The following article appeared in the AWM
Newsletter, January-February 2001 (Vol 31 #1, p.4-6).
We report with great sadness the death of AWM member Dr. Ruth Michler
in Boston on November 1, 2000. Ruth, an Associate Professor at the
University of North Texas in Denton, was spending the year as a
Scholar at Northeastern University on an NSF POWRE (mid career)
died in a tragic accident with a construction
vehicle, while waiting to cross a busy intersection near the campus.
Ruth was buried on November 10, 2000 in Essen, Germany, where she is
survived by her parents and a sister.
Ruth Ingrid Michler was born on March 8, 1967, in Ithaca, NY. Her
is a mathematician and her family was visiting Cornell University at
time. From April 1968 to March 1973 Ruth spent her childhood in
From April 1973 to March 1978 she went to primary school and high
in Giessen. Since 1978 her family has lived in Essen, and Ruth
from high school there in 1985. She always enjoyed learning
languages and had deep interests in sciences, fine arts and music.
Ruth attended Oxford University for her undergraduate studies,
BA summa cum laude in mathematics in 1988. Her tutors at Balliol
were Dr. K.C. Hannabuss and Dr. Frances Kirwan. While at Oxford she
Jenkyns essay prize for her paper "Black Holes," under the direction
Roger Penrose. Ruth went on to do graduate work at the University
California, Berkeley, under the direction of Professors Mariusz
and Arthur Ogus, receiving her Ph.D. in 1993. Her dissertation was
"Hodge components of cyclic homology of affine hypersurfaces."
graduating, Ruth was invited by Professor L.G. Roberts to work as a
postdoctoral fellow for a year at Queen's University in Kingston,
Although her family lived in Germany, Ruth decided that her
professional career would be spent in the United States. In 1994,
accepted a tenure-track position at the University of North Texas in
She was promoted to Associate Professor and awarded tenure in
As a mathematician, Ruth worked primarily in the area of cyclic
singularity theory and since her graduation from Berkeley she had
contributions to this field. She had seven articles printed or in
with several more in preparation or submitted. In her papers on
hypersurface singularities she showed that cyclic homology is a
of Hochschild homology and de Rham cohomology.
Furthermore, she gave some algorithms to compute these invariants.
Ruth brought an intensity to everything she did, and her
mathematical work reflected this intensity.
In her research, Ruth used techniques from several
different areas of mathematics and combined very abstract theory
concrete calculations of examples, using computer programs such as
Macaulay and Maple. She was persistent, returning to problems again
again, approaching them from different viewpoints, and discussing
variations and improvements with colleagues in related areas.
Ruth traveled considerably and gave talks at a variety of
including AMS meetings in South Africa and Belgium. In 1996, she
talk at the AWM workshop for recent Ph.D.'s at the AMS meeting in
and in 1997 she visited the Fields Institute in Toronto as a
postdoctoral fellow. Ruth quickly became involved in organizing
conferences and seminars, as well as attending them. She initiated
joint seminar for the University of North Texas, the University of
at Arlington, and
Texas Christian University, which she called the AGANT (Algebraic
Geometry, Algebra and Number Theory ) Seminar. With Professor
Grant Melles, Ruth organized three AMS special sessions on
in algebraic and analytic geometry and was planning two more
Ruth felt strongly that a meeting should be more than just a
short presentations. She organized social events, and she
talks so that speakers could discuss their work in more depth. She
scheduled informal question/problem sessions in the evenings and
successfully persuaded most of the participants to attend these
Ruth and Caroline co-edited a book of proceedings from the first of
special sessions. This book, "Singularities in Algebraic and
Geometry," was recently published as volume 266 of the AMS
Contemporary Mathematics series.
Ruth applied for and received several grants to travel and conduct
Most recently, she received a Professional Opportunities for Women
Research and Education (POWRE) grant from the National Science
With this grant, she intended to focus exclusively on her research
year, primarily working with Professors Tony Iarrobino and Marc
at Northeastern University. Ruth was tremendously excited to be in
for the year. In the short two and a half months since arriving in
had started new projects, and had given several talks, including one
Boston University on October 30. She had also given a talk at the
Special Session on Singularities at San Francisco on October 22,
she co-organized. On the blackboard in her office was the short
a new theorem, written October 31, 2000. Ruth was interested in
her stay in Boston, and was in the process of completing her
for a Bunting
Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study on the day
Ruth brought intensity and energy into other areas of her life. She
outgoing and friendly person. She talked to everyone and, while she
held (and expressed) strong opinions, she put a high value on the
friendships she had developed. She made it a point to reach out to
mathematicians, encouraging them in their research by inviting them
give talks. Ruth was also generous with her time, serving as acting
director of the Integration Bee for the UNT Math Awareness Week,
recruiting graduate students for the program at UNT, and
past September for the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk to benefit
with cancer. She was an avid music lover and held season tickets
the Dallas Opera and, more recently, for a series of performances by
Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Ruth was a dedicated long-distance runner. She ran daily, along
cycling to work, and completed over 23 marathons in the past six
including the Boston Marathon. Ruth had recently begun running
marathons" - extremely long distance races. She completed the
Leadville Trail in Texas in August, 1999, and was
excited about running the Chancellor Challenge 100K race in Boston
October, where she came in tenth among the women.
She ran the Cape Cod Marathon on October 29, 2000, barely two weeks
the 100K race.
Ruth inspired all those who knew her with her tremendous vitality
enthusiasm which she brought to all her endeavors. Her energy, her
determination, and her love of mathematics remain vividly in our
She is greatly missed.
Maura Mast, University of Massachusetts, Boston, and
Caroline Grant Melles, US Naval Academy,
with assistance from
Tony Iarrobino, Northeastern University
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