Mathematics Departmental News for 2003

Harvey Mudd Math-Bio Senior Wins Award at National Sigma Xi Student Research Conference (11/03)

Ben Nahir ’04, a senior mathematical-biology major at Harvey Mudd College, won the “superior” award for best poster in Immunology/Neuroscience at the November, 2003, Sigma Xi Student Research Conference in Los Angeles.

Ben’s project, “Cloning, Localization, and Characterization of Tolloid and BMPR-II in Aplysia californica”, was coauthored by Sean Reagin (University of Georgia), and Andrea Kohn, Thomas Ha, and Leonid Moroz (all from the University of Florida).

Four NSF Fellowships, Six NSF Honorable Mentions, and an NDSEG Fellowship Among Senior Math Majors (4/03)

Four math majors from Harvey Mudd College have won National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships this year. Six more won honorable mentions. The winners represent a huge fraction of the thirty senior mathematics majors that are graduating this year.

Melissa Chase (double major in mathematics and CS), Nate Eldredge (math), Andrew Iannaccone (math), and Daniel Lowd (joint CS-math) were awarded these prestigious fellowships, which provide $27,500 per year plus a $10,500 cost of education allowance for three years of graduate study.

In addition, six HMC students won honorable mentions, including math majors Adam Bliss, Christopher Pries, Ross Richardson, Jeremy Rouse, Micah Smukler, and David Uminsky.

Jeremy Rouse also won an National Defense Science and Engineering Fellowship, which awards $23,500 per year for three years of graduate study.

Seven HMC Teams Place in MCM Contest; Two Teams Win Top Honors (3/03)

The results of the international Mathematical and Interdisciplinary Contests in Modeling (MCM/ICM) have just been announced, and HMC had one of its best performances ever, with all seven HMC teams earning honors for their work.

The competition gives each team of three students 96 consecutive hours to develop a mathematical model to solve a real-world problem and write a formal paper describing their work. Teams can choose from three challenging problems, with recent problems including estimating the global effects of a large meteor impact in Antarctica, optimizing airline overbooking schemes, and resource management for the survival of the Florida scrub lizard. The teams’ papers are judged not only on their scientific and mathematical accuracy, but also on their clarity of exposition, insight, and creativity.

This year’s MCM had 494 entries from around the world, seven of which were from HMC teams. The problems related to brain-tumor treatment, airport security, and dangerous-stunt coordination.

Only 11 teams were selected for top honors (outstanding), including HMC’s Melissa Banister ’04, Matthew Macauley ’03, and Micah Smukler ’03 for their MCM entry.

The ICM had 146 entries worldwide, of which only five were selected as outstanding, including HMC’s Tara Martin ’04 (joint math-bio), Gautam Thatte ’03 (engineering), and Michael Vrable ’04 (joint math-CS).

Harvey Mudd College has won more outstanding awards in the history of this competition than any other college or university.

We also had four more teams earning a meritorious award (top 15%): Dan Gianotti ’03 (double-major, math and physics), Dmitriy Kogan ’03 (math and engineering), and Nils Napp ’03 (math and engineering); Avani Gadani ’03 (joint math-CS), Trevor Gile ’03 (engineering), and Mark Phair ’03 (engineering); Nate Eldredge ’03 (mathematics), Eric Harley ’04 (mathematics), and Eric Malm ’05 (math and physics); and Theresa Poindexter ’05 (mathematics), Mele Sato ’05 (mathematics), and Gwen Spencer ’05(mathematics).

Our final team—Eli Bogart ’05 (physics), Cal Pierog ’05 (joint math-CS), and Lori Thomas ’05 (joint, math-bio)—won an honorable mention.

We are proud of all 21 Mudders who dedicated their time and talents to to compete in this year’s modeling competition.

HMC Team Claims Sixth Place in the Putnam Competition; Five Students Land in Top 100 (3/03)

The results of the nationwide William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition have just been announced, and HMC had another strong showing. Sixty-one HMC students spent a Saturday in December (the seventh) taking this very hard six-hour exam, which requires a unique blend of cleverness and problem-solving skills. Nationwide, 3349 students competed, and the median score was 3 out of a total of 120 points.

This year the HMC team of Stephen Haas, Micah Smukler, and David Gaebler placed sixth out for 476 school teams, winning an honorable mention in the team category.

