College of Arts and Sciences

Peter Dragnev

Peter Dragnev, professor and interim chair, mathematicsDistinguished Lecturers

"Electrons, Buckyballs, and Orifices: Nature’s Way of Minimizing Energy"
Peter Dragnev

Wednesday, November 9
Neff Hall, Room 101
7:30 p.m.

The “uniform” distribution of many points on a sphere is a highly non-trivial problem with applications throughout the whole spectrum of modern science. Whether one studies electrons in equilibrium from physics, large fullerene compounds from chemistry, orifices of pollen grain from biology, or data encoding from computer science, one arrives at spherical arrangements of points that minimize some energy. The same is true if one designs school districts, distributes fuel depots, or separates inimical dictators on a planet. This talk will be a survey of the mathematics behind optimal arrangements on the sphere and my own contributions to the field.

This lecture is free and open to public.


Peter Dragnev is professor and interim chair in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at IPFW, and he has been part of the department since 1997. He received his Ph.D. from the University of South Florida in 1997.

He has taught a variety of courses in mathematics from developmental to graduate level, such as honors calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, optimization, number theory, and analysis. One of his early and most cherished accomplishments was the first prize at the most prestigious year-long correspondence competition of the Bulgarian journal Matematika in 1982.

Dragnev’s research is in the area of mathematical analysis, in particular approximation theory and potential theory. His narrow specialty is the study of minimal energy problems and their applications in various fields of mathematics and sciences. He has authored or co-authored more than 20 articles that have been cited more than 170 times with his groundbreaking paper on asymptotics of the discrete orthogonal polyniomials collecting more than 70 citations. Another fundamental result of his “Balayage Ping Pong: A Convexity of the Equilibrium Measure” was published recently by the top ranking journal Constructive Approximation. Among his most treasured work is the study of optimal arrangements on the sphere and their properties, topic with wide applications in various fields, such as biology, chemistry, physics, medicine, and computer science.

Dragnev has presented at numerous international meetings in the United States and abroad. He has been invited to the prestigious Oberwolfach Mathematics Institute (MFO) in Germany and Banff International Research Station in Banff Center, Canada, as well as to conferences or colloquia in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Portugal, and Turkey.

He is the 2002 Sigma Xi Researcher of the Year, 2003 Pippert Sciences Scholar, 2004 IPFW Research Fellow, 2008 guest researcher for the MFO Leibnez Fellow, and 2009 Research in Pairs MFO Fellow. He has served two terms as a president of IPFW’s Sigma Xi chapter and is currently the Purdue speaker on the IPFW Senate.