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Faculty Focus: Mathematical Physics Research Group Part II
05.24.13 |
Abigail Skelton ’14: Questioning Assumptions, Striving for Clarity

Dr. David Lyons, professor of mathematical sciences, and Dr. Scott Walck, chair and professor of physics, lead a student-faculty team of researchers known as the Mathematical Physics Research Group (MPRG), which for several years has been studying the area of quantum information science. This interdisciplinary field, which incorporates mathematics, physics, computer science, and engineering, studies the relationships between quantum mechanics and information processing.

The group recently was awarded a three-year, $273,975 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in support of their project, “Structure and Local Equivalence of Stabilizers and States.” This is the third consecutive NSF grant the group has earned, totaling more than $700,000 in support. Student researchers have co-authored numerous papers and delivered presentations at national conferences. Last spring, the group also received an Arnold Grant in support of this project. Abigail Skelton ’14 is one of five student members of the MPRG.

“Abigail is an example of someone who has a really mature mathematical way of viewing things,” Walck said. “As you’re talking to her, she’ll stop you and say, ‘Wait, what does that mean? What did you mean by that?’ She’s listening for clarity and building a model in her head of what these objects are doing. That’s really powerful.”

Skelton, a double major in mathematics and German, has worked for two summers with LVC’s Mathematical Physics Research Group and last fall won a prestigious Waldemar J. Trijitzinsky Memorial Award, given by the American Mathematical Society to just seven students in the U.S., including students from University of California, Berkeley and The Pennsylvania State University.

“Abigail is particularly good at coming up with interesting ideas for us to pursue and asking about the significance of our ideas,” Walck said. “She pushes us to ask, ‘Why do you want to ask that question? Why is that an interesting question?’ She wasn’t taking someone else’s claim that this was interesting for granted, but instead judging for herself whether a question is interesting or valuable.”

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