Math Prof Wins National Honor for Work on Algebra

Prof. Irena Swanson is named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

By Chris Lydgate ’90 | November 15, 2018

Prof. Irena Swanson ’87 has been named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society for outstanding contributions to commutative algebra, exposition, service to the profession, and mentoring.

The honor recognizes Prof. Swanson’s standing as a prolific author and editor. She co-wrote Integral Closure of Ideals, Rings, and Modules, an influential textbook on commutative algebra, and has penned no fewer than 53 papers on mathematical topics ranging from Frobenius numbers to Hankel matrices.

Commutative algebra deals with mathematical objects that produce the same result when multiplied in any order. For example, you can put on your belt and then your watch, or your watch and then your belt—either way you get the same result. (That’s commutative.) But if you put on your shoes and then your socks, you get a different result than if you reverse the order. (That’s noncommutative.)

Prof. Swanson has served as editor for several prominent mathematical journals, including Communications in Algebra and the Journal of Commutative Algebra, and has handled 953 papers as an editor. She is also a moderator of the arXiv forum on commutative algebra, where researchers post their work before or after it goes to formal publication.

In addition to her theoretical work, Prof. Swanson has mentored scores of budding mathematicians during her time at Reed.

She has also developed an innovative quilting technique known as tube piecing, which allows artists to create quilts of dazzling intricacy while radically reducing the number of seams they have to sew.

Prof. Swanson earned her BA in math at Reed and her PhD from Purdue, and taught at New Mexico State University before returning to Reed as a professor in 2005.

Tags: Academics, Alumni, Awards & Achievements, Professors