Two Chapman University parents are supporting students in a unique program in perpetuity.
On Jan. 31, the $2.5 million Anne and Chris Flowers Family Endowed Doctoral Fellowship was announced during the first conference for the Doctor of Science in Math, Philosophy and Physics (MPP) Program.
“We are so pleased to endow this doctoral fellowship in the Math, Philosophy and Physics Program,” Anne and Chris Flowers said in a joint statement. “Chapman’s leadership with this cross-disciplinary research doctoral program is both innovative and inspiring, and we are proud to support its growth. We are also proud that our daughters Lizz Flowers ’17 and Helena Gray ’23 majored in science at Chapman and loved their experiences.”
The endowment will support MPP students throughout their time in the program and fund other program activities.
“We are excited to keep building our uniquely interdisciplinary program in mathematics, philosophy and physics,” said Chapman President Daniele C. Struppa. “It will contribute to our growing profile of academic excellence, research and scholarship.”
The three-year program, which confers a Ph.D.-equivalent degree, emphasizes the connection between mathematics, philosophy and the physical sciences. Each student chooses a primary and secondary discipline and spends most of their time researching for their dissertation. The fellowships will fully fund a number of newly admitted students every year.
“We’re building an innovative, world-class graduate program,” said Michael Ibba, dean of Schmid College of Science and Technology. “The endowment enables us to rapidly grow the program by providing funding to attract the best students to Chapman.”
Ibba said the program positions Chapman at the front of rapidly evolving fields like quantum studies and artificial intelligence.
“The program doesn’t silo students in a discipline, and it trains them to think across disciplines,” he said. “We’re doing this with major disciplines, not subdisciplines within math or physics.”
Scientific problems cannot always be answered unless they are examined broadly, across fields, he said. In particular, the three disciplines in the MPP program aid scientific discovery. For instance, philosophy can help students decide which problems to confront with math and physics.
The Flowers fellowship will attract students who do interdisciplinary work and “are drawn to new and exciting topics in very practical fields,” Ibba said.
Such topics include AI, quantum studies and the study of the mind using philosophy and math models. Philosophy can be used in next-generation tech fields like AI; even if someone understands the math behind it, philosophy is needed to take a deeper dive into its implications.
“Having people trained to interact across these disciplines by working in those areas, you come to an employer with something different to offer,” he said.
The program is unique because it combines three complementing disciplines that haven’t traditionally been offered together in a single degree.
The program “reflects Chapman’s approach and that we’re able to do something a little different than what other schools do,” Ibba said.
Some schools offer a degree in two of the disciplines together, like philosophy and physics or math and physics.
Ibba said the MPP program is the fruition of a long, intentional plan. Struppa has been instrumental in making it a reality by bringing the right minds to Chapman, Ibba said.
“It’s the right time for Chapman to do this because of our strength in the growth of the three disciplines,” he said. “We have the right mathematicians and philosophers and physicists to do this.”
Program director Professor Marco Panza said the program is working to “form international scholars.”
Ibba credited Panza, who “eats, sleeps, lives and dies for the MPP program.”
One of the strategic plan’s priorities is academic excellence. The MPP program advances key initiatives in that priority, including a culture of impactful and sustainable research, creative and scholarly inquiry and refining Chapman’s portfolio of new graduate programs.