend a year at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany.

"I have worked on a mathematical model of the change in fertility rates over time, examining how the timing of childbirth can distort fertility data and create the illusion that women are having fewer children," he says. Cassidy has also studied the aging process, showing in an article that in contemporary Western societies, slowing down the pace at which we age — and are increasingly prone to the risks of mortality — would dramatically impact longevity. "Medical research should focus more on the mechanics of aging," he suggests.

In light of his diversified academic opportunities at Bucknell, Cassidy says, "Pure and applied mathematicians share a common language and employ similar techniques, but they do not always communicate with each other. Some universities even have separate departments of pure and applied mathematics, and rarely does one mathematician work in both areas. I am fortunate to work at an institution that values interdisciplinary scholarship and allows me to pursue two different research tracks."

Posted October 2012

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