Brown mathematician elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Kavita Ramanan, a professor of applied mathematics, is honored for her work in probability theory and random processes.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Kavita Ramanan, a professor of applied mathematics at Brown, has been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s most prestigious honor societies. Ramanan joins 252 new members of the academy, which includes leading scholars in science, public affairs, business, arts and the humanities.

Ramanan
Kavita Ramanan

The academy selects its members through a highly competitive process that recognizes individuals who have made preeminent contributions to their disciplines and to society at large.

"I am deeply honored by this recognition, which came as a completely unexpected surprise,” Ramanan said. “I am greatly indebted to my family and close friends, as well as mentors, collaborators and students, for not only making my research journey possible but also extremely enjoyable. In addition, I find the multidisciplinary nature of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences very attractive, and am excited by the possibility of meeting and working with people from diverse fields as a member of the academy.”

Ramanan’s research focuses on probability theory and stochastic processes. Her work investigates the uncertain outcomes and random effects that pervade science, engineering and everyday life.

“We sometimes think of randomness as a problem — something we want to get rid of,” Ramanan said. “But it turns out that introducing randomness can be highly beneficial in many areas of mathematics and its applications.”

Ramanan has pioneered mathematical tools used to analyze random behavior in areas as disparate as the geometry of high-dimensional objects, the physics of phase transitions, and ways in which lines and queues form. These tools help analyze high-dimensional data, and predict important outcomes such as the spread of disease, the performance of algorithms for cloud computing and the synchronization of circadian rhythms. She is the owner of four patents dealing with scheduling in wireless communication data networks.

In addition to her research, Ramanan works extensively to communicate mathematical concepts to the broader public. She founded an outreach group called the Math CoOp and served as narrator and consultant for the film “Srinivasa Ramanujan: The Mathematician and his Legacy.” Ramanan also works to create inclusive and rewarding environments for groups underrepresented in math, including women. She serves on the executive council of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and helped to establish the AWM student chapter at Brown. She also organized a Women’s Networking Research Symposium conference at Brown and initiated a pan-American bilingual math outreach program called Mathematics Sin Fronteras.

Ramanan joins 42 current and former Brown faculty members who have been elected to the academy, including University President Christina H. Paxson, Nobel Laureates Leon Cooper and Michael Kosterlitz, and National Medal of Science winner S. James Gates Jr.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the nation’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, convening leaders from the academic, business and government sectors to address critical challenges facing global society.

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