Dr. Idris Assani


Prefix: Dr.
First Name: Idris
Last Name: Assani


A Mathematician's eye for quality shows that though he was an excellent researcher, Dr. Assani ran into North Carolina racism in the 1990's.


Born in Niger, but from Benin

Idris Assani earned the Master of Sciences , University Paris Dauphine , Commerce (1981); Doctorat 3eme cycle, University Paris 6,-adviser (R. Pallu de la Barriere)-Pure Math (1981); and in 1986 Doctorat d'Etat , University Paris 6, adviser (A. Brunel) -Pure Math.

A Mathematician's eye for quality shows that though he was an excellent researcher, Dr. Assani ran into North Carolina racism in the 1990's. Here is what happened:

"I came to the USA in 1988 knowing very little about the country and trusting the UNC Chapel Hill Math department who invited me. But soon enough I find myself forced to go to courts and to the AMS Council to have my work and abilities recognized. My legal actions were settled in 1995 year I was finally promoted to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure. As part of the settlement (may be To make up for all that has gone wrong) I was allowed to apply for promotion to Full Professor one year later. I was promoted to Full Professor after a full review (more than 2/3 yes) on July 1 1996. I then became the first black mathematician tenured associate professor and the first to be promoted to the rank of Full professor at the oldest public university in the country (more than 200 years old). I am certainly the only one in the history of the department to be promoted from Associate to Full professor in one year.The struggle is not over as mentalities are very difficult if not impossible to change and it is not easy to stay here. I used my struggle to open up the admission of Black graduate students in the department. I was told that there was only one Black student in the entire history of the department who got a PHD and it was before I came to Chapel Hill. There are now 3 black graduate students in the department preparing Masters and PHD."

Idris Assani's papers are referenced below. However, after picking one of his papers as one of the best, I asked Dr. Assani what were his "favorite" works of his own. He said,

"Most of my favorite recent papers were written during this period [late 1990s]. You picked the Duke Mathematical Journal paper Strong laws for weighted sums of independent identically distributed random variables.(which extends with new methods results obtained jointly by J. Bourgain (1994 Fields medalist), H. Furstenberg,Y. Katznelson and D. Ornstein. Another one is Multiple recurrence and almost sure convergence for weakly mixing dynamical systems that gives the best possible result to date on H. Furstenberg famous conjecture on a.e. multiple recurrence for dynamical systems. Another one was presented to the one hour invited AMS address I gave in October 1998. It is a preprint submitted now to the Journal d"Analyse mathematique "Wiener -Wintner dynamical systems" . The paper is in postcript font and can be downloaded by clicking on my webpage http://www.math.unc.edu/Faculty/assani/ on "Winston Salem meeting Abstract and preprint" then on Erg2.ps. Finally another recent preprint is "Multiterm return time theorem for weakly mixing systems" to appear in Annales de l'Institut Henri Poincare. On the older papers I could pick Rota's alternating procedure with nonpositive operators and others which solved questions raised by my adviser "Antoine Brunel" in the two papers that appeared in Canadian journal of mathematics and Canadian Bulletin of Mathematics."

Honors, Awards

IBM junior award, UNC Chapel-Hill
University Council Research grant , UNC Chapel-Hill
NSF grant (principal Investigator) 1990-1997
NSF, AMS travel grant to the 1st inter. Conf. in South Africa.Summer 1997
Teaching Award, "Favorite Faculty" , UNC Chapel-Hill.1996
Invited one hour-address-AMS meeting-Winston-Salem- October 1998.