The Vanderbilt Undergrad Seminar

Important: As of March 9th and through the end of the semester, math undergrad seminars are cancelled due to concerns about the coronavirus. We will keep this website up to date and inform you of any changes. Thank you for your patience.

The Undergraduate Seminar in Mathematics is a weekly, hour long talk. There you can hear about some of the many deep and interesting areas of mathematics beyond what you would see in the classroom of most math classes. The talks are designed to be accessible to any college student; little to no math background is required. The seminar occurs most weeks on Tuesday from 6-7pm, in Stevenson 1206. Come by and enjoy some pizza and soda before the talk, and hear about something new. We hope to see you there!

This semester’s talks: (This list will be updated as talks are scheduled.)

February 4: Professor Spencer Dowdall
Title: Horror of horoballs! The Möbiusville rational riddle.
Abstract: Möbiusville has a horoball dilemma! A mysterious chain reaction is causing subterranean noxious gas to bubble to the surface through every rational point! The only hope is to launch a neutralizer directly into the poisoned earth. But with billowing biohazardous bubbles everywhere, how can this palliative payload reach the surface without bursting a bubble and releasing the deadly gas? Can Möbiusville’s much-maligned mayor muster of a mathematical miracle? To find out we’ll embark on a hyperbolic journey that bends lines into circles and reveals the secret of continued fractions.

February 11: Hayden Jananthan
Title: This Title is False (Part II)
Abstract: In 1931 Kurt Gödel proved his Incompleteness Theorems, which put strong bounds on the expressiveness of arithmetic and mathematics more generally. In 1936, Tarski used Gödel’s methods to prove another stark limitation on the expressiveness of mathematics, and language more generally. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “Truth” as, “A judgement, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true.” But… does this actually define truth in a way that explains what it is in a non-circular fashion? We will see that any sufficiently expressive language cannot, in a particular sense, define truth.

February 18: Professor Jose Gil-ferez
Title: Rainbows
Abstract: Rainbows are these colorful arrangements of light that appear in the sky, sometimes, after the rain; marvelous phenomena that make everyone’s heart happier. Remarkable as they are, every culture has stories and myths about them, and even today they are very present in our lives as symbols of beauty, peace, covenants with the gods, human rights, technology, … We will take a closer look, from a mathematical perspective, to these gorgeous shows that Nature puts out there only for your eyes.


Check out all of the awesome talks we have had in the past!