Two CLAS Faculty Receive First Makuch Awards in Mathematics and Data Science

The awards include a two-year title and funds for faculty to advance their research. 

A student writing math problems on a white dry erase board.

Brianna Gambacini '20 (CLAS), a mathematics major, and Nicholas Juricic '21 (CLAS), a mathematics and cognitive science major, work on a math problem in the Monteith Building on September 3, 2019. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has announced the first two recipients of the Makuch Faculty Fund award in Mathematical and Data Sciences.  

The awarprovides $9,000 each for faculty in the College in the departments of mathematics or statistics to use for their research. The award honors faculty who demonstrate significant contributions to the fields of math or data science, and whose work has a significant impact on students.  

Ovidiu Munteanu, associate professor of mathematics, and Yuwen Gu, assistant professor of statistics, are the Makuch Faculty Fellows for 2021-23.  

Gu’s current research focuses on solving problems that arise from “big data,” or largescale datasets. He is developing robust regression methodsincluding modern optimization algorithms, to analyze large-scale dataBy expanding the scope of statistical applications to real world problems, Gu supplies scientists and practitioners with more statistical methods for handling increasingly challenging problems in biology, economicsand other natural and social sciences. 

“I am really honored to receive this award and I appreciate Dr. Makuch’s generous gift,” Gu says. The award will help me focus on the development of new statistical methods for handling challenging problems, especially in which data of a big scale and complex structure are present. It will also provide me with the necessary equipment for carrying out the empirical studies for my research. 

Munteanu works in differential geometry, a field of mathematics that studies curved objects called manifolds. His current research sheds new light on a non-linear partial differential equation called the Ricci flow, which has been used by mathematicians to classify manifolds. His research may help better understand the geometry of four-dimensional manifolds, which is important because of their role in Einstein’s theory of gravity — that what we perceive as gravity is the curvature of space and time. 

“I am very honored to receive the first Makuch Award,” Munteanu says. “This recognition will give me the resources and energy I need to carry on my research program. I would like to thank Professor Makuch for his very generous gift to the University of Connecticut that provides invaluable support to researchers like me. 

The awards are made possible by Robert Makuch ’72 (CLAS), a professor of biostatistics at Yale University, recognized for his statistical and regulatory consultations to the pharmaceutical industry and to national and international governmental regulatory agencies. After earning his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at UConn, he earned a master’s and Ph.D. degree from Yale, and he has served on the UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Advisory Board since 2012.