Newark, August 27, 1999 -- Will the afternoon tea, that mainstay of British civilization that once helped to stimulate the minds of those engaged in dealing with the far-flung regions of a great empire, do the same for those engaged in the far-flung world of applied mathematics?
A very definite "Yes!" seems to be the answer of New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Mathematician Daljit Singh Ahluwalia and other faculty at NJIT's Center for Applied Mathematics and Statistics (CAMS).
Applied Mathematics is just what the term implies, the use of mathematics to solve problems in physics, biology, chemistry, economics, and a wide range of other fields, as opposed to pure mathematics, which deals in theory.
An expert in Applied Mathematics, Professor Ahluwalia directs the Center and also chairs NJIT's Department of Mathematical Sciences. He believes that a bracing cup of tea in a relaxed, comfortable environment is just the thing to stimulate collaborative thought among mathematics professors, their graduate students, and faculty from other departments.
To serve as the proper setting for the teas, Professor Ahluwalia and fellow members of CAMS, which includes faculty from NJIT's Departments of Physics, Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, have put their money where their belief is by helping to pay for a new CAMS "reading room."
"The reading room has two primary purposes," says the professor, "To provide a place where we can help graduate students in their efforts to succeed, and to provide a pleasant atmosphere for the exchange of ideas among CAMS members and members of other NJIT departments we plan to invite."
"Faculty and graduate students also will be able to read and study there during the day," he says.
About the size of a large family room in an average American home, the room features over $15,000 worth of new chairs, a couch, conference table, round general purpose table, a refrigerator, a water cooler with hot and cold water, and other amenities, all paid for by the CAMS members themselves.
CAMS members also contributed mathematics books, including several classic works on the subject.
The room is located with doors adjacent to a Mathematics Department conference room that can be opened to accommodate larger groups for special occasions.
Professor Ahluwalia notes that NJIT "very generously" paid for renovations to the room, including new walls, lighting and bookcases.
The professor says that he got the idea to turn an unattractive room used for similar reading purposes into a "showplace for the exchange of ideas" about two years ago.
"But we hit an impasse when we found out it would cost over $15,000 just to bring furnishings up to date," he recalls. The university loved the idea but didn't have the funds available because of other projects, so CAMS members decided to pay for the furnishings out of their own pockets.
"We thought it important that we have an attractive place to relax and exchange ideas because collaboration is the key to doing applied mathematics," Professor Ahluwalia says.
"Just by sitting down and talking over tea, collaborations can develop among CAMS members as well as with faculty from other departments," he says. "It's the best way to do applied mathematics."
Set to begin in the Fall semester, the teas will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. each weekday at the new reading room, located at CAMS 6th Floor offices in NJIT's Cullimore Hall.
Tea won't be the only intellectual axle-grease for turning the wheels of thought at the new CAMS reading room. "We'll have coffee too," says Professor Ahluwalia, smiling.
NJIT's Department of Mathematical Sciences is noted for its focus on Applied Mathematics rather than pure theory. Its subject areas include such fields as neuroscience, electromagnetism, underwater acoustics, combustion and statistics, among others.
The Department is currently involved in 15 projects for such organizations as the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Federal Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research and NASA.
NJIT is a public research university enrolling nearly 8,200 bachelor's, master's and doctoral students in 76 degree programs through its five colleges: Newark College of Engineering, School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, the School of Management and the Albert Dorman Honors College. Research initiatives include manufacturing, microelectronics, multimedia, transportation, computer science, solar astrophysics, environmental engineering and science, and architecture and building science.
Yahoo! Internet Life magazine recently ranked NJIT the "most wired" public university in America, and has ranked it one of the top six "most wired" campuses among both public and private universities for three consecutive years. In addition, U.S. News and World Report's 1999 Annual Guide to America's Best Colleges ranked NJIT among the nation's top universities, and Money magazine's Best College Buys 1998 rated NJIT as the sixth best value among U.S. science and technology schools and among the top 100 overall.