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Gestur Olafsson

Gestur Olafsson

Hubert Butts Professor of Mathematics
Julian R. & Sidney Nicolle Carruth Endowed Alumni Professor
Department of Mathematics
LSU College of Science

What was your previous position and where?

I came to LSU in 1993 from Roskilde University in Denmark, where I was an associate professor. Before that, I was an assistant professor at the University of Gottingen in Germany.

What brought you to LSU?

Surely not the summer weather, but LSU has had a very strong mathematics department for a long time. Knowing the work of several faculty members close to my area, it looked promising as a future place for collaboration and research.

What is your research interest?

My major areas of research interest are the interplay between harmonic analysis, representation theory, geometry and groups. Geometry is the mathematical study of abstract models of the world we live in, models in theoretical physics, and its generalization and abstractions. Groups are expressions of symmetries, and representation theory prescribes how the symmetries act. Harmonic analysis is the extension of the well known praxis in the sciences and engineering initiated around 200 years ago, to write signals — or functions, to use the mathematical term — as a superposition of waves of different frequencies. It is one of the mathematical tools that get cell phones working. My field is harmonic analysis on symmetric spaces, wavelets and time frequency analysis viewed from the group theoretical point of view. But my own research is on the abstract site, where the above mentioned examples are just a specialization of the general theory.

What do you hope to accomplish at LSU?

I hope to produce well respected research in mathematics, educate my graduate students to become active researchers and educators and get undergraduate students to enjoy mathematics and realize its beauty and universal applicability. I hope to be a part of a strong group of faculty from different fields that makes the department nationally and internationally known for its research and education.

What do you enjoy most about LSU?

I enjoy all the great people here, both in the Department of Mathematics and elsewhere at LSU. The collegial atmosphere in the department is wonderful. I also very much enjoy the Louisiana culture, music and food.

What are your major accomplishments?

I have been lucky enough to meet and work with several great mathematicians. I was a driving force in the development of harmonic analysis on causal symmetric spaces, mathematics closely related to Einsteinís relativity. I am also proud of my work in quantum field theory, in short: reflection positivity. LSU is now well known for research in abstract harmonic analysis and representation theory. But, I am also proud of having been a part of a group of faculty members, including the former departmental chair L. Smolinsky, that established the VIGRE program at LSU. That program has transformed the culture among our graduate students the last three years and attracted around 30 undergraduate students from Louisiana and nearby states to LSU each summer to do research.


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