Dean's Medalist discovers creativity and mathematics go hand in hand

April 28, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Andrew Bremner has worked with many talented students over his 30-plus years as a professor of mathematics at ASU. One day last spring while waiting for his intermediate abstract algebra class to start, he posed to those present a problem of the “self-referential” number in base 10 — namely to find a unique 10-digit number whose first digit indicates how many times 0 appears in the number, the second digit indicates how often 1 appears, down to the 10th digit giving the total appearances of the number 9. Benjamin Jones Benjamin Jones is the spring 2021 Dean's Medalist for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Download Full Image

Two days later, a student presented his analysis of the problem for a general base, classifying all such “self-referential” integers. That student was Benjamin Jones, the spring 2021 Dean’s Medalist for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

Over the next couple of weeks, Jones wrote up his findings in rigorous mode for submission to an undergraduate mathematics journal, but sadly, they discovered in a detailed literature search that the results had already been published, albeit in a relatively obscure location.

In the meantime, Jones asked Bremner to serve as the director of his Barrett, The Honors College thesis. Over the summer, Bremner had him read through the undergraduate Silverman and Tate book on elliptic curves, and posed him the number theory problem of finding integer points on elliptic curves. The current knowledge was curves with 140–150 integer points. Jones was able to find examples with 272 points.

“Not only did Ben break the record — he smashed it,” said Bremner. “As far as I know, he is the current world record holder.”

Jones posted his thesis on the math arXiv, where it has received quite a bit of interest. Colleagues with whom Bremner shared the thesis were impressed.

“He showed initiative and enthusiasm. It was a pleasure to work with him,” said Bremner.

Jones graduates this spring with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and a certificate in cryptology. He has an outstanding cumulative GPA of 4.02, achieved with many challenging graduate level courses.

In addition to his own academic successes, Jones served as an academic success tutor as well as a grader in mathematics, and provided help for other students.

He had two internships in data engineering with Tile, Inc., a company that makes low-power Bluetooth tracking devices, and an IT security internship with AAA Insurance. In 2019, his team was awarded Best in Show during the ASA DataFest competition. 

In his free time, Jones enjoys writing software, such as fractal renderers, compilers and lots of calculator games, which he posts to his github account and his personal website. He recently made a proof assistant, a programming language that verifies proofs and comes with a model of the Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory axioms and appropriate proofs to show that definitions are well defined.

After graduation, Jones plans to continue his studies toward a PhD in mathematics. We asked him to share about his journey as a Sun Devil.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I have a lot of family in Phoenix, and I wouldn’t have been able to afford going out of state. With a larger school comes more people and more diversity, too! I like the various advantages of this, and especially the fact that ASU has so many student organizations.

Q: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

A: There were two “aha” moments. The first one was when I was in fifth grade. I was enjoying learning how to program computers, and somehow everything I was learning was teaching me how to think like a mathematician as well.

The second “aha” moment was when I was taking (MAT 300) Mathematical Structures with Dr. Childress during my freshman year. The name of the class seemed vague enough that I had no expectations for what I would learn. Everything surprised me and gave me a new perspective on what mathematics actually is. This class embodied the parts of mathematics that before I didn’t realize were the parts I liked!

Q: What do you like most about mathematics (and your area of concentration)?

A: I like that mathematics is the only subject that requires one to be so rigorous yet so creative at the same time.

Q: What is something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: Sometimes it seems like people think experts are born experts, but nobody is. It’s clear to me that my professors have worked very hard to become who they are. And even they occasionally must re-derive a result they forgot, so nobody should be intimidated by not understanding something.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to those still in school?

A: Make sure you enjoy how you spend your time!

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I like to skate around campus, and there is an especially nice garden by the Biodesign buildings.

Q: What do you think is most misunderstood about math by the general public?


Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences


ASU experts produce special Jurimetrics issue on soft law

April 29, 2021

Led by the Center for Law, Science and Innovation at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, prominent legal and technology scholars published a special issue of Jurimetrics, The Journal of Law, Science, and Technology, to explore the role of soft law in governing emerging technologies.

Gary Marchant, Regents Professor of Law and faculty director of the center, along with Lucille Tournas and Carlos Ignacio Gutierrez, introduced the issue of Jurimetrics, the quarterly journal of the American Bar Association Section of Science & Technology Law. Photo of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Soft-Law Governance of Artificial Intelligence Project website ASU's Center for Law, Science and Innovation has led the publication of a special issue of Jurimetrics, The Journal of Law, Science, and Technology, to explore the role of soft law in governing emerging technologies; articles can be accessed on the website: Download Full Image

This issue is part of a featured ASU Law project, made possible by a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation, to gather leading scholars in law, governance and artificial intelligence to investigate the use of soft law governance for AI as an alternative to traditional legal and regulatory frameworks that can hinder innovation and quickly become outdated. The articles examine past soft-law approaches to other technologies to see what lessons can be drawn for AI.

