Spring break in Mexico?  Yucatán university invites professor to talk about search engines, importance of mathematics

  With his neverending willingness to promote relationships between mathematics and computer science, Prof. Michael W. Berry of the University of Tennessee's Department of Computer Science spent his 2004 Spring Break in Mérida, México as a guest of the Department of Mathematics at the Universidad Autómata De Yucatán (UADY).
   Berry presented several lectures based on his book Understanding Search Engines (SIAM). Prof. Berry's seminar included a brief introduction on information processing and management, an overview of information retrieval models and an in-depth analysis of latent semantic indexing (LSI), a conceptual-based indexing approach that incorporates numerical linear algebra in a vector space information retrieval model.
   Dr. Berry also talked to the group of about 50 mathematics and computer science students about the differences between
LSI and links-based information retrieval model, which is used by the popular Google search engine. The Catedral de San Idelfonso in the center of Mérida, Yucatán is the second oldest church in North America.
   "LSI is a popular information retrieval model which relies upon computational methods from linear algebra to reveal conceptually related documents. Google, on the other hand, is based on a page-ranking algorithm which assumes that information relevance is based on the underlying hyperlink structure of the World-Wide-Web."
    Berry and Search Engine co-author Murray Browne are planning to revise their 1999 book to include some discussion about link-based search engines such as Google. Berry also stressed to the UADY students that a solid mathematics background is such areas as linear algebra, discrete mathematics, and probability are highly relevant in the field of computer science.
UADY Berry
    Berry concluded the seminar with a presentation on some of his collaborative efforts with Dr. Gary W. Stuart of Indiana State University on their use  of a singular value decomposition (SVD) based phylogenetic method for creating comprehensive whole genomes. At the conclusion of the 3-day
seminar on Information Retrieval, Director of the Mathematics program, Jośe Alejandro Lara Rodriguez  presented Prof. Berry with a certificate of appreciation for his visit to Mérida. Likewise, Prof. Berry expressed his gratitude for the assistance of faculty members Jorge Gómez Montalvo and Gerardo García for helping him translate his lectures into Spanish.

   "I had four years of high-school Spanish, and it has been nearly twenty years since I've been immersed in the language. My colleagues at UADY were patient and gracious in allowing me to make honest, albeit flawed, attempts to converse in their native tongue."
Professor Berry checks his notes (and Spanish) before class on the UADY campus.
    The UADY Mathematics Department has 470 students with 80 professors on the math faculty. In addition to its mathematical and computer science departments, UADY offers degrees in education, actuarial science and statistics.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Michael Berry
Department of Computer Science
The University of Tennessee
203 Claxton Complex
Knoxville, TN  37996-3450
Phone: (865) 974-3838


From left to right: José Alejandro Lara Rodriguez, Dr. Gerardo Emilio García, Dr. Michael Berry, and Jorge Gómez.