Nancy Kopell

Nancy Jane Kopell (born November 8, 1942, New York City) is an American mathematician and professor at Boston University. She is co-director of the Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology (CompNet). She organized and directs the Cognitive Rhythms Collaborative (CRC). Kopell received her B.A. from Cornell University in 1963 and her Ph.D. from Berkeley in 1967. She held visiting positions at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France (1970), MIT (1975, 1976-1977), and the California Institute of Technology (1976).

Nancy Jane Kopell
Born(1942-11-08)November 8, 1942[1]
New York City[1]
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
Known forMathematical neuroscience
AwardsSloan Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, MacArthur Fellowship
Scientific career
InstitutionsBoston University
ThesisCommuting diffeomorphisms[2] (1967)
Doctoral advisorStephen Smale

The focus of her research is the field of applied biomathematics and includes use of mathematical models to analyze the physiological mechanisms of brain dynamics. The techniques Kopell uses include extensions of invariant manifold theory, averaging theory, and geometric methods for singularly perturbed equations. From the peak of her career in 1990, she has contributed to over 200 published research articles in the field of biomathematics. Her current interests include topics such as: how does the brain produce its dynamics (physiological mechanisms), how do brain rhythms take part in cognition (sensory processing, attention, memory, motor control), and how can pathologies of brain dynamics help to understand symptoms of neurological diseases (Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, epilepsy) as well as alternate states of consciousness (anesthesia). She collaborates widely with experimentalists and clinicians in order to conduct research on these topics.[3]

Kopell is a 1990 MacArthur Fellow.


Early life and education

Kopell was born on November 8, 1942 and grew up on Pelham Parkway in the Bronx.[4] Her father was an accountant and her mother and older sister also majored in mathematics. In 1963, she graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in mathematics. She then went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1967. From a young age, she was exposed to mathematics. Her mother was a mathematics major, her father worked as an accountant, and her older sister studied math.[5]

As a child, she had a severe eye problem[5] which taught her how to cope with being "different."[5][6] This ability to cope would help her successfully deal with feelings of marginalization she would later experience as a female scientist.[5] She attributes her professional success to this ability as well as the support she received from mentors throughout her career.[6] Her high school teachers encouraged her to go into the mathematics field.[6]

During her undergraduate education at Cornell University, she registered for a mathematics honors program, and was the only female participant.[6] She considered several majors, such as economics and chemistry, but chose to major in math.[5] Kopell graduated from Cornell with an A.B. in 1963.[5][7]

She then decided to attend graduate school in order to "find an alternative to the more traditional life her family expected for her."[6] Kopell originally applied to programs on the East Coast and was admitted to all of them except for one; however, after being encouraged by another student, she chose to attend school on the West Coast instead.[6] She was admitted to the University of California, Berkeley, with a fellowship and graduated with an M.A. and a Ph.D. in 1967.[7] At Berkeley, she did well on her exams and was known as the "bright female."[6] However, she struggled in the early stages of her dissertation work and switched supervisors to Stephen Smale.[6] Smale suggested a problem which Kopell almost singlehandedly solved, leading to her thesis in the field of dynamical systems which catapulted her career.[6]

Academic career

After completing her graduate education, Kopell accepted an instructorship at MIT.[6] There, she met collaborator Lou Howard, who she published several articles with. She later met her husband, Gabriel Stolzenberg, at Boston University.[6]

While Kopell did her thesis work in theoretical mathematics, she later switched to applied mathematics.

In 1969, she joined Northeastern University as faculty, becoming a full professor in 1978.[5] In 1986, she became a professor of mathematics at Boston University where, in 2009, she became the first woman at Boston University to be named a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor.[8][9] She was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1990 for her work developing methods of dynamical systems to attack problems of applied mathematics.[9] She is currently Director and Co-Founder of the Cognitive Rhythms Collaborative, which consists of a group of over two dozen labs, mostly in the Boston Area, working on brain dyanmics and their cognitive implications. She is also Co-Director of the Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology (CompNet).[10][11][12]

Kopell is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was recently selected to be an honorary member of the London Mathematical Society, a distinction given to one or two mathematicians per year worldwide. She has been awarded Sloan Guggenheim, and McArthur Fellowships, and has an honorary Ph.D. from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. She has given the Weldon Memorial Prize Lecture (Oxford), the von Neumann Lecture (SIAM) and the Josiah Willard Gibbs Lecture (AMS), as well as multiple other named lectureships.[3]

