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UW-Eau Claire Mathematics Professor Receives
Fulbright Scholar Grant to Continue Research in Budapest

RELEASED: July 9, 2007

Dr. Michael Penkava
Dr. Michael Penkava

EAU CLAIRE — University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire mathematics professor Dr. Michael Penkava has been selected to receive a research award from the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Program. The award will allow Penkava to spend five months in Hungary to continue his collaborative research with Dr. Alice Fialowski of Etvs Lornd University in Budapest.

Penkava's collaboration with Fialowski began in 1997 with a grant from the National Research Council that encouraged collaboration between American and Eastern European mathematicians. The goal of the initial collaboration was to generalize some prior work done jointly by Fialowski and Dmitry Fuchs on the deformations of Lie Algebras.

According to Penkava, both collaborators contribute essential aspects of the work. His expertise is in infinity algebras and deformation theory, while Fialowski has experience in deformations of Lie algebras. Most recently they have been studying low dimensional Lie and associative algebras.

Over the past ten years Penkava and Fialowski have secured additional funds to continue their research, including several grants from UW-Eau Claire's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and the Alfred Renyi Institute of Mathematics in Budapest, a $9,800 collaborative travel grant from the National Science Foundation and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 2001, and a $47,000 NSF research grant in 2002. Each of these grants provided funds that allowed Penkava to bring student researchers to Hungary. The research has led to some 20 scholarly papers over the past ten years, several of which were co-authored by the UW-Eau Claire mathematics undergraduates who have assisted Penkava with the research, both in Hungary and on campus.

Penkava believes that UW-Eau Claire's willingness to continue funding his research during periods when he has been awaiting news on grant funding from other sources contributed to the success of his application for a Fulbright Scholars award.

"This university has done a very good job of putting its money where its mouth is," Penkava said, noting that he has been grateful to everyone who has encouraged and supported his research, including the NSF, his department, the College of Arts and Sciences, the ORSP, and the Provost's office at UW-Eau Claire. "Their support has allowed me to have as many as four research assistants at a time, and most of those students have been able to write their own tickets when it came time to apply to graduate school."

Even though this Fulbright award is strictly for faculty research, and Penkava will not be taking any student assistants with him this time, he believes that the benefit of his experience will extend to his students and ultimately lead to more research opportunities for them as well.

"The prestige of the Fulbright Program and its recognition of the importance of this work will increase the odds of getting more NSF funding aimed at including undergraduates in future research," said Penkava, who is becoming known for his unusual commitment to involving undergraduates in advanced mathematical research.

"When I first started doing this, I had one grant reviewer tell me he 'highly doubted' that undergraduate math students would be capable of assisting with this kind of research," Penkava said, "but now they've begun commending us for this very effort."

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NW

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