News Room

Faculty in Focus - Peter Dragnev

Peter Dragnev, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, joined IPFW in 1997. He is an analyst who specializes in approximation theory (exploring how functions can best be approximated with simpler functions) and potential theory (a branch of mathematics that studies minimum energy problems). His research on the properties of spherical configurations with minimal energy, similar to buckyballs (hollow, spherical molecules containing many carbon atoms), has resulted in invited national and international lectures, research-based publications, and IPFW’s 2015-16 Outstanding Research Award.

Dragnev became interested in mathematics at a very young age. He taught himself to count and add numbers, and he would tell people he “wanted to be a math professor. Not just a teacher, but a professor.” This interest continued through high school, when he competed in various math competitions, including winning a prestigious correspondence competition in his home country of Bulgaria.

He completed undergraduate and master’s degrees at Sofia University in Bulgaria and came to the United States in 1992 to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of South Florida. His dissertation examined the application of potential theory to approximation theory, which began his research on blending the two theories. (To learn more about this research, please watch the Faculty in Focus video).

One of Dragnev’s notable academic achievements concerns his international work. He has been invited to speak about his research on minimal energy points in multiple countries, including Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungry, and China. According to Dragnev, “The pinnacle of my career so far has been an invited address at the Schrodinger Institute of Mathematical Physics in Vienna, Austria, in October 2014. There was a special semester on minimal energy points, and I was one of the plenary speakers. Exposing the name of IPFW internationally was very gratifying. My role model and longtime office neighbor, Lowell Beineke, is a world-renown expert in graph theory, and I’m trying to follow in his footsteps. I still have long ways to go though.”

As department chair, among his other projects, Dragnev has sought to expand the department's actuarial program (the mathematical study of risk management and uncertainty using quantitative methods, most often associated with the insurance industry).  After a December 2012 meeting with executives from Fort Wayne office of Swiss Re, the second largest reinsurance company in the world, Dragnev realized that the department should invest more into the actuarial program. Since then, the program has grown threefold. Because of the program’s success, as indicated by the amount of students getting internships, co-ops, and passing actuarial exams, the department is developing curricula for an actuarial degree.

To learn more about Dragnev’s research, watch his Faculty in Focus video. For more on the Department of Mathematical Sciences or its actuarial program, contact Dragnev or see the program's website.