AUSTIN, Texas—The American Mathematical Society (AMS) has awarded a Waldemar J. Trjitzinsky Memorial Scholarship to Virginia Roberts, a 20-year-old Austin native and senior in mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin.
The scholarships are awarded annually to four outstanding mathematics undergraduates. UT Austin is limited to one nomination for the scholarship every 10 years due to the rotation of eligible AMS member universities.
Dr. Gary Hamrick, a professor and undergraduate adviser in the department of mathematics, nominated Roberts for the $3,750 scholarship. Dr. William Beckner, the Paul V. Montgomery Centennial Memorial Professor in Mathematics, provided a supporting nomination.
"Virginia Roberts is an impressive mathematics student," Beckner said. "She possesses both an incisive intelligence and broad interests across the spectrum of math, science and the arts."
Roberts uses harmonic analysis and differential equations to study the production of new master recordings from old recordings to improve the quality of sound. She has been financing her education with employment as a paper grader and computer laboratory consultant.
In 1999, she conducted research at UT Austin on the use of wavelets to remaster music. Wavelets are mathematical functions that cut wave data, such as the sound waves of a musical recording, into different components. Essentially, some of the components are small enough to be omitted, producing a "cleaner" recording.
Roberts used wavelet methods to remove audience noise from the 1961 recording of a Miles Davis concert. Her research was presented at the 2000 conference for Women in Mathematics in Lincoln, Neb.
Roberts said music, like mathematics, has long been an integral part of her life. By the age of 13, she was an avid fan of jazz, and later of classical and modern music.
"I began to discover the recordings of Bird and Miles Davis and Satchmo, and I found that once the door is opened to jazz, there is no turning back," she said. "Music taught me how to listen, in the same way that Dostoevsky taught me to read. Without these contributions to my education, my academic growth would have been less steadfast."
Dr. Karen Uhlenbeck, who holds the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair in Mathematics, provided funding for Roberts’ research, while Dr. Katherine M. Davis, an associate professor in the department of mathematics, provided mentoring.
For more information, contact Virginia Roberts at (512) 789-1767 or Dr. Katherine M. Davis, the UT Austin department of mathematics, at (512) 471-0128.