Dr . Conrey is the Executive Director of the American Institute of Math ( AIM ), a hub for mathematical research into problems like water scarcity . He is also founder of an outreach program called Morgan Hill Math that is quietly transforming the way kids experience math . Conrey pursues both roles with passion , curiosity and a fun-loving mindset that even mathophobes find appealing .

As an academic and a business leader , Conrey has not only mentored math enthusiasts of all ages and levels of skill for more than 30 years , but his own research is connected with one of math ’ s greatest mysteries of all time .

Tackling the Riemann Hypothesis

Conrey studied mathematics at Santa Clara University , earned a PhD from the University of Michigan , and advanced from professor to Chairman of the Mathematics Department at the University of Oklahoma- Stillwater . During that time he decided to focus his research on the Riemann Hypothesis , a prime number theorem put forth by a German mathematician in the late 1800s .

In 1989 , Conrey published research that provided the strongest support of the

Riemann Hypothesis in more than one hundred years .

“ The Riemann Hypothesis is at the core of all mathematics ,” Conrey explained . “ It has to do with the fundamental relationship between addition and multiplication . Even today ’ s supercomputers have only been able to check the first 10 trillion results , but it ’ s an infinite proposition .”

In the late 1990s , Conrey received a letter from John Fry , a fellow Santa Clara University alum and the founder of Fry ’ s Electronics . Fry had launched the American Institute of Math as a non-profit organization dedicated to mathematics research , and he wanted Conrey on his team .

Taking AIM at Collaboration

“ John wanted AIM to solve important mathematics problems through collaboration , rather than in the traditional , very insular way that mathematicians had done their research in the past ,” Conrey said .

After attending several meetings at which AIM ’ s advisory board was considering what problems they should research , Conrey suggested they look at the Riemann Hypothesis , but the board rejected the suggestion as too risky . Undaunted , he took the advice of his former thesis advisor at the University of Michigan and held a conference on the topic . The event succeeded in refocusing attention on the Riemann Hypothesis within the math community

Impressed with Conrey ’ s work , AIM ’ s board members invited him to become Executive Director of the Institute . He left Oklahoma for the Bay Area to set up the Institute ’ s first offices in 1997 .

“ Our vision for AIM required a cultural shift because mathematicians tend to be introverted and we wanted our workshops to be collaborative . We developed a rather elaborate process to brief participants on proposed topics so they could get up to speed quickly ; discuss , rank and vote on problems they wanted to work on ; and tackle the problems by working in smaller groups .”

The idea worked . AIM ’ s workshops quickly filled and more were added . Research coming out of the workshops began to make its mark within the broader international community and helped AIM win funding support from the National Science Foundation .

Math and Mother Earth

In 2013 , AIM took part in a global initiative called Mathematics Planet Earth to showcase the importance of math in understanding the complex challenges of sustaining life on Earth . It connected mathematicians with experts from other disciplines and focused attention on tough questions regarding food and water insecurity , methods of cancer treatment , use of earthquake data to understand the

G M H T O D A Y M A G A Z I N E MAY / JUNE 2015 gmhtoday . com

37

Brian Conrey
Mad About Math
If
your idea of math is mind-
numbing formulas that are
irrelevant to daily life, you
haven’t met Brian Conrey.
Dr. Conrey is the Executive Director
of the American Institute of Math
(AIM), a hub for mathematical research
into problems like water scarcity. He is
also founder of an outreach program
called Morgan Hill Math that is quietly
transforming the way kids experience math.
Conrey pursues both roles with passion,
curiosity and a fun-loving mindset that even
mathophobes find appealing.
As an academic and a business leader,
Conrey has not only mentored math
enthusiasts of all ages and levels of skill for
more than 30 years, but his own research
is connected with one of math’s greatest
mysteries of all time.
Tackling the Riemann Hypothesis
Conrey studied mathematics at Santa
Clara University, earned a PhD from the
University of Michigan, and advanced from
professor to Chairman of the Mathematics
Department at the University of Oklahoma-
Stillwater. During that time he decided
to focus his research on the Riemann
Hypothesis, a prime number theorem put
forth by a German mathematician in the
late 1800s.
In 1989, Conrey published research
that provided the strongest support of the
Riemann Hypothesis in more than one
hundred years.
“The Riemann Hypothesis is at the core
of all mathematics,” Conrey explained. “It
has to do with the fundamental relationship
between addition and multiplication. Even
today’s supercomputers have only been able
to check the first 10 trillion results, but it’s
an infinite proposition.”
In the late 1990s, Conrey received a
letter from John Fry, a fellow Santa Clara
University alum and the founder of Fry’s
Electronics. Fry had launched the American
Institute of Math as a non-profit organiza-
tion dedicated to mathematics research, and
he wanted Conrey on his team.
Taking AIM at Collaboration
“John wanted AIM to solve important
mathematics problems through collabora-
tion, rather than in the traditional, very
insular way that mathematicians had done
their research in the past,” Conrey said.
After attending several meetings at
which AIM’s advisory board was consider-
ing what problems they should research,
Conrey suggested they look at the Riemann
Hypothesis, but the board rejected the sug-
gestion as too risky. Undaunted, he took
the advice of his former thesis advisor at the
University of Michigan and held a co ȴ)ѡѽQٕЁՍ)ɕͥѕѥѡI)!ѡͥ́ݥѡѡѠչ)4 P<d4h$8)5d)U9)%ɕ͕ݥѠ
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