Seeing the World Through Math
Assistant Professor of Math Vitaly Katsnelson, Ph.D., has always been drawn to the beauty and the logic of math. “When I solve a problem or prove a theorem, I know with certainty that I have arrived at the truth,” he says. Originally from California, Katsnelson attended the University of California San Diego for his undergraduate years and completed his Ph.D. at Stanford University. He came to New York Tech in 2018 to pursue his research in medical imaging and simultaneously to spur student interest in and enthusiasm for what he calls “the purest form of science.”
Known among New York City campus students for his patient teaching, the professor sat down with The Box to discuss his research, his mathematical mission at New York Tech, and an audacious goal for his own research.
How does your research relate to everyday occurrences?
Math is not just abstract formulas and equations. It is used to understand our world and can even be used to save lives. There are many ways in which math can model real-world phenomena and allow for accurate predictive modelling.
My research is in the field of mathematical imaging. For example, generating an image of the human body with an MRI or CT scan requires not just fast computers and superior technology, but powerful mathematics as well. Calculus is at the core of generating such images from data obtained from an X-ray. I work on the mathematics to build such imaging algorithms and improve image quality.
Why did you join New York Tech?
New York Tech values research in the mathematical sciences. It also values teaching students and getting them involved in research. I was excited to join a university that wants me not only to do research but also to bring my research into the classroom and inspire undergraduates to pursue mathematics.
How do you approach your work with students?
I enjoy sharing my passion for mathematics with students and watching them grow in the classroom. Many students in my classes struggle with math, and I love finding new ways to help them grasp it.
Why do you think New York Tech’s B.S. in Applied and Computational Mathematics is a great option for a math-minded student?
A critical skill set that makes a difference either for going to graduate school or for joining the workforce is the ability to create innovative computing solutions, mathematical models, and dynamic systems to solve problems. These skills are needed in industries such as engineering, scientific and technical consulting, insurance, biotech and life sciences, artificial intelligence, and data science.
The major in applied and computational mathematics will prepare students to work in any of these fields, because it will give them the skills to do scientific computing and mathematical modeling.
What is an example of a problem people could or should use math to solve?
Many imaging problems in general could be solved with mathematics. Besides my work in medical imaging, for example, I do research in seismic imaging. Math helps us better understand the inside of our planet.
What inspires you?
My field is in mathematical imaging. I find it very inspiring to see medical imaging techniques saving lives every day when I recognize that the core of such techniques is mathematics.
Tell us about an audacious goal you are pursuing.
I hope that one day my research can contribute to an important problem in medical imaging: how to find a way to image cancer cells noninvasively at an early stage.
What do you do in your free time?
I love classical music, and I play piano when time permits (not very often). I also enjoy the outdoors and going hiking.