Honors and memberships

Selected publications

  • Kopell, N; Howard, L N (1973). "Plane-wave solutions to reaction-diffusion equations". Studies in Applied Mathematics. 52 (4): 291–328. doi:10.1002/sapm1973524291.
  • Ermentrout, George Bard; Kopell, Nancy (March 1984). "Frequency Plateaus in a Chain of Weakly Coupled Oscillators, I.". SIAM Journal on Mathematical Analysis. 15 (2): 215–237. doi:10.1137/0515019.
  • Kopell, N.; Ermentrout, G. B. (September 1986). "Symmetry and phaselocking in chains of weakly coupled oscillators". Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics. 39 (5): 623–660. doi:10.1002/cpa.3160390504.
  • Kopell, N.; Ermentrout, G. B.; Whittington, M. A.; Traub, R. D. (15 February 2000). "Gamma rhythms and beta rhythms have different synchronization properties" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 97 (4): 1867–1872. doi:10.1073/pnas.97.4.1867.
  • Kopell, N; Ermentrout, B (Oct 2004). "Chemical and electrical synapses perform complementary roles in the synchronization of interneuronal networks". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 101 (43): 15482–15487. doi:10.1073/pnas.040643101.

Prestigious lectures given

See also


  1. Morrow, edited by Charlene; Perl, Teri (1998). Notable women in mathematics : a biographical dictionary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 98–101. ISBN 978-0313291319.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. "Nancy Kopell". Biographies of Women Mathematicians. Agnes Scott College. 19 December 2019.
  3. "Nancy Kopell". Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  4. Kivelson, Pamela Davis. "Nancy Kopell". ThePosterProject: Biographies. Stony Brook University Mathematics Department and Institute for Mathematical Sciences. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  5. Yount, Lisa (1999). A to Z of Women in Science and Math. Infobase Publishing.
  6. Wasserman, Elga (2000). The Door in the Dream: Conversations with Eminent Women in Science. Joseph Henry Press.
  7. "Nancy Kopell: Oscillators and Networks of Them: Which Differences Make a Difference". Profiles of Women in Mathematics: The Emmy Noether Lectures. Association for Women in Mathematics. 1992. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  8. Rolbein, Seth (25 June 2009). "Two More Warren Distinguished Professors Announced". BU Today. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  9. "Nancy Kopell". Retrieved 2015-12-15.
  10. "Nancy Kopell". Mathematics Department. Boston University. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  11. "People: Faculty". Cognitive Rhythms Collaborative. Boston University. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  12. Trottier, Leo (21 October 2011). "Dr. Nancy Kopell". Scholarpedia. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  13. "Nancy Kopell". Fellows. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  14. "Nancy Kopell". MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 1990. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  15. "Nancy Kopell". Member Directory. National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  16. "Professor Nancy Jane Kopell". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  17. "Josiah Willard Gibbs Lectures". American Mathematical Society. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  18. "Weldon Memorial Prize: Past Prize-winners" (pdf). Oxford University Statistics. Oxford University. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  19. "The John von Neumann Lecture". Prizes and recognitions. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  20. SIAM Fellows class of 2009
  21. "London Mathematical Society Honorary Members" (PDF). Membership. London Mathematical Society. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  22. "Jürgen Moser Lecture". Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. Retrieved 2018-12-14.
  23. Rimer, Sara (10 April 2015). "Kopell Wins Israeli Nonprofit's Mathematical Neuroscience Prize". BU Today. Boston University. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  24. 2016 Class of the Fellows of the AMS, American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2015-11-16.
  • Ermentrout, G. Bard; Terman, David H. (2010). Mathematical foundations of neuroscience. New York: Springer. ISBN 9780387877075.
  • Kopell, Nancy (2005). "Biased Random Walk: A Brief Mathematical Biography". In Case, Bettye Anne; Leggett, Anne (eds.). Complexities: Women in Mathematics. Princeton University Press. pp. 349–354. ISBN 9780691114620.
  • Kopell, N (June 2013). "Interview with Nancy Kopell". Trends in Neurosciences. 36 (6): 313–314. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2013.03.005. PMID 23731518.
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