A math professor writes equations on a large white board during a conference on campus

Meetings of the mind

November 17, 2023

Research & Innovation

Academic conferences provide an opportunity for faculty to present new research, learn about the latest developments in their fields, and network with fellow scholars. Recently, two University of Richmond faculty brought major academic conferences to campus.

History professor Joanna Drell hosted the 42nd annual International Conference of the Haskins Society earlier this month, which drew about 70 medieval scholars from around the world, including Moscow and the United Kingdom.

The Haskins Society is dedicated to the study of the early and central Middle Ages. Panelists and speakers discussed topics ranging from recreating medieval spaces in virtual reality, to historical writing in the 12th century, and power in medieval Europe.

“Medieval history is increasingly relevant today,” said Drell, who organized the conference with professor Steven Isaac of Longwood University. “The Middle Ages play an important role in shaping Western popular culture, and understanding the relationship between the medieval world and contemporary society remains a vital area of academic exploration.”

UR faculty and students from several schools and multiple departments participated in the conference, which included a tour of nearby Tudor manor house Agecroft Hall & Gardens.  

Earlier this fall, math professor Bill Ross hosted a conference for the foundation that he established, attracting researchers from across the mid-Atlantic region, including speakers from Canada and Europe. 

Ross received a National Science Foundation grant to host the 2023 Virginia Operator Theory and Complex Analysis Meeting, an academic staple at colleges and universities in Virginia for more than 30 years.

“This is a forum where mathematicians, including students, convene to share ideas and build relationships,” Ross said. “It’s known for being welcoming and accessible to a wide range of mathematicians from all backgrounds and in all stages of their careers.”

“Conferences like these are wonderful experiences for the mathematical community and foster productive collaborations,” Ross added.

Ross’s colleague Jim Davis, a professor at UR since 1988, also sees the value of international collaboration and bringing fellow researchers to campus.

Last spring, Davis hosted fellow scholars from around the world to discuss math projects, such as algebraic coding theory and partial difference sets, which are vital to modern communication methods, including data transmission, encryption, and cryptography.  

“Math is an important part of balancing speed, accuracy, and security in so much of what we do on a daily basis from texting to shopping online to streaming video,” Davis said.

Davis co-led the research collaboration with former student John Polhill, a 1993 graduate who is now a professor at Bloomsburg University.

“I have benefitted greatly over the years from my own international research visits,” Davis said. “It was wonderful to be able to host scholars from around the globe to our campus to advance research that will influence teaching as well as journal articles and research in the field.”