Meet new faculty: Eloísa Grifo and Jack Jeffries

Photo of Jack Jeffries
Jack Jeffries

Photo of Eloisa Grifo
Eloisa Grifo

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln Department of Mathematics is pleased to welcome commutative algebraists Jack Jeffries and Eloísa Grifo to its faculty as tenure-track assistant professors. While Jeffries began teaching at UNL in Fall 2020, Grifo will begin her appointment officially in Fall 2021.

“UNL has been a huge commutative algebra center for many decades, so I’m very excited to join the department,” Grifo said. “Truly, there’s nothing I’m more proud of than being able to do the job that I love every day—especially considering how difficult the job market is these days.”

Both Grifo and Jeffries already have connections with UNL that go back several years. A collaborator on Jeffries’s first paper was then-UNL graduate student Courtney Gibbons, and Jeffries’s first research conference talk was in the basement of Avery Hall at KUMUNUjr.

Jeffries also collaborated with former UNL faculty member Carina Curto and past UNL graduate students Katherine Morrison and Nora Youngs on “Algebraic signatures of convex and nonconvex codes,” which was published in the Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra in 2019, as well as “What makes a neural code convex?” which appeared in the SIAM Journal of Applied Algebra and Geometry in 2017.

Grifo’s most recent paper, “A stable version of Harbourne’s Conjecture and the containment problem for space monomial curves,” was published in the Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra in 2020, and she was scheduled to give the talk “A survey on Harbourne’s Conjecture” at UNL’s BrianFest in May, but the conference was postponed. She has collaborated with former UNL postdoc Alessandro De Stefani (with Jeffries); current UNL faculty member Alexandra Seceleanu; and former UNL graduate students Ben Drabkin and Josh Pollitz.

Before coming to UNL, Grifo was an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside, first arriving there in July 2019 as a visiting assistant researcher. Jeffries was an Investigador Titular A (tenure-track faculty) in the pure math group at the Centro de Investigación en Matemáticas, A.C. (CIMAT) in Guanajuato, México. Grifo and Jeffries both spent time in the University of Michigan mathematics department prior to those appointments, Grifo as a postdoctoral assistant professor and Jeffries as a National Science Foundation postdoc in the Department of Mathematics.

Both Grifo and Jeffries were involved in math outreach at Michigan and participated in Wolverine Pathways, a program for high school students.

“It was a Saturday extracurricular program for students in districts in the greater Detroit area that are underrepresented at the University of Michigan. Students who participate throughout high school and are accepted to the University of Michigan receive free tuition,” Jeffries said. “A group from the math department would show up and lead Math Circle-type activities. The program is still relatively new, but I’m optimistic it will make a big impact there.”

Grifo received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon, Portugal, and her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in 2018 under advisor Professor Craig Huneke. At Virginia, Grifo was president and founding member of the Association for Women in Mathematics Student Chapter and worked with K–12 students through the Math Ambassadors program.

“When I was in high school, I got very interested in origami and its connections to math,” Grifo said. “I ran some workshops with elementary and middle school kids where we would start with some simple, fun origami constructions, leading up to some fun math questions like how to trisect an angle with paper folding—which you can’t do with a compass and a ruler, but you can do by folding the paper.”

Grifo was born and raised in Leiria, Portugal, a city of about 100,000 people two hours north of Lisboa. During her time at Riverside, Grifo most recently taught Commutative Algebra and Calculus for the Life Sciences II.

Jeffries, who is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, received his bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah, under advisor Professor Anurag K. Singh in 2015. Jeffries’s research interests include invariant theory, positive characteristic techniques, differential operators, p-derivations, local cohomology, generalized multiplicities, symbolic powers, and applications to neuroscience.

Jeffries taught Math 314: Linear Algebra at UNL in Fall 2020 and previously taught D-modules and Applications to Commutative Algebra and Commutative Algebra at CIMAT.

“The success I’m most proud of is my students, even though the success was more their own than mine. This last summer, I graduated an undergraduate thesis student, Sandra Sandoval, and a master’s student, Luis Palacios, from, CIMAT. They did incredible work!” said Jeffries, shown in the photo on this page with his partner, Grifo, (and a corn mascot) celebrating their UNL hiring.

“One long-term goal I have is to build connections between UNL and my former institution, CIMAT. When things are more ‘normal,’ I hope to bring students and faculty from there here, and vice versa,” Jeffries said.

– Lindsay Augustyn