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Faculty Spotlight

Iraj Kalantari Chair of the Mathematics Department

Tabi Jozwick

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For most people, it takes time and experience for them to find their passion, but for the Department of Mathematics chair Iraj Kalantari, he found his passion for math when he was only in junior high school.

A native of Tehran, Iran, Kalantari moved around each year due to his father transferring to different cities throughout Iran and returning to Tehran during the summers.

“I finished high school in Tehran and came to the United States to go to college,” Kalantari said. “I majored in mathematics and physics at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls. I then attended Cornell University where I received an MS in Applied Mathematics and then a PhD in Mathematics.”

Kalantari said that he thought it was his seventhgrade math class when he got interested in mathematics.

“For the first few weeks, I could not see the charge of Euclidean geometry,” Kalantari said. “But when I figured it out, I was won over by its element of surprise, beauty and elegance of arguments, so I pursued more in high school.”

Kalantari shared more about his fascination with mathematics and his desire to study more about mathematics.

“Martin Gardner’s books synched it for me and I was and remain endlessly fascinated by mathematics,” Kalantari said. “College revealed to me that I wanted to learn more and explain my thoughts to others. Planning to enter the academia was then a natural decision for a future for me.”

In mathematics, Kalantari specialized in mathematical logic, specifically in computability and its approach to mathematics.

“In mathematics, we often learn that, given some premises, something exists,” Kalantari said. “In computability approach, we purse whether something can be computed when the premises are computable.”

Kalantari said that he was lucky to share his finding through publications and while most of them are too technical to explain, he did talk about one of his publications called “Sherwood Forest” that could be found on Google.

“I wrote a piece for a mathematical publication to demonstrate the wondrous effectiveness and beauty of mathematical notation in capturing even simple ideas that would otherwise be cryptic to write in ordinary prose,” Kalantari said. “After its publication in that mathematics journal, Harper’s magazine chose to republish it.”

Outside of mathematics, Kalantari likes to listen to music, especially Bach and X Ambassadors.

“I like cinema, especially films with a rich dialogue,” Kalantari said.

For mathematical study, Kalantari does have some words of wisdom.

“When studying mathematics, use pencil and paper,” Kalantari said. “Do accept that sometimes, you have to struggle. Struggle is good because it is a gateway to understanding and remembering. Learn from your mistakes, don’t fear them.”

Kalantari had some words of wisdom from life in general, which could also be applied to the study of mathematics.

“Don’t expect fun and satisfaction to fall in your lap,” Kalantari said. “Pursue learning about a body of knowledge and cultivate the fun and satisfaction that could exist there. Learn something new every day.”

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