Sean Howe honored with Early Career Teaching Award
Sean Howe, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics, College of Science, has been honored with the University of Utah Early Career Teaching Award.
Dr. Howe is noted for being instrumental in his students' success by advising applications for scholarships, graduate schools, and research experiences. He provides individual instruction on advanced research projects and related topics. Praise and notes from his nomination include, "I am extremely fortunate and grateful for Dr. Howe's constant support and the positive impact he has had on my life and academic career. The personal impact of his guidance truly cannot be understated - he has proven to be an outstanding mentor in every manner possible, exhibiting extraordinary character and compassion for his students."
Howe's research is in the Langlands program, an area of mathematics that develops analogies to explain the behavior of prime numbers using ideas grounded in geometry and physics. For example, the geometric idea of distance can be modified to give a new definition, depending on a prime number, of when two integers are "close." One can then count the number of approximate (for this new definition of close!) integer solutions to an equation using the same mathematical techniques that are used to break down music into fundamental tones.
"When someone asks about my research, I like to tell them I spend my days sipping lattes and thinking about prime numbers," joked Howe. "But the reality is I love the feeling of seeing something in a new light for the first time, and that's what I'm constantly chasing in my work." The goal of his research is to take a problem that feels intractable and find a new way to look at it to reveal a simple, elegant solution.
Some of the topics Howe studies have applications to cryptography (the branch of mathematics that allows you to safely and securely buy products online without having your credit card information stolen), but that isn't why he studies them.