Pieces were contributed by ASU Law faculty Diana Bowman (writing on nanotechnologies) and Yvonne Stevens (on life-science technologies), as well as Professor Cary Coglianese from the University of Pennsylvania Law School (environmental technologies) and Professor Adam Thierer from George Mason University (information and telecommunication technologies).

Bowman, ASU Law’s associate dean for international engagement and full professor, wrote “The Role of Soft Law in Governing Nanotechnologies.” Stevens, a faculty associate, faculty member and scholar of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy, and an LSI faculty fellow, wrote “Soft Law Governance: A Historical Perspective from Life-Science Technologies.”

Gutierrez, Marchant and Tournas then authored a concluding paper that analyzed the findings of the four technology case studies for the soft law governance of AI. This work product was the first of three stages of the AI soft law project. While this first phase examined the lessons from past applications of soft law, the second phase is looking at current initiatives to govern AI using soft law. The third phase will examine potential future strategies for increasing the effectiveness and credibility of AI soft law.

ASU Law reached out to Josh Abbott, executive director of the center, to learn more. You can also access the papers at no cost here:

Question: What does soft law mean and why is it important?

Answer: Soft law is best understood by contrasting it to hard law — i.e., legislation, statutes, regulations, executive orders, court decisions and local ordinances — all of which have the force of law and are enforceable by courts or that involve law enforcement. Soft law, on the other hand, involves sets of rules that are agreed upon but that do not have the force of law. Or as Professor Marchant has explained, soft law instruments “set forth substantive expectations but are not directly enforceable by government.” These may include things such as voluntary agreements, certifications, professional guidelines, industry standards, codes of conduct and best practices.

Soft law is important in several ways:

  • It often fills in a gap when there is no hard law that addresses a particular problem. In such cases, it can provide “rules of the road” for people to follow, sometimes while waiting for formal rules to be adopted.
  • Speed is another huge factor. Because soft law does not have to follow the same formal processes as hard law to be enacted, which can be very slow for things like legislation, it can respond more quickly to changing conditions or evolving technologies.
  • So it’s more agile and adaptive, which also makes it less of a constraint on innovation.
  • Another benefit is that it isn’t limited to a single jurisdiction, so it can apply across political boundaries, which makes a lot of sense for technologies and industries that are global.

Q: Why was the special edition of Jurimetrics produced?

A: The overall goal of the project was to explore ways in which soft law can be used as a governance approach for AI technologies. This issue of Jurimetrics examines ways that soft law, as a governance approach, has been applied to other technologies in the past to see what lessons can be gleaned from those experiences.

Each article contains a case study for different technologies: nanotechnology, life-science technology, environmental sustainability technologies, and information and communication technologies. The idea is that by understanding what has or hasn’t worked in the past for soft law governance of technologies and why, we can better judge the extent to which — or under what conditions — soft law can be applied to governing AI technologies.

Q: How does this effort further the progress of ASU Law’s soft law governance of AI project?

A: Because people tend to be more familiar with traditional, hard law approaches, they often overlook potential uses of soft law, especially for new and emerging technologies where there is a lot of uncertainty. We need to reach policymakers, corporate managers and technologists to help them see that when it comes to some of the wicked challenges of governing such a revolutionary technology as AI, there are more options to consider beyond traditional forms of regulation.

These articles go a long way in helping to answer some of the biggest questions around using soft law for technology governance. These questions include how to create incentives that work for persuading entities to follow soft-law-based guidelines.

  • Which incentives work, and which ones don’t – and do we understand what makes the difference?
  • What are the number and type of organizations, in both the public and private sectors, that tend to buy in to soft law mechanisms?
  • Since soft law is not enforceable by governments, what types of enforcement mechanisms are available and how well do they work under different conditions?

Q: How are ASU Law students involved in the project?

A: One of the unique aspects of this project is the extent to which ASU Law students have been an integral part of it at every stage. Thanks to the grant funding we received, we were able to hire a number of students to help conduct the original research, gather and analyze the data, and write articles for publication in leading academic journals. These types of opportunities are typically reserved for law faculty and recognized academics. But our students are working side-by-side with some of the global experts on these issues. As a learning and professional-development opportunity for students, this project is unmatched.

And as AI technologies advance and become even more embedded in our everyday lives, the number and urgency of questions around how they should be governed will only increase. As the center continues to work on this and related projects, we will need ongoing help from students and others willing to contribute to this important work, including scholars, practitioners and policymakers.

If you would like to learn more or want to get involved, contact or

Julie Tenney

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law