Emmy Noether Lectures

1999 Lecturer: Krystyna M. Kuperberg

Aperiodic Dynamical Systems

Krystyna M. Kuperberg was born in 1944 in Poland as Krystyna Trybulec, and she grew up in a small town near the city of Kraków. Her parents, educated in pharmacy, managed the town drugstore. When she was 15, the family moved to Gdansk, a port city on the Baltic Sea. In 1962. Krystyna went to the University of Warsaw to study mathematics and entered the wonderful world of abstraction. The first lecture was in algebra — A. Mostowski gave an axiomatic definition of the determinant. This was so much different than high school. Krystyna’s brother, who just switched major from philosophy to mathematics, asserted that the only classes worth attending were Borsuk’s lectures in topology, There she met her future husband Wlodzimierz Kuperberg. They have two children; their son Greg is a mathematician and daughter Anna is a photojournalist. They also have two grandchildren.
Krystyna Kuperberg started her graduate work in topology in 1966 under the supervision of Karol Borsuk. She obtained a master’s degree at Warsaw University and left Poland in 1969 to live in Sweden. In 1972 she moved to Houston and continued the graduate work that she started in Warsaw. She obtained a Ph.D. degree in 1974 at Rice University studying with W.H. Jaco. That year, she and her husband took tenure track positions at Auburn University. Kuperberg was promoted to Full Professor in 1984 and was awarded an Alumni Professorship at Auburn in 1994, During the 24 years of her tenure at Auburn she visited Oklahoma State University in 1982-83, the Courant Institute in 1987, MSRI in 1994-95, and briefly, the University of Paris at Orsay in the summer of 1995.
For many years Kuperberg worked primarily in topology, with some interest in discrete geometry. In 1987 she solved an old problem of Knaster concerning bi-homogeneity of continua. In the late 1980’s she became interested in fixed points and topological aspects of dynamical systems. In 1993, she constructed a smooth counterexample to the Seifert conjecture, a smooth vector field on the three dimensional sphere without compact orbits. She continued the work on aperiodic flows jointly with her son, and she still works on related problems. Since 1993, she gave over 50 lectures on the subject, including an AMS Plenary Lecture in March 1995, an MAA Plenary Lecture in January 1996, and an ICM 1998 invited talk.
In 1995. Kuperberg received the prestigious Alfred Jurzykowski Award administered by the Kosciuszko Foundation. In 1996, she received a Research Excellence Award from the College of Sciences and Mathematics of Auburn University. She served on several AMS Committees: AMS Council, Committee on the Profession, Southeastern Section Program Committee, the Editorial Board of the Electronic Research Announcement, and was recently nominated to serve on the Committee on Summer Institutes and Special Symposia.