Mason A. Porter

Professor, Department of Mathematics, UCLA

Professor, Department of Sociology (0%), UCLA

External Professor, Santa Fe Institute


  • CV (7/11/24)
  • Google Scholar Citations

  • Note: Anybody who is interested in a postdoctoral position in my research group should go to our web page and follow the instructions to apply for a position in the UCLA Department of Mathematics. To see advertised positions that start in the 2024-25 academic year, go to this page. Do not send applications directly to me, and do not ask me if the instructions don't apply to you (because they do). In your application procedures, it makes sense to mention in your cover letter that you are interested in working with me. I am happy being contacted informally, but any official application has to be sent through official channels.
  • Note 2: Our deadlines for positions that start in Fall (usually July) of year N tend to be in November of year N - 1. If we will be at the same conference or otherwise in the same location, I am happy to chat informally.
  • Note 3: Similarly, for people who are interested in becoming a PhD student at UCLA and being in my group as a Ph.D. student, you should go to our departmental website and follow the instructions to apply. It then makes sense to mention me in the Statement of Purpose that you submit as part of your application materials. Admissions are done centrally, and I am not authorized (nor should I be!) to admit people on my own.

  • Background

  • I was born and raised in California. I was technically born in Los Angeles, but I actually lived in Beverly Hills until I went to college.
  • In order, the schools I attended are Temple Emanuel preschool (because, of course, you really needed to know that), Hawthorne Elementary School, Beverly Hills High School (yes, I really did go there), California Institute of Technology (BS, Applied Math, 1998; member of Lloyd House), and Cornell University (PhD, Center for Applied Mathematics, 2002).
  • From Fall 2002 through Spring 2005, I did a postdoc in Mathematics and the Center for Nonlinear Science (housed in the School of Physics) at Georgia Tech. (In Spring 2003, I was on leave from that position to be a postdoc in the Semiclassical Analysis program at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California.)
  • From June 2005 until 30 September 2007, I was a postdoc at Caltech in the Center for the Physics of Information. I was also part of the condensed matter physics group.
  • On 1 October 2007, I became a faculty member in the Mathematical Institute at University of Oxford. (Can you tell that I take vacations? Quickly check the dates you just read.)
  • On 30 June 2016, I became a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics at UCLA. In September 2016, I physically moved back to Los Angeles. (That's right: I have moved back to the West Side, where I last lived full-time when I was in high school.)

  • This is completely irrelevant for my research group page, but I am a diehard fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I'm not going to write a web page this extensive without putting that information somewhere prominent.
  • Got all that?

  • Research Interests

    I am interested in numerous areas of applied mathematics, and I am always looking for new areas to try. (I basically keep adding new research interests.) However, here are a few buzzwords describing areas in which I have already written research papers or have projects in progress:

  • Nonlinear Science
  • Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos
  • Nonlinear Waves (including solitary waves, compactons, etc.)
  • Billiard Systems
  • Quantum Chaos
  • Granular Media
  • Nonlinear Optics
  • Atomic Physics (specifically, Bose-Einstein condensation)
  • Network Science
  • Social Network Analysis
  • Mathematical Biology (including biological networks)
  • Synchronization

  • Contact Information

  • E-mail: mason [at] math [dot] ucla [dot] edu

  • How I got interested in my research area in the first place

    People run into mathematicians (not usually literally, but I have a few stories...) and sometimes wonder how they got that way. Both normal people and junior scientists (I'm thinking in particular of undergrads and grad students who are still trying to figure out what they want to do) also wonder how scientists got interested in their particular research areas. I think it's extremely useful to provide an answer to this question, so here's my story:

    My initial interest in nonlinear dynamical systems arose from a childhood fascination with patterns. The sketches that I began drawing when I was very young included many such displays of contrasting color. (I glanced through these sketches a few years ago, and several of them look remarkably similar to patterns that occur in nonlinear science. This is a statement either of how little I've progressed since then or of how I was born to study nonlinear science. I'm not really sure which...)

    In high school, I noticed that fractals could produce colorful patterns in the same vein as what I liked to draw, which led to my interest in them. In college, I discovered that what really intrigued me was trying to understand the mechanisms that could produce such interesting pictures and the natural and human-made systems that exhibited them. Since then, my interests have branched out into several fields of science that can be studied using dynamical systems and other methods.

    In short, while my research interests have diversified in the last several years, my academic interests initially arose largely from what I consider visually appealing.