Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

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The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) is dedicated

  • to the advancement and communication of fundamental knowledge in mathematics and the mathematical sciences,
  • to the development of human capital for the growth and use of such knowledge, and
  • to the cultivation in the larger society of awareness and appreciation of the beauty, power and importance of mathematical ideas and ways of understanding the world.

About MSRI

From its beginning in 1982 the Institute has been primarily funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with additional support from other government agencies, private foundations, and academic sponsors and corporate partners. Approximately 2,000 mathematical scientists visit MSRI each year, many for substantial periods.

National Science Foundation Annual Reports




Evaluation Reports

MSRI is governed administratively by a Board of Trustees. The trustees are drawn from academia and the business world. The Board receives input from its Committee of Academic Sponsors (CAS) that represents nearly 100 of the leading mathematics research departments across the country. The Board provides guidance through the work of ten trustees committees:

The executive functions of the trustees are handled by the Steering Committee , which includes officers drawn from the trustees plus ex officio members—the directorate and the chairs of the Scientific Advisory Committee and the Committee of Academic Sponsors. MSRI’s scientific programs are overseen by a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of leading mathematical scientists. MSRI is also advised by specialized committees of experts, including the Educational Advisory Committee (EAC) and the Human Resources Advisory Committee (HRAC).

Facts about MSRI

The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) is one of the world’s preeminent centers for collaborative research. A rotating committee of ten renowned mathematical scientists governs the Institute’s scientific programs with a vision of the field that is perpetually renewed. A Board of Trustees, composed of accomplished business and academic leaders, oversees the Institute’s strategy, and assures its operational and financial welfare.

Researchers—some 2,000 per year—come to MSRI to work in an environment that promotes creativity and the effective interchange of ideas and techniques. MSRI features two focused programs each semester, attended by foremost mathematicians and postdocs from the United States and abroad; the Institute temporarily becomes a world center of activity in those fields. MSRI’s staff and hosting processes effectively and comfortably support the visiting academic research community.

MSRI takes advantage of its close proximity to the University of California, Berkeley and to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. MSRI also collaborates nationally with organizations such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The Institute’s prize-winning forty-eight thousand square foot building enjoys spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay. After 30 years of activity, the reputation of the Institute is such that mathematicians make it a professional priority to participate in the Institute’s programs.

MSRI also serves a wider community through the development of human scientific capital, providing postdoctoral training to extraordinary young scientists and increasing the diversity of the research workforce.

The Institute advances the education of young people with conferences on critical issues in mathematics education. MSRI has created a national “math circles” movement of small organizations teaching and engaging in math as a hobby, beyond the standard curricula, for enthusiastic and often gifted kids. Through bold and attractive programs and films for the general public, MSRI strives to make mathematics accessible and exciting to those outside the field.

Because MSRI contributes so much to the nation’s scientific potential, MSRI’s activity is supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency. Private individuals, foundations, and nearly 100 Academic Sponsor Institutions, including the top mathematics departments in the United States, provide crucial support and flexibility.

A sense of the activity and physical plant of MSRI can be had through the short video at http://tinyurl.com/MSRIvideo.

Background & Purpose

  • Established in 1982 in Berkeley, California
  • Located above the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, as an independent non-profit research institute
  • Sponsored by approximately 100 universities and institutions around the world
  • Dedicated to the advancement of research in pure, applied, and interdisciplinary mathematics
  • Recognized as the world’s premier center for collaborative research spanning all branches of mathematical sciences and the site of breakthroughs in mathematics leading to progress in science,technology, medicine and economics
  • Hosts approximately 2,000 annual scientific visits by mathematicians from the U.S. and abroad, including many recipients of the Fields Medal and the Abel Prize
  • Trains the next generation of researchers through postdoctoral fellowships in mathematics
  • Provides K-12 education programs for students and training for educators
  • Actively recruits women and underrepresented minorities to participate in its programs
  • Generates public appreciation of mathematics through innovative scientific, literary, musical, and other cultural events

Resources & Programs

MSRI Research Program 2010–2014

  • Major Programs: The Institute’s Scientific Advisory Committee selects major programs several years in advance. The following programs have been selected for 2010–14:

o Random Matrix Theory, Interacting Particle Systems and Integrable Systems (2010)

o Inverse Problems and Applications (2010)

o Free Boundary Problems, Theory and Applications (2011)

o Arithmetic Statistics (2011)

o Quantitative Geometry (2012)

o Random Spatial Processes (2012)

o Cluster Algebras (2010)

o Commutative Algebra (2012-13)

o Model Theory and Number Theory (2013-14)

