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November 10, 2008
Mathematician Receives Sigma Xi Young Investigator Award
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC - Mason A. Porter's interest in mathematics initially arose largely from what he considered visually appealing.
"I had a childhood fascination with patterns," he explained. "The sketches I began drawing when I was 3 years old included many displays of contrasting color. In high school, I noticed that fractals could produce colorful patterns in the same vein as what I liked to draw, which led to my interest in them."
In college, he discovered that what really intrigued him was trying to understand the mechanisms that could produce such interesting pictures and the real-life and man-made systems that exhibited them.
"Since then, my interests have branched out into several fields of science that can be studied using dynamical systems and other methods," said Porter, who today is on the faculty in applied mathematics at the University of Oxford and is also a Tutorial Fellow at Somerville College.
His research in nonlinear science and complex systems includes classical and quantum chaos, billiard systems, nonlinear waves, Bose-Einstein condensation, granular media and social networks.
Porter will receive Sigma Xi's Young Investigator Award and present a lecture on his research at the 2008 Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference in Washington, D.C.
The Young Investigator Award includes $5,000 and a certificate of recognition. Sigma Xi members
within 10 years of their highest earned degree are eligible for this award.
Porter was born in Los Angeles, California, and received a B.S. in applied mathematics at the California Institute of Technology in 1998 and a Ph.D. at Cornell University, with a dissertation on quantum chaos.
He was a postdoc at the Georgia Institute of Technology, jointly in mathematics and the nonlinear physics group; the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, in their semiclassical analysis program; and Caltech, in the Center for the Physics of Information and the condensed matter theory group.
Porter joined the faculty at the University of Oxford in October 2007. He has mentored more than 30 undergraduate research students.
In his free time, Porter immerses himself in all sorts of games, including board games, video games and role-playing games. He also lists among his pursuits Frisbee, ping pong, fantasy and science fiction books and "thinking about baseball whenever possible." He’s a Dodgers fan.
About Sigma Xi
Founded in 1886, Sigma Xi is the international honor society of research scientists and engineers, with more than 500 chapters at colleges and universities, government laboratories and industry research centers. Membership is by invitation, in recognition of research potential or achievement. Over the years, more than 200 Sigma Xi members have received the Nobel Prize. In addition to publishing American Scientist, the non-profit Society awards hundreds of grants annually to student researchers and sponsors a variety of programs that support science and engineering.