# Assistant Professors of Mathematics receive Collaboration Grants through Simons Foundation

Sept. 13, 2022

Dr. Punit Gandhi and Dr. Nicola Tarasca have both received Simons Foundation Collaboration Grants.

Dr. Punit Gandhi and Dr. Nicola Tarasca have both received Simons Foundation Collaboration Grants this year. Simons Foundation Collaboration Grants are meant to stimulate collaboration in the field primarily through the funding of travel and related expenditures.

Punit’s grant from the Simons Foundation will help facilitate collaborations for research on dryland vegetation patterns (see an example from the Horn of Africa). “These patterns, consisting of strikingly regular alternation between bare soil and dense vegetation, are thought to form spontaneously as a way to maximize resource usage in water-limited environments. The ultimate goal of this work is to develop mathematical models which, in combination with remote sensing data like satellite imagery, can give us insights into the resilience of the vulnerable ecosystems that support these patterns in the face of a changing climate,” says Punit.

Tarasca’s grant will sponsor scientific visits in the next five years. “The incoming visitors will be invited to lecture at the VCU Geometry Seminar and the VCU Math Colloquium. The resulting collaborations will foster advancements on the study of geometric realizations of vertex operator algebras and conformal blocks on moduli spaces of algebraic varieties,” says Tarasca.

Punit and Tarasca are not the first professors from VCU’s Math Department to receive Collaboration Grants from the Simons Foundation. In 2021 alone, Oleksandr Misiats, H. Reed Ogrosky,and Ihsan Topaloglu each received a grant. Other past recipients include Richard Hammack, Craig Larson, Suzanne Robertson, Cheng Ly, and Sean Cox.