Top Ten Teams in the Country

  1. Harvard
  2. Princeton
  3. Duke
  4. Berkeley
  5. Stanford
  6. Harvey Mudd College

The next four schools ranking 7th to 10th (in unknown order) were Caltech, MIT, U-Toronto, and U-Waterloo.

In the individual category, five students made the Top 100 List. In other categories, ten HMC students made the Top 200 List and 19 HMC students made the Top 500 List. Only four other (much larger) schools could claim more in either category.

Special honors go to the following participants: Jeremy Rouse, Micah Smukler, and Andrew Niedermaier earned honorable mentions for landing in the top 61 competitors.Steve Haas and Andrew Iannaccone landed in the Top 100. Jason Murcko, David Gaebler, Tyler Seacrest, Ariel Barton, and Jeffrey Hellrung landed in the Top 200.

In addition, the following students all made the Top 500 List: Aaron Becker, Alex Eustis, Nate Eldredge, Robert Gaebler, Eric Malm, Joshua Middendorf, Alex Popkin, Jesse Ruderman, and Michael Vrable. The breadth of our top 200 showing was extremely strong.

Top Schools by Numbers of Top 200 Finishers

  1. MIT (34)
  2. Harvard (26)
  3. Caltech (14)
  4. Stanford (12)
  5. Harvey Mudd College (10)
  6. Princeton (8)
  7. U-Waterloo (8)
  8. U-Toronto (5)
  9. UC-Berkeley (5)

The statistics above are even more remarkable when adjusted for school size (MIT and Harvard have six to nine times as many students). We are proud of all 61 students who sacrificed their time, talent, and energies to compete in this year’s Putnam competition.

Professors Ward and Bernoff to Give Courses at Park City Mathematics Institute (3/03)

Professors Lesley Ward and Andrew Bernoff have been invited to give courses at the Park City Mathematics Institute this summer. Ward has been selected as Lecturer for the undergraduate program, and will present a three-week course in wavelets, based on her Math 185 lecture materials at Harvey Mudd College. Bernoff is giving a course on PDE’s in the undergraduate faculty program.

The Institute for Advanced Study/Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI) is a three-week summer program held in Park City, Utah. It is designed to bring mathematics researchers, educators, and students together around a common theme, to learn from each other in seminars, courses, and cross-program activities.

Students Win Poster Prizes at MAA meeting (3/03)

The Southern California MAA meeting was held at Harvey Mudd College on Saturday, March 8, 2003. Several students presented posters and won prizes in various categories.

The top prize for best poster was split between David Uminsky and the team of Eric Harley and Chris Moore. Ross Richardson took second place for best poster.

Chris Pries won second place in the “best project” category.

David Uminsky ’03 Wins the Richard V. Andree Award from the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal (3/03)

Senior mathematics major David Uminsky ’03 was recently awarded the Richard V. Andree award from the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal for his paper (co-authored with Emilia Huerta-Sanchez and Aida Navarro-Lopez), “Iteration of an Even–Odd Splitting Map”, published in the fall, 2001, issue of the Journal.

The prize is awarded annually to the best paper published in the Journal in the past year.

Congratulations, David!

Joshua Greene ’02 Wins the Nationwide AMS-MAA-SIAM Morgan Prize for Undergraduate Research (1/03)

Joshua Greene ’02 was awarded the 2002 AMSMAASIAM The Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student at the Joint Math Meetings in Baltimore on January 16, 2003. The Morgan Prize is awarded jointly by the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, is given to just one undergraduate in the nation each year.

The $1000 prize was endowed by Mrs. Brennie Morgan, and honors outstanding research performed by an undergraduate. Josh was honored for his work in combinatorics, which included his paper “A New Short Proof of Kneser’s Conjecture”, which was published in the American Mathematical Monthly (December, 2002), as well as his senior thesis at Harvey Mudd College: Kneser’s Conjecture and Its Generalizations.

Josh’s paper and thesis gave an elegant new proof of a famous conjecture by Kneser in combinatorics, which states that if the k-element subsets of an n-element set are partitioned into (n–2k + 1) classes, one of the classes must contain a pair of disjoint subsets.

In 1978, Lovasz gave an elegant proof of this theorem using methods from topology. Josh’s new proof simplified Lovasz’s work by avoiding the use of a theorem by Gale concerning the distribution of points on a sphere.

Josh’s work has attracted the attention of workers in topological combinatorics and has already been cited in a forthcoming book by Matousek. In his senior thesis at Harvey Mudd College, Josh addressed further associated combinatorial questions and provided two new simplified proofs of Schrijver’s theorem on chromