Dr. Backman earned a PhD in Algorithms, Combinatorics, and Optimization at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He went on to do postdoctoral research at the Hausdorff Center for Mathematics in Bonn, Germany. His work has focused on foundational aspects of divisor theory for graphs and tropical curves, which is built on chip-firing, which he describes as “a surprisingly simple game with connections to many different areas of mathematics and the sciences.” In recent years, there has been a great deal of interest in this subject, and it has been utilized to solve several important open problems in number theory and algebraic geometry. He has been called a very independent and creative young mathematician who is working at the forefront of his field.
During graduate school, Dr. Backman was involved with the Emory Tibet Science Initiative, travelling to Dharamsala, India for two summers to teach mathematics to a group of Tibetan monks. (This program was highlighted in the New York Times.)
He will be doing his research at the Einstein Institute of Mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.