Jim Osterburg

Jim came to the University of Cincinnati in 1971 as a Taft Postdoctoral Fellow after earning a BA and PhD from Indiana University. The next year he was hired as an Assistant Professor and that began forty years of service to the Department of Mathematical Sciences during which time Jim excelled as a teacher, a researcher, an administrator, and as a generous and dedicated colleague.

Throughout his career, Jim was passionate about developing new ways of teaching mathematics. He was a leader in the transformation of our introductory course for liberal arts majors. He was a strong advocate of new approaches to the teaching of calculus and was one of the early proponents of using computer technology in the classroom. He was a popular teacher at all levels from large freshman classes to small graduate seminars. Jim was also one of three faculty members who set up and generously donated to the Harris Hancock Fund providing scholarships for undergraduate mathematics majors.

Jim's research was primarily concerned with the action of groups - the mathematical abstraction of the concept of symmetry. Having quickly earned an international reputation as an expert on the subject, he spent the academic year 1979-80 at the University of Poitiers. His collaboration with his French colleagues resulted in a publication in the highly prestigious Comptes Rendus de l'Académie de Sciences. In the late 1980's the subject of group theory was transformed by the unexpected discovery of deformations of linear groups known as quantum groups. These quantum groups existed not as traditional groups but as Hopf algebras, a hitherto esoteric aspect of algebra which suddenly moved into the mathematical limelight. Jim's research moved into the area of actions of Hopf algebras and he again became respected internationally as an expert in this subject. Later in his career Jim spent two academic leaves at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he was involved in a fruitful collaboration with Don Passman, one of the world's most prominent experts in group algebras.

Jim's service to the department and to the community will be sorely missed. He served in many roles such as coordinator of calculus and graduate program director but will be most remembered for his five years as head of the department. Since stepping down as head, he was deeply involved in the annual school mathematics competition held at UC, expanding participation to record levels under his 5 year tenure.