  • Many Workshops Related to the Programs
  • 2011 Summer Graduate Workshops:
  • MSRI-UP - a summer undergraduate program for under-represented minority students

K–12 Mathematics Education Programs

MSRI Biology Colloquia: Biology for Mathematicians

  • Dr. Arnold Levine, Evolution of Influenza Viruses (2006)
  • Dr. Mimi Koehl, Sniffing by Hairy Noses (2007)
  • Dr. Robert Schleif, Information Storage and Retrieval of Functions of DNA (2007)
  • Dr. Sidney Brenner, Biology, the Art of the Satisfactory and Drowning in a Sea of Data and Thirsting for Knowledge (2007)
  • Dr. Alan Perelson, How Mathematics Provides Information About HIV/(2007)
  • Dr. Garrett Odell, For Making Genetic Networks Operate Robustly, Unintelligent Non-Design Suffices (2008)

MSRI Climate Change

  • Symposium on Climate Change: from Global Models to Local Action (2007)
  • Climate Change Summer School (2008)
  • Economic Games and Mechanisms to Address Climate Change (2009)

Public Programs

  • Lectures open to the public and usually free-of-charge
  • Community events on mathematical topics:
  • Good News Everyone, Mathematical Writers from The Simpsons and Futurama
  • Funny Numbers: An Evening with Steve Martin in Conversation with Bob Osserman, with actors Steve Martin and Robin Williams
  • Tomography to Toy Story
  • Mathematics in Arcadia, with playwright Tom Stoppard
  • Theater, Science and History in “Copenhagen”, with playwright Michael Frayn
  • Cinemath, a MSRI film festival
  • From Einstein to Koyaanisqatsi — Philip Glass in conversation with Bob Osserman
  • A Beautiful Mind, with author Sylvia Nasar and mathematician Dave Bayer
  • The Shape of Space — MacArthur Fellow Jeff Weeks
  • Fractals and Financial Markets — A Conversation with Benoit Mandelbrot
  • Geometry and Physics: From Plato to Hawking — 20th Anniversary Lecture by Sir Michael Atiyah
  • Before the Big Bang: a Radical Solution to the Mystery of the Second Law of Thermodynamics - Simons Auditorium Inaugural lecture by Sir Roger Penrose
  • M*A*T*H — Alan Alda in conversation with Bob Osserman

Music and Mathematics

  • The Art of Fugue, Davitt Moroney, Harpsichordist
  • Christopher Taylor in Conversation with Bob Osserman
  • St. Lawrence String Quartet with NPR's Rob Kapilow
  • The John Cage Legacy: Chance in Music and Mathematics, the Merce Cuningham Dance Company
  • Cavani String Quartet and pianist Sharon Mann
  • Elizabeth Blumenstock, One is One and All Alone, violin
  • Tanya Tomkins, One is One and All Alone, Baroque cello
  • Marcus du Sautoy, Music of the Primes
  • Christopher Taylor in Conversation with David Benson and Bob Osserman

On Video/DVD

  • Funny Numbers: An Evening with Steve Martin in Conversation with Robert Osserman
  • Mathematics in Arcadia: Tom Stoppard in Conversation with Robert Osserman
  • porridge pulleys and Pi (biographical video on Vaughan Jones and Hendrik Lenstra, 2001 MSRI program leaders)
  • Galileo: A Dialog on Science, Mathematics, History and Drama
  • Fermat’s Last Theorem: The Theorem and Its Proof — An Exploration of Issues and Ideas (from the Fermat Fest)
  • Documentation of MSRI conferences (DVD format)


    • Each year, over 200 papers are developed by MSRI members
    • Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Publications, a book series in 57 volumes published by the Cambridge University Press [http://www.msri.org/communications/books/index.html]
    • Emissary Newsletter in the Fall and Spring
    • Bimonthly Outlook by e-mail

    MSRI Web Site

    • Average of 28,500 unique page visits per month at www.msri.org (2009 visit data)
    • Free archives available for viewing or downloading:
    • VMath Archive (streaming video system) of MSRI lectures: the world’s largest streaming video collection of mathematics lectures - over 3,100 video lectures and special events
    • www.msri.org: Access updated, comprehensive calendar of MSRI programs, on-line publications, media coverage, proposal and application information, fellowship opportunities


    • Chern Hall is a three-story building located above the UC Berkeley campus (enlarged in 2006 to 35,000 sq. ft. by architect W.R. Glass Associates) that houses the Simons Auditorium, Edward D. Baker Board Room, Austine McDonnell Hearst library, Strauch Auditorium Outlook, Hearst Foundation Library Video Room, and office facilities.


