The Friends of Berkeley Mathematics Roundtable


This February, we welcomed supporters, alumni, and friends of the Berkeley Math Department with talks from faculty who have been with the department a long time, as well as newcomers. One of our newest faculty members, Professor Pierre Simon, discussed Model Theory and gave an approachable overview of logic for our guests, and presented where his own, deeper research fits within the field, while Professor Zvezda Stankova gave a fun and fascinating talk that allowed attendees to interact with mathematical proofs the same way that students do in Prof. Stankova's Berkeley Math Circle - which she runs as founder and director. Professor Nicolai Reshetikhin also presented his work as a Simons Fellow in topology with a colorful display, and finally we had lunch where Dept Chair Martin Olsson discussed the challenges, successes, and future of the math department at Berkeley.



  • 9:15 a.m.   Welcome and Introductions – Martin Olsson
  • 9:45 a.m.   Model Theory: A Branch of Mathematical Logic – Pierre Simon
  • 10:30 a.m.   Break
  • 10:45 a.m   Freedom for the Clones with a Final Touch of Conway Checkers – Zvezdelina Stankova
  • 11:30 a.m.   Mathematics of Random Surfaces – Nicolai Reshetikhin
  • 12:15 p.m.   Lunch and Discussion led by Martin Olsson – The Student Experience in Berkeley Math




Nicolai Reshetikhin, the Chern-Simons Distinguished Chair in Mathematical Physics from 2011-2016, has been a professor of mathematics at Berkeley since 1991, as well as a professor of mathematical physics at the University of Amsterdam. Nicolai earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Leningrad University in 1982, and his PhD from Steklov Mathematical Institute in Moscow in 1984. His research interests lie at the interface of mathematical physics, geometry and representation theory, more specifically in quantum field theory, statistical mechanics, geometry and low-dimensional topology, and representation theory of quantum groups. In 1994, he was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award at Berkeley, and he has held the Prize Fellowship at Harvard University. He currently serves on the editorial board of the Letters in Mathematical Physics, International Journal of Mathematics and Nonlinearity.


Pierre Simon, Assistant Professor, was appointed to the math department this year. Simon works in model theory. His research so far has focused on a combinatorial tameness condition known in machine learning theory as finite VC-dimension. In model theory, this property is called NIP and provides a combinatorial approach to semi-algebraic geometry over real or valued fields. As such, it has links with combinatorics and rigid geometry. Simon obtained his Ph.D. from Université Paris-Sud Orsay in 2011, after which he was a postdoc at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He then held a CNRS position in Lyon before coming to Berkeley. In 2012, he was awarded the Sacks prize for the best dissertation in mathematical logic of the year.


Zvezdelina Stankova, Teaching Professor & Berkeley Math Circle Director, joined the math department full-time this year, although she has previously taught multiple courses here since 2002. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1997, and also has high school teaching certificates in Massachusetts and California. As a postdoctoral fellow at MSRI and UC Berkeley in 1997-1999, Stankova co-founded the Bay Area Mathematical Olympiad and created the Berkeley Math Circle (BMC). She has earned a number of awards, including the Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics, the Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teachers.