Mathematics Departmental News for 1999

Elisha Peterson wins Rhodes Scholarship (12/99)

Nineteen-year-old prodigy one of only 32 in United States to receive honor

Elisha Peterson, a senior mathematics major at Harvey Mudd College, has received the 1999 Rhodes Scholarship for two to three years of study at Oxford University in England. He was one of only 32 to receive the honor, out of the 935 American students who applied for the scholarship.

The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest of the international study awards available to American students and was created in 1902. Scholars are selected on the basis of academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor.

The 95 students worldwide selected in 1999 for the scholarship will receive awards of $25,000 a year to pay for their studies at Oxford.

Peterson is the second HMC student in the 44-year history of the college to receive a Rhodes Scholarship. Peterson is one of three California natives to receive this year’s award, and is the only winner to attend a California institution of higher education.

Peterson began high school at age 12 and began attending Harvey Mudd College at 15. At age 19, he is on track to be only the fourth person in Harvey Mudd College history to graduate with a 4.0 grade point average.

Peterson’s application essay was on the subject of combinatorial topology. Peterson is also a noted track and cross-country athlete. Recently, he was selected to the first team in cross country for the All-Southern California Intercollegiate Conference and for the NCAA Division III Western Region.

NSF funds IPAM (9/99)

The National Science Foundation has announced that it will fund a new institute, IPAM, along with the existing MSRI and IMA.

IPAM stands for the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, and is a consortium headquartered at UCLA. The consortium includes all the UC campuses south of (and including) Santa Barbara; USC; Caltech; and Harvey Mudd College. Official activities begin in the fall quarter of the year 2000. Two programs will run this first year, one on functional genomics and one on geometrically based motions.

Industrial mathematics projects will be an important part of IPAM’s activities and IPAM will have an educational component modeled after HMC’s mathematics Clinic.

Arthur Benjamin wins national Haimo Award for Distinguished Teaching (9/99)

Arthur Benjamin, associate professor of mathematics, has received the 2000 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Awards for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics, from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). The award is given each year to a currently active college or university professor of mathematics for exemplary teaching in an institution of higher education. Benjamin was one of only three professors in the United States to receive the award this year.

The Haimo Awards will be presented on January 20, 2000, at the annual meeting of the MAA in Washington, DC.

The MAA instituted the Haimo Award in 1991 to honor college or university teachers who have been widely recognized as extraordinarily successful and whose teaching effectiveness has been shown to have had influence beyond their own institutions. Benjamin will receive $1,000 and a certificate. Earlier this year, Benjamin had received the 1999 Distinguished Teaching Award of the Southern California Section of the MAA. He was nominated for the national MAA teaching award along with 19 others.

Benjamin, a “mathemagician”, is recognized nationally for his ability to perform rapid mental calculations. He has lectured and performed for audiences all over the world, including at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, and is the only living American with a biography in “The Great Mental Calculators, Past and Present.” He has published several books on how to make math both fun and easy.

Lisette dePillis named Goeppert-Mayer Argonne Distinguished Scholar (4/99)

Lisette dePillis, associate professor of mathematics, has recently been named the Year 2000 Maria Goeppert-Mayer (MGM) Argonne Distinguished Scholar. She will be conducting research in parallel computational mathematics for the Mathematics and Computer Science Division at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois during 1999–2000.

The Maria Goeppert-Mayer award recognizes outstanding achievements by women scientists and engineers and provides them with opportunities to conduct research at the Argonne National Laboratory. DePillis is only the second MGM scholar to be selected to study in the mathematics and computer science division and the first in four years.

Other MGM scholars have come from Cornell University; UC Berkeley; Duke University; Rutgers; the Russian Academy of Sciences; and the Boris Kidric Institute of Nuclear Science, Belgrade, Yugoslavia. DePillis is the first researcher to come from an undergraduate institution.

MCM Winners! (4/99)

This year, Harvey Mudd College had unprecedented success in the Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) contest. Of our five participating teams, three won awards of outstanding (no school has ever before had three such awards in one year); one team won a meritorious award; and one team won honorable mention.

Of the 550 teams from around the world, only twelve received awards of outstanding. Of the remainder, about seventy receive awards of meritorious and about 30% are designated honorable mention.

In addition, each of our three “outstanding” teams was further recognized with a special award from either the MAA (1) or SIAM (2). These teams are invited to present their papers and receive their prizes at the SIAM meeting in Atlanta next month, and at the MAA meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, in July.

The teams and the problems that they worked on are:

Problem A: Deep Impact
Outstanding; MAA award: Michael Rust ’01, Paul Sangiorgio ’01, Ian Weiner ’01
Outstanding; SIAM award: Matthew Fluet ’99, Dominic Mazzoni ’99, Joel Miller ’00
Honorable mention: Peter Boothe ’00, Virginia Stoll ’01, Bill Williams ’99
Problem B: Unlawful Assembly
Outstanding; SIAM award: David Rudel ’99, Cameron McLeamon ’02, Joshua Greene ’02
Problem C: Ground Pollution
Meritorious: Belinda Fischer ’00, Jascha Swisher ’99, Jennifer Weber ’99

We are very pleased by the performance of all our teams, especially as they represent students from almost every major at HMC!

Five Mudd Math Majors win NSF Graduate Fellowships! (3/99)

Five of our mathematics majors were awarded NSF Graduate Fellowships in the most recent competition: Andrew “Rif” Hutchings, Matthew Fluet, Dominic Mazzoni, Ranjith Rajagopalan, and Itai Seggev. In addition, Paul Tetlock (econ/math minor) also won.

Each fellowship provides a stipend of $15,000 a year for up to three years of graduate studies in mathematics, science, and engineering. A total of ten HMC students won NSF Graduate Fellowships, and seven more won honorable mentions, representing 10% of a typical senior class at Mudd!

Putnam Results! (3/99)

The results of the nationwide William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition are in and HMC continued its tradition of a very strong showing!

Four HMC students made the Top 200 List out of 2581 students who took the exam nationwide. The top HMC student this year was Ranjith Rajagopalan, who placed 94th.

Sixty HMC students took the exam; thirteen of those made the Top 500 List! Given our school size, it is extraordinary that only four other schools had more students in the top five hundred (see below).

In the team category, our HMC team of Ranjith Rajagopalan, Yinan Song, and Joshua Greene had an excellent showing, finishing eighteenth out of 419 universities and colleges.

Here are some more remarkable statistics on the contest:

Top Three Schools by Participation

  1. MIT (77)
  2. Harvey Mudd College (60)
  3. Harvard (43)

Top Seven Schools by Numbers of Top-500 Finishers

  1. MIT
  2. Harvard
  3. U. Waterloo
  4. Caltech
  5. Harvey Mudd College
  6. Princeton
  7. Duke

In both categories, when divided by the number of students at HMC (680), our school ranks first.

We are very proud of all donated their time, talent, and energies to compete in this year’s Putnam competition.

The Putnam Seminar coaches were Andrew Bernoff and Francis Su.