    o Simons Foundation
    o Kresge Foundation o Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation
    o Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation o Hearst Foundations o Mosse Foundation for Arts and Education o Sea Change Foundation o Clay Mathematics Institute o Math for America o Koret Foundation o Noyce Foundation o Moody’s Foundation o John Templeton Foundation o Akamai o Akamai Foundation o Microsoft Research o Pacific Journal of Mathematics o IBM Almaden – Research o CME Group o Alfred P. Sloan Foundation o DE Shaw and Company o Firedoll Foundation o Maplesoft o Mathematical Association of America o Number Theory Foundation
    o SS Chern Foundation for Mathematical Research o Sunlin and Priscilla Chou Foundation o The Getty Foundation o LucasFilm Foundation o Wolfram Research

    Endowments, Special Research Appointments, and Awards

    • The Cha Family Endowment for Scholars, a gift of Johnson M. D. Cha, supporting visiting mathematicians living in (or who are citizens of) China, Taiwan or Hong Kong
    • S. S. Chern Endowment supports visiting mathematicians from China
    • Clay Senior Scholars, distinguished visiting scholars supported by the Clay Mathematics Institute
    • The Eisenbud Professorship, a gift of The Simons Foundation, supports distinguished visiting professors to MSRI
    • Simons Foundation Endowment, a gift of Jim and Marilyn Simons, provides general operating support to MSRI
    • Simons Visiting Professors, a gift of The Simons Foundation, supports distinguished professors at MSRI
    • Viterbi Endowed Postdoctoral Scholars, a gift of Andrew and Erna Viterbi and the Viterbi Family Foundation, supports postdoctoral scholars at MSRI
    • Anonymous Fund, supports coffee mugs for members at MSRI
    • CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications, awarded annually to an individual or a group, to recognize the vital impact quantitative research and application play in shaping global financial markets

    MSRI Points of Excellence

    • MSRI is the world’s premier center for collaborative research across the whole spectrum of the mathematical sciences.
    • MSRI is an acknowledged leader of activities for the public understanding of mathematics. These popular events include interviews with playwrights (Tom Stoppard, “Arcadia”; Michael Frayn, “Copenhagen”; David Auburn, “Proof”), musicians (Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Christopher Taylor) and public personalities (Funny Numbers with Steve Martin and Robin Williams, M*A*T*H with Alan Alda). These events are nationally distributed in a unique series of videos.
    • For over twenty-five years, MSRI has been one of the largest single projects of the Division of Mathematical Sciences of the National Science Foundation.
    • MSRI is the largest non-classified mathematics project of the National Security Agency, which supports the Institute as the best resource for strengthening the pool of mathematicians available to assist the government.
    • MSRI is one of the world’s most sought-after and successful centers for postdoctoral training.
    • MSRI is the primary model for institutes in Canada, England, Russia, Korea, and Singapore.
    • MSRI’s “VMath” archive of mathematical lectures in video is by far the world’s largest. It contains talks by the majority of today’s great mathematicians.
    • MSRI has hosted every Fields Medalist since the Institute was opened in 1982. (The Fields Medal is Mathematics’ version of the Nobel Prize.)
    • Some 2,000 scientific visits to MSRI each year, by mathematicians from around the world, make the Institute an ideal center for sharing information and spreading ideas through the mathematical community.
    • With more than 85 Academic Sponsors, MSRI has the broadest base of community support of any mathematics institute in the world.
    • MSRI is one of the few world centers involved in the entire spectrum of mathematical activity, with programs ranging from K–12 mathematics and public understanding of mathematics to the most advanced current research. MSRI leads the nation in the development of math circles for top tier students as well as for students just learning to love and engage deeply in mathematics.
    • MSRI’s physical plant, with its Simons Auditorium, over 40 offices, and striking views of San Francisco Bay, is one of the most desirable mathematics destinations in the world.
    • MSRI has the strongest program of outreach to minorities of any United States mathematics institute. Led by a committee of distinguished minority mathematicians, its successes range from the first Conference of African American Researchers in the Mathematical Sciences, to residential summer programs for under-represented undergraduates considering careers in research, to after-school math programs in impacted school districts, and to the highly successful series of workshops held at the SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans in Science) national conference to raise the awareness of upcoming MSRI programs in a group that might not otherwise participate in these activities.
    • MSRI has become a magnet for private philanthropic support of mathematics, as witnessed by the successful completion in 2004 of a $12,000,000 capital campaign for building improvements and the launching of a $10,000,000 drive for endowment.