The Virginia Tech College of Science begins its 2018-19 J. Mark Sowers Distinguished Lecture Series Oct. 30 with mathematician Steven H. Strogatz of Cornell University, co-sponsored by the Department of Mathematics.

The Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell, Strogatz is an applied mathematician and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow who researches nonlinear dynamics and complex systems, often focusing on topics inspired by the curiosities of everyday life.

In describing his talk, The Math and Science of Getting in Sync, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at Latham Ballroom at the Inn at Virginia Tech, Strogatz said, “Every night along the tidal rivers of Malaysia, thousands of male fireflies congregate in the mangrove trees and flash on and off in unison. This display extends for miles along the river and occurs spontaneously. It does not require any leader or cue from the environment. Similar feats of synchronization occur throughout the natural world and in our own bodies.”

The lecture will cover the math and science of synchronization, with “amazing videos of synchronous fireflies, coupled metronomes, and London’s wobbly Millennium Bridge.”

Strogatz is passionate about communicating mathematics to a wide audience and has been heard on Science Friday and New York Public radio’s Radiolab. He also has written columns for the New York Times, and is author of the textbook "Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos" (1994), as well as popular books "Sync" (2003), "The Calculus of Friendship" (2009), and "The Joy of x" (2012).

The talk is free and open to the public. 

Strogatz is the first speaker for the Sowers series in the 2018-19 academic year. In April 2019, the College of Science will host Patricia K. Kuhl, the Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning and co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

During the 2017-18 academic year, five scientists spoke as part of the inaugural series.

The lecture series is funded by J. Mark Sowers, a Richmond, Virginia-based businessman and longtime supporter of the College of Science. The series is designed to serve as a forum to exchange innovative ideas in scientific fields. Sowers previously has said, “I hope that people will be inspired by the lecture series and to bring attention to Virginia Tech and its brilliant researchers for the advancement of fundamental physics.”

A programming committee for the series is composed of faculty from across the College of Science.