Daniel Vargas ’25 Wins Merten M. Hasse Prize for Notable Mathematics Paper

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Harvey Mudd College student Daniel Vargas ’25 was awarded the Merten M. Hasse Prize for the paper “Being Rational About Algebraic Numbers” which he coauthored with mathematics professors Matthew Davis (Muskingum University) and Adam Parker (Wittenberg University). The paper expands on an ancient algorithm from 130 C.E. that approximates the square root of two by a sequence of rational numbers.

The Hasse Prize was established in 1986 by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and is awarded to noteworthy expository papers that appear in an MAA publication whose authors contain at least one “younger” mathematician. The $1,000 award and certificate of recognition is designed to encourage younger mathematicians to take up the challenge of exposition and communication.

Vargas said that he has loved math since childhood.

“I learned multiplication at four years old,” Vargas said. “There was a times table song I heard in preschool, and when I got home, I had my mom teach me what it meant.”

“It is wonderful to see Danny recognized with this honor,” Harvey Mudd Department of Mathematics Chair Jon Jacobsen said. “It is all the more impressive that he wrote the paper before even starting his undergraduate studies at the College!”

“The project actually all started with Danny,” said Davis, co-author and associate professor of mathematics at Muskingum University. “Danny noticed a nice numerical pattern that was somewhat mysterious at first. He showed this to Adam Parker, who then talked about it at an MAA conference. We got together and started working out the details.” Davis adds, “It’s a really lovely mathematical picture as a whole, and I’m so pleased we were recognized for the paper.”

Vargas is not the first Mudder to co-author a paper with Davis. As a postdoctoral scholar in the mathematics department at Harvey Mudd, Davis co-authored “Voting for Committees in Agreeable Societies” with Harvey Mudd professors Michael Orrison and Francis Su (who received the Hasse Prize in 2001).

Vargas received the Hasse Prize at the 2023 MAA MathFest conference in Tampa, Florida. “Attending the conference was helpful in other ways as well,” Vargas says. “I’ve been working on this paper about using math to solve a problem in music for a while, and I was able to talk to multiple people who offered feedback and provided different perspectives that will help my paper be relevant to a more general musical audience.”

Vargas notes that winning the Hasse Prize has heightened his enthusiasm for mathematics, and he’s begun incorporating the subject into his music which he releases under the stage name Wolyme.

“Having worked with Danny in several courses and as his advisor, I have seen up close his passion and talent for mathematics,” Jacobsen says. “I am sure the Hasse Prize is only the beginning for Danny.”