Matt Baker is one of 39 researchers around the country named to the 2023 Class of Simons Fellows. Baker is a professor in the School of Mathematics, and will soon depart his role as the inaugural College of Sciences associate dean for Faculty Development to focus on the new fellowship.
The Simons Fellows are part of the Simons Foundation’s mission to support discovery-driven scientific research undertaken in the pursuit of understanding the phenomena of our world. It provides funds to faculty for up to a semester-long research leave from classroom teaching and administrative obligations.
“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to pursue some intellectual projects next year that I haven’t had time for in the recent past,” Baker said. “And I’m grateful to the School of Mathematics, the College of Sciences, and the Simons Foundation for their support.”
Baker has announced his intention to use the fellowship, along with a Georgia Tech Faculty Development Grant, for a sabbatical he will take during the 2023-2024 academic year.
Over the past five years, as the College’s first associate dean for Faculty Development, Baker has instituted important processes regarding the hiring and retention of faculty, said Susan Lozier, College of Sciences Dean and Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Chair.
“Matt will be leaving an indelible mark on the College,” said Lozier. “Over these past five years, he has tirelessly worked to recruit, retain, promote and support faculty. Under his leadership, we now have annual faculty hiring plans that guide our growth. We have a set of robust new faculty mentoring workshops, a more inclusive faculty development grant program, a consistent distribution of best practices in faculty hiring, and a more open process for the solicitation of faculty awards.
“It has been nothing short of a pleasure to work with Matt these past few years, and I will miss the wisdom and wit that he brought to his position.”
Plans for a research-centric year
“The Simons Fellowships have become a principal distinction for senior mathematicians,” explains Michael Wolf, professor and chair of the School of Mathematics. Annually, “only about 40 mathematicians in the U.S. and Canada receive these awards, and they go to the mathematical scientists with the best research records in the previous five years, whose potential to use a semester to think promises the greatest possibilities. The awardees are the household names of the mathematicians doing the best current work nationally, and while it is natural to see Matt included, it is still a wonderful statement of how his impact is appreciated by his colleagues in this country.”
Baker’s research includes his work on matroid theory, which the American Mathematical Society (AMS) describes as “a combinatorial theory of independence which has its origins in linear algebra and graph theory, and turns out to have deep connections with many other fields.” Baker will turn the notes from his Spring 2020 graduate course, Topics in Matroid Theory, into a freely available AMS Open Math Notes resource.
Baker said he plans to travel for collaborations with other math researchers, and to attend workshops and conferences. He will also resume regular blogging about math research; his blog recently surpassed 300,000 views.
About Matt Baker
Baker received his B.S. in Mathematics in 1994 from the University of Maryland at College Park, where he graduated summa cum laude. He earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1999.
Baker was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow and an assistant professor at Harvard University from 1999-2002. He was a visiting professor at the University of Paris, and an assistant professor at the University of Georgia before joining Georgia Tech in 2004. He was elected as a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2012, and was named the College of Sciences’ first associate dean for Faculty Development in 2018.
Baker has written three books about math. His fourth book, “The Buena Vista Shuffle Club,” published in 2019, details his lifelong love of magic and how he explores its connections to mathematics. The Georgia Magic Club selected Baker as its Greater Atlanta Magician of the Year in 2015 and 2019.
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