Top Mathematicians Gather to Honor Princeton’s Erhan Çinlar

April 3, 2006

Nearly 100 leading mathematicians specializing in probability gathered in Princeton March 22 to honor Prof. Erhan Çinlar on his 65th birthday.

Those attending Çinlar’s Day, and the three-day Seminar on Stochastic Processes that followed it, constituted a veritable Who’s Who of probability research.

“The most amazing thing about this conference was the breadth and depth of the people who came," said Robert Vanderbei, chairman of the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering. “It says a lot about Erhan. It’s always been one of Erhan’s great traits – being able to identify the right people to hang out with".

Çinlar said he was honored to have so many distinguished experts in the field of probability attend the festivities. “What can I say?" he said. “I have exquisite taste in friends."

René Carmona, Paul M. Wythes '55 Professor of Engineering and Finance, organized the day, which featured speakers Chris Burdzy of Seattle, Hans Foellmer of Berlin, Ron Getoor of San Diego, Jean Jacod of Paris, Haya Kaspi of Haifa and John Walsh of Vancouver.

Çinlar’s Day ended with a packed reception in the Friend Center and then dinner at Prospect House. “We wanted it to be a roast but, you know, we’re engineers," said Vanderbei. “So it was more tributes than roasts."

Special dinner guests included Vice Provost Kathy Rohrer; professors of mathematics Joseph Kohn, Edward Nelson and Yakov Sinai; the mathematician John Nash; and Vincent Poor, the Michael Henry Strater University Professor of Electrical Engineering.

Çinlar was honored for his contributions to the theory of Markov Processes, an important feature of the mathematical study of probability.

One of Çinlar’s major professional contributions was to help create the annual Seminar on Stochastic Processes. The 2006 seminar, which followed Çinlar’s Day, was held at Princeton. 

The seminar is now an institution in the probability community. Established in 1981 by Çinlar, K.L. Chung and R.K. Getoor, the seminar gives researchers a forum to exchange ideas and establish collaborations. 

“Only five speakers are invited every year, so to be invited is a great honor," said Carmona.  This year the speakers were Eulalia Nualart, of the University of Paris; Walter Schachermayer, of the Technical University of Vienna; Amir Dembo, of Stanford University; Frank den Hollander, of Leiden University; and Steve Evans, of the University of California-Berkeley.

In 1999, Çinlar also helped create the Engineering School’s Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering at Princeton, the first department of its kind in the world.

“Creating this department was a very bold, visionary move on the part of the administration," said Carmona. The department focuses on engineering for business, commerce, and industry, and students in ORFE are typically engineering innovators and entrepreneurs.

Çinlar was the first chairman of the department. “I want to be a father like he was a chairman," said
Carmona. “He made every single one of us think we were special. That is how he got people to do the best job they could possibly do."