Konstantin Khanin

Mathematical Musings

U of T Mississauga Research Excellence Award recipient delivers thoughtful lecture on self-similarity and critical phenomenon in math and science


Professor Konstantin Khanin

The next time you are admiring the spiral pattern of pinecone scales or seeds of a sunflower, you can reflect on a brand of mathematics that considers the relationships of the symmetry within the plant’s natural design.

Thus began the engaging lecture presented by the 2014 Research Excellence Award winner, Professor Konstantin Khanin from U of T Mississauga’s Department of Mathematics and Computational Sciences (MCS).

“It does not matter which plant you are looking at,” said Khanin. “All of them have a defined number of spirals and the numbers of spirals are consecutive Fibonacci numbers.” Fibonacci, Khanin explained, are a sequence of numbers that are based on the sum of the two previous numbers in the order. For example with Fibonacci the sequence is 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89.

Over the course of the hour Khanin also covered brief introductions to other concepts such as the biology mechanisms for morphology, the Central Limit Theorem that comes into play with an activity such as coin tossing, Critical Phenomena in physics, Renormalization Theory, and Feigenbaum Universality.

Khanin’s research covers a broad range of topics, and his academic career is similarly extensive having held positions around the globe. He completed his PhD in Mathematical Physics from the L.D. Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Moscow, where he served as a Research Associate until 1994. He held visiting appointments at a range of institutes in various countries including Italy, Switzerland, the US, Israel, France and Japan. After serving in academic positions at Princeton University, the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge, and the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Khanin joined U of T Mississauga in 2005. He was the Chair of MCS from 2008-13. His research interests currently include Dynamical Systems, Turbulence Theory and Mathematical Physics.

Prof. Khanin delivers Annual Research Excellence LectureThe 50 attendees who assembled on January 26 for the Research Excellence Lecture in the Instructional Building were an impressive and diverse mix of faculty members from various departments, including Math & Computer Science, Chemical & Physical Sciences and Biology, as well as students, professors emeriti, alumni and staff. UTM’s Vice-Principal, Research, Bryan Stewart, introduced Professor Khanin, and helped mediate questions once the lecture concluded. A reception in the Atrium followed the presentation.

As the recipient of the U of T Mississauga’s prestigious 2014 Research Excellence Award, which honours talented researchers on campus, Khanin delivered the Research Excellence Lecture, an annual event that allows the award winner to showcase their research expertise to a broader audience.

Nominations for this year’s Research Excellence Award are now open. Please consider putting forward a worthy candidate from U of T Mississauga for this year’s competition: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/vp-research/research-campus/u-t-mississauga-excellence-awards/research-excellence-award. The deadline for submissions is May 29, 2015.

By Carla DeMarco