Baruch Assistant Professor Pablo Soberón wins National Science Foundation Career Grant | Pablo Soberon

Matthieu Pattugalan

Pablo Soberón, an assistant professor in Baruch College’s math department, won the prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Grant from the National Science Foundation.

The CAREER Grant differs from other NSF grants due to its rigorous education requirements alongside the impressive research done by applicants. The grant can only be given to pre-tenure assistant professors whose early career work is viewed by the NSF Division of Mathematical Sciences, making the grant one of the highest distinctions an early-stage researcher may receive.

Additionally, the grant of $416,784 will be awarded throughout a five-year period instead of its traditional three-year program.

Soberón’s award came from his proposed research focused on the connection of combinatorics and topology and their connection through the use of discrete geometry. Combinatorics highlights a branch of mathematics that studies the combination, enumeration and permutation of sets and the relations that give character to said properties.

His research focuses on an interdisciplinary aspect of combinatorics, an area suitable for lengthy research and study. The goal is for the proposed research to “bring new ideas and methods to the field of combinatorics, looking at how topological methods can be used to solve combinatorial problems,” Soberón stated in an email interview.

Soberón believes his research will benefit not only the field of mathematics but also have a direct impact on how Baruch students learn and interact with combinatorics and other topological studies.

Each summer, Soberón and other Baruch professors host an undergraduate program that fosters mathematical and STEM related research experience for students. Baruch’s Research Experience of Undergraduate Program has hundreds of applicants each summer — only taking a small handful of students — therefore creating a competitive environment for advanced research work.

The vigorous program lasts over eight weeks and pushes students to dive into research involving combinatorics, theoretical computer science and other advanced mathematical topics. Throughout the program, each student works closely with a faculty mentor to solve a research problem and develop their own research. Mentors are not there to dictate an undergraduate’s research but to guide the student’s personal research project.

CAREER: Discrete Geometry at the crossroads of Combinatorics and Topology is professor Soberón’s education plan which he hopes to integrate into the Mathematics Department in the near future.

Similar to the existing REU program, “The main objective of the educational plan is to provide mentoring opportunities to undergraduate students in mathematics, with a focus on preparing them for further opportunities in STEM,” Soberón said.

To achieve this, professor Soberón plans to expand the REU summer program he has been running since 2017 and plans to gain supplementary mentorship for underrepresented minority undergraduates interested in the field of mathematics.

“This project has the potential to benefit Baruch College students by providing them with handson research experiences and mentorship opportunities in mathematics,” Soberón said.

The combination of Baruch’s REU program and the CAREER education plan will open opportunities for students to get involved with research and advance their knowledge in mathematics.

The mathematics department at Baruch hopes the integration of research-based mathematical study through this project will enhance the high quality education given in the department. By bolstering individual learning and research, Soberón believes that his project and research have the potential to solve longstanding problems in the field and create new areas of research.

Along with his research, Soberón leads a team of students in the Putnam Mathematical Competition, a large university-level mathematics competition in the United States. Baruch’s mathematics department awards $1,000 to the top performer among Baruch’s participants. Those interested in participating in this competition are advised to contact Soberón.