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Mathematics head receives first Fulbright

October 29, 2011

By STEVEN NALLEY
citybeat@bellsouth.net

Mohsen Razzaghi is going where no professor at Romania’s Technical University of Civil Engineering in Bucharest has gone before.
Razzaghi, head of the Mississippi State University Department of Mathematics and Statistics, said he will be teaching graduate level seminars and workshops on techniques he has developed for studies which currently have no corresponding textbooks.
“The Technical University of Civil Engineering in Bucharest already has in place a variety of outstanding programs in the field, but my nearly 38 years of teaching, research and professional activity should allow me to contribute to these programs,” Razzaghi said. “I will have to develop appropriate course materials, which the Technical University of Civil Engineering, and hopefully others as well, would then be able to use after my departure.”
Razzaghi is currently teaching in Bucharest on his first Fulbright Scholarship.
It won’t be Razzaghi’s first time blazing new academic trails. Razzaghi has designed and directed several special problem courses at MSU, where he was also heavily involved in designing the Ph.D. program for mathematical sciences.
“I supervised and directed Gamal Elnagar, the first student to complete a Ph.D. in Mathematical Sciences at MSU in August 1993,” Razzaghi said. “His thesis work resulted in eight refereed journal publications.”
Before coming to MSU, Razzaghi’s academic career took him around the world. Graduating from high school in Tehran, Iran, Razzaghi received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Sussex in England in 1968. After getting a master’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of Waterloo in Canada in 1969, he returned to Sussex to get his Ph.D. in 1972. Since then, he has taught and served in several administrative positions at Shiraz University and Amirkabir University of Technology in Iran, the University of Kentucky and MSU.
“Mathematics is an international discipline,” Razzaghi said, “so I work closely with many people from a variety of countries.”
But before now, he has only visited Romania as a presenter at four-day conferences in Bucharest and Constanta. Razzaghi said several factors made him want to return to the country.
“I genuinely like the country and its people,” Razzaghi said. “The country is beautiful and varied; the Romanian people are friendly, welcoming and sincerely pleased when people from other parts of the world visit them.”
Razzaghi said he is also interested in the way Romanians learn mathematics before even reaching college. The U.S. Department of Education has said students who study algebra, geometry and other rigorous mathematics courses in high school are likelier to reach college, and Razzaghi said he wants to investigate Romanian success with such programs.
“The International Mathematical Olympiad is the world championship mathematics competition for high school students and is held annually in a different country,” Razzaghi said. “The first IMO was held in 1959 in Romania, with seven countries participating. It has gradually expanded to over 100 countries from five continents. From 1959 to 2009, the Romanian high school students who participated in IMO placed first five times and in the top six 30 times.”
Razzaghi said he hopes his work will also benefit MSU.
“I hope to foster more collaborative research work between Romania and MSU, to attract more graduate students to MSU and to further MSU’s reputation in mathematics internationally,” Razzaghi said.
Len Miller, a mathematics professor at MSU, said Razzaghi has created novel methods and made fundamental contributions to his field.
“Dr. Razzaghi’s eminence in research and scholarship is well established,” Miller said. “Mohsen’s work is centered on problems in optimal control and dynamical systems with emphasis on engineering applications, and, in this sense, meshes particularly well with the mission of MSU.”
Mo Hosni now serves as Big 12 Engineering Consortium Director and professor at Kansas State University, but before coming to KSU, he was one of Razzaghi’s Ph.D. students.
“(Razzaghi was) not only an excellent educator in the classroom, but also a kind person who cared deeply for the well being of all students,” Hosni said. “Dr. Razzaghi’s passion for teaching, mentoring and caring for students is second to none.”

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