An assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Mississippi, Thái Hoàng Lê
received the 2021 Dr. Mike L. Edmonds New Scholar Award in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics category for the College of Liberal Arts.
Most of his research lies in the fields of analytic and combinatorial number theory with tools from analysis such as Fourier analysis and ergodic theory. However, he views himself as a problem solver and strives to learn new mathematics and work beyond the intersection of these fields. He has worked in other areas of combinatorics and analytic number theory such as Diophantine approximation, equidistribution theory, probabilistic combinatorics, and applications to computer science.
Briefly describe your teaching philosophy/work. What should people know about it?
I work in Number Theory and Combinatorics. Number Theory is the study of the integers (whole numbers) and Combinatorics is the study of discrete objects. While intrinsically interesting, these areas have applications in Computer Science and in real life problems, such as how to transmit information securely, and how to generate highly random objects.
How did your interest in your field of study develop? What initially sparked your interest in teaching about your area?
I like my areas of research since in these areas the questions are easy to understand and can be explained to people with basic background in mathematics, in contrast to some areas where one has to study years before being able to understand the question.
In reflecting on your time as a professor, what are the highlights?
I enjoy my job as a professor since it gives me great flexibility. I have freedom to work on what I like and choose my own research problems, as opposed to working in industry. Besides, I get to teach, and it’s a joy to impart knowledge and see students enjoy the same things as you do.
Are there specific examples of support—fellowships, mentoring, other—that helped advance your academic and professional goals?
My research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. The math department and Dr. Reid have also been very supportive through the years.
What do you hope students take away from your classes?
Students may or may not see the applications or importance of what they learn in the classroom, but I hope mathematics transforms their way of thinking. Problem-solving skills and logical reasoning will always be useful, regardless of their future professions.
Do you have advice or thoughts to share with students?
“Mathematics is difficult,” I was told by my PhD advisor, who is one of the greatest mathematicians in the world today. It is okay to struggle, and it’s through struggling that you learn to persevere.