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Celebration for NJIT Mathematician Who Received Noted Math Prize

Robert Miura, PhD, a professor in the departments of mathematical sciences and biomedical engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) was honored last week by his colleagues for receiving the Leroy P. Steele Prize for a Seminal Contribution To Research In Mathematics from the American Mathematical Society (http://www.ams.org/prizes-awards).  The prize honors the work of Miura and his co-authors C. S. Gardner, J. M. Greene and M. D. Kruskal. Their work was done some 40 years ago when Miura was a postdoctoral student at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. 

The quartet unraveled the Korteweg-de-Vries equation, which had stumped mathematicians for decades.  To solve the equation, Miura helped develop the inverse scattering method for solving nonlinear partial differential equations.   The equation was originally published in 1895 by Dutch mathematicians Diederik Johannes Korteweg (1848-1941) and Gustav de Vries (1866-1934). The work was published as “Korteweg-de-Vries equation and generalizations. VI. Methods for exact solution, Comm. Pure Appl. Math. 27 (1974).   

“Mathematicians regard the Steele prize very highly,” said Daljit Ahluwahlia, PhD, director of the Center for Applied Mathematics at NJIT and acting dean of NJIT’s College of Computing Sciences.  “It is awarded for work that has proved to be of fundamental or lasting importance in its field, or a model of important research.   The list of past winners consists of many luminaries of mathematics, including John Nash and Andre Weil.”

At a reception last week at NJIT, Miura said he was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with and to have been mentored by the other three men. “The two years at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory were the happiest and most exciting years in my research career. Every day came with the time to think deeply about new ideas and to produce results.” 

Miura said a major breakthrough in solving this fascinating problem was the development of a method for the exact solution which the mathematicians called the inverse scattering method.  “The method utilized the scattering problem for the time-independent Schrodinger equation,” said Miura.   “At the time, we thought this method was very special and only could be applied to that equation.  However, other researchers soon showed us how to generalize the method to systems of equations.  The rest is history.”  

The Korteweg-de-Vries equation was originally published in 1895 by Dutch mathematicians Diederik Johannes Korteweg (1848-1941) and Gustav de Vries (1866-1934). The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will elect MIURA a Fellow next month.  He is one of only four individuals this year in math to receive this other honor. Miura, of Millburn, is acting chair of NJIT’s math department. Miura shares the Steele Prize with three others. 

Miura’s current research interests focus on developing mathematical models in neuroscience for cell dynamics.  He works with biologists to help them understand how and why a type of depressed brain activity induced in animals spreads as a slow, pathological wave.  A Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (1980) and the Royal Society of Canada (1995), Miura joined NJIT in 2001.  Prior to that, he spent 26 years at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, as a professor of mathematics.   

Miura’s recent publications include "Spatial Buffering Mechanism: Mathematical Model and Computer Simulations,” Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering, Vol. 2 (2005).

One of the nation's leading public technological universities, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a top-tier research university that prepares students to become leaders in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st century. NJIT's multidisciplinary curriculum and computing-intensive approach to education provide technological proficiency, business acumen and leadership skills. With an enrollment of more than 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, NJIT offers small-campus intimacy with the resources of a major public research university. NJIT is a global leader in such fields as solar research, nanotechnology, resilient design, tissue engineering, and cyber-security, in addition to others. NJIT ranks 5th among U.S. polytechnic universities in research expenditures, topping $110 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to PayScale.com.