Brian E. Forrest named fellow of the Canadian Mathematical Society

Monday, June 21, 2021

Brian ForrestBrian E. Forrest, professor of Pure Mathematics, has been named a Fellow of the Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS). The fellowship is awarded for outstanding contributions in research, teaching and learning and service in fulfillment of CMS mandates and goals.

"It's an honour and something I'm pretty proud of," says Forrest. "This is a wonderful way to stay connected to the Canadian Mathematical Society, a group that's been a valuable part of my career."

Forrest's 30-year research trajectory has focused mainly on noncommutative harmonic analysis. "If you marry Fourier analysis with the operator algebras, you get my work," he says. "I study function spaces and operator algebras arising from locally compact noncommutative groups."

Recognizing that his scholarship may seem abstract to those not equipped with disciplinary expertise, Forrest suggests it is not the specifics that people need to know about but rather the process of knowledge creation in which his research participates.

"What we do as pure mathematics researchers is contribute to a global pool of knowledge. And from that pool of knowledge, things that matter to people come out."

He points out that much of the digital technology that people take for granted came into being through insights gleaned in pure research.

Forrest's collaborative approach to knowledge creation also extends to his teaching practice. He has mentored hundreds of students and fosters a collectivist ethos in his pedagogy. "I'm a research mathematician,” Forrest says, "but my research informs me when I work with students. I've said it many times: I think that the vast majority of us as researchers, our main contributions to our discipline and to society will be through the people that we teach."

Forrest is the current Faculty of Mathematics teaching fellow, which involves advising his colleagues on best practices in teaching and learning. This role sees him work in close conjunction with the Centre for Teaching Excellence.

With respect to emerging trends in the scholarship of pure mathematics, he notes that "the world has changed on the research side. It used to be that everything was single-author papers. But it's evolved into more of a collaborative thing. And I love collaborating on research."

"It's a mentorship that comes all the way through," Forrest continues. "Our senior students mentor our junior students. Our junior students mentor our undergraduate researchers. And our undergraduate researchers we encourage to go out and talk to their friends. So it's about trying to foster communication and collaboration. If you want to have any kind of impact beyond your own small world, you have to talk to people."

Learn more about the CMS Fellowship on the society’s website.