New Faculty
Bianca Viray Tamarkin Assistant Professor of Mathematics Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University

Bianca Viray
Tamarkin Assistant Professor of Mathematics

By Richard C. Lewis  |  September 1, 2010  |  Email to a friend

There was no mathematician in Bianca Viray’s family. But there was a magazine.

When she was a child, Viray, incoming Tamarkin Assistant Professor of Mathematics, would spend hours sorting through mind benders in Official’s Logic Problems, a logic-puzzler magazine.

“I thought they were pretty fun,” she said.

The same could be said for mathematics and Viray’s approach to the subject.

“I’ve just always loved it,” she said. “Most people think of math as memorization. To me, it’s about building up, about understanding the proofs, and if you forget the exact formula, you just remember how the argument worked.”

Viray’s research focuses on the interplay between algebraic geometry and algebraic number theory: She studies how certain geometric properties influence the answers to a number of theoretical questions. To give an example, Viray talks about a donut and a beach ball. They’re both simple, circular surfaces, she says, but if you were to wrap a string around each and tug, you would find they are indeed different.

“If you pull hard enough (with the beach ball), the string will come back to you. But if you pull the string that’s through the donut, it won’t come to you unless you break through the donut,” she explains.

A mathematician like Viray takes all the possible solutions to this quandary and tries to understand the geometric properties that control it.

“Sometimes when you change one geometric property,” she said, “it changes the methods you use to determine if there is a rational solution. I try to determine exactly what these ‘dividing’ geometric properties are.”

The 26-year-old Viray was born in the Philippines. Her mother, who is English, met her Filipino father while on vacation from teaching in Japan. The family moved to New Jersey when Viray was five.

Viray earned a scholarship to attend the University of Maryland, where she studied math. She earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California–Berkeley last spring, studying under Bjorn Poonen.

Viray was married last January to Cole Trapnell, whom she met in an honors class at Maryland. The couple lives in Boston. She enjoys ballroom dancing in her free time. Her husband? “Not as much.”