Frank Sottile
A Brief History

Older pictures of Frank.

I was the second of five boys born to Sam and Nina (neé Cantelmo) Sottile, who were both Junior-High School teachers, and the first in their families to attend College, he on the GI Bill (he was a member of the Army of Occupation in Germany during the Korean War) and she on a competitive scholarship from the Ford Motor Company for children of workers. They met at Eastern Michigan University, and raised five sons (I was number two and born in 1963 in Michigan). My brothers are all quite accomplished.

While I was determined to be a scientist since about first grade (and I had won a regional math contest for middle-school children at Eastern Michigan University), my mathematical interests came to the fore when I finished fourth in the Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition when I took the contest on a whim in 1979/80. I joined the top students to compete for Michigan in the Altantic Region Mathematics League; these experiences helped me to decide to become a mathematician.

I attended the Honors College at Michigan State University majoring in physics and minoring in mathematics. I supported myself throughout college on a creative mixture of scholarships and grants, as well as tutoring, working at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, and serving as an undergraduate TA for the Mathematics department. I worked over 20 hours each week.

I was fortunate to have extraordinary teachers and fellow students; they helped me to have a deep and rewarding experience at Michgan State. I won a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and a Churchill Scholarship to study at Cambridge when I graduated in 1985. My life as a traveller also began while at MSU; each summer I went on a trip to the American West, and when I graduated I visited a friend who was in the Peace Corps in the Fiji Islands before I moved to Cambridge.

MSU prepared me well for Cambridge; I took the Mathematical Tripos Part III, receiving Distinction. I stayed at Cambridge to work on a Ph.D. under the direction of Graham Allan studying Banach Algebras. That did not go so well, due to my peripatetic ways, and I returned to the United States to attend the University of Chicago, where I met and married Sarah Witherspoon, and eventually received my Ph.D. in Mathematics under the direction of William Fulton.

Sarah and I had a series of jobs, working at the University of Toronto, then Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, then back at Toronto and again at MSRI before spending 1.5 years at the University of Wisconsin. Our daughter Maria was born just before we left Toronto. After Wisconsin, I started a tenure-track job at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, but Sarah did not yet have a permanent position. Our son Sam was born while we lived in Amherst.

We finally left Amherst to assume faculty positions at Texas A&M University, where we remain to this day. Travel and family remain themes in our life; Since leaving Amherst, we have spent time in Berkeley (I ran a semester at the MSRI), Munich (Sarah was a Humbolt fellow)—I also sent 2 months in Paris that year, Minneapolis (I was involved with the IMA program on Applications of Algebraic Geometry), Lausanne (Only me; I helped to organize a semester at the Bernoulli Centre), and Stockholm (Institut Mittag-Leffler for me and KTH for Sarah). We were at MSRI in Berkeley again in Winter/Spring 2013, as Sarah was a Research Professor with both research programs. I spent the Autumn 2014 at the Simons Institute, and both of us plan to spend the academic year 2016–2017 in Toronto, me at the Fields Institute.

Last modified: Sun May 8 13:35:11 WAT 2016