Math + Science = Collaboration

Benedetto Piccoli, a world-class mathematician, solved a practical problem when he accepted an endowed professorship at Rutgers–Camden. Teaching and conducting research at the university gave Piccoli new academic freedom: he would be part of a new multidisciplinary team of mathematicians and scientists that would allow him to expand his research interests and end his days of scrounging for scarce research dollars.

“A life achievement” is how Piccoli described the career move made possible by former Rutgers–Camden undergraduate Joseph Lopez CCAS’64. A math major himself who became a leader in computer engineering and a member of the RCA team that developed the AEGIS military defense system, Lopez, along with his wife, Loretta CCAS’64, is funding the Joseph and Loretta Lopez Endowed Professorship in Mathematics in Honor of Professor Leonard Bidwell—a first for the Camden Campus—through a multimillion-dollar gift.

An endowed chair—a first at Rutgers–Camden—allows Benedetto Piccoli, a preeminent mathematician, to do what he does best.

Piccoli’s participation in the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology, which brings together scholars from chemistry, biology, physics, computer science, and math, is integral to his appointment. The endowed position affords him a reduced teaching load and more time for research. Among his current initiatives: collaborative inquiries with scientists on the behavior of large animals during movement such as flight and a look at how people interact with their environment in facilities such as stadiums.

The professorship is named in memory of Rutgers professor Leonard Bidwell, whom Joseph Lopez remembers fondly from classes in the early 1960s. They honored Bidwell because “we wanted to give back to something that gave value to us.” Piccoli was introduced to the Lopezes during last year’s installation ceremony and the trio has become friendly. They even met in Rome over the summer, with Piccoli graciously serving as tour guide.

(This story originally appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of Rutgers Magazine.)