April 8, 2021 at 1:03 pm

Class of 2021 | Dr. Henry Chimal-Dzul: From Mexico to Athens to Zurich

Henry Chimal-Dzul, portrait

Henry Chimal-Dzul

Henry Chimal-Dzul, an international student from Mexico, graduates this spring with a Ph.D. in Mathematics. His next step is Switzerland.

In Mexico, Chimal-Dzul earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in mathematics. This spring, he earns his doctoral hood, a piece of academic regalia that dates back to medieval times. His will be lined with Ohio University green.

His dissertation research on various classes of algebraic structures called “rings” has yielded four journal articles, two of which have been published in prestigious journals in the field. Independently, he has also been conducting other research projects from which he has published three more journal articles.

Chimal-Dzul has been awarded a Swiss Excellence Postdoctoral Fellowship, one of the most prestigious scholarships granted by the Swiss government. Starting in Fall 2021 he will be at the University of Zurich, conducting further research in coding theory and cryptography.

Quasi-Frobenius rings hand drawn

Hand-drawn Quasi-Frobenius rings

Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO—that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”?

A: One of my favorite “ah-ha” moments was when I understood the definition of a Quasi-Frobenius ring. I remember my adviser, Dr. Sergio Lopez-Permouth, going over and over the same definition and explaining to me how Quasi-Frobenius rings look like Christmas ornaments. Every time he explained to me, I said to myself — and to him as well — “this time, I got it.” I did not lie about it, I understood the notion that time, but there were some details that I did not catch. Finally, in the Fall 2020, I understood the notion and I was able to reproduce his pictorial way to see Quasi-Frobenius rings using Christmas ornaments (see picture below).

Quasi-Frobenius rings II

Quasi-Frobenius rings

Q: What stands out in your mind as you think about graduating despite COVID?

A: The moment when I arrived in the United States five years ago—I was motivated and with strong feelings that Ohio University was just the beginning of my career as a researcher in mathematics. Now I look back and I cannot believe that the moment has finally arrived and I will graduate as a doctor in mathematics. It has not been easy at all, but these five years have been full of enjoyment and happiness doing what I love to do: research in mathematics.

Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life?

A: I greatly appreciate all my professors at Ohio University as they sharpened my skills in many positive ways. In addition to the invaluable experience that my two advisers have given me, Professors Sergio Lopez-Permouth and Steve Szabo, I would like to recognize Professors Archil Gulisashvili, Wei Lin, Winfried Just, and Vladimir Uspenskiy for their great lectures and vision about mathematics. From all of them I have learned more than just mathematics.

Professor Steve Szabo earned a doctoral degree at Ohio University and he is currently at Eastern Kentucky University.

Q:  What was the hardest hill you had to climb (not counting Jeff Hill) at OHIO? And how did you overcome challenges or obstacles in your path?

A: Every graduate student must approve two comprehensive exams after the first year of being enrolled in the doctoral program in mathematics. Usually, a student takes one comprehensive exam per semester as the amount of material to prepare is extensive. I remember preparing for two comprehensive exams (Algebra and Analysis) in the summer of 2017 (after my first year in Ohio University). It was challenging to study more than 12 hours a day to prepare for both exams. In the fall of 2017, I took both comprehensive exams in Algebra and Analysis the same week. Some weeks later, I was notified that I mastered both. This has been one of the hardest moments, but this effort sharpened the character and working skills that I have now.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?

A: My favorite memories have been always the four seasons at Ohio:

  • Spring full of flowers, the cherry trees, and the chirp of the birds.
  • Summer with hot temperatures like at the beach but without a beach.
  • Fall with trees changing from green to multiples tone of colors
  • Winter with a white snow that brings everything to life again.

I will miss all this after I leave Ohio.

Editor’s Note: The Happy Beginnings series features recent College of Arts & Sciences graduates who are getting started in careers, graduate school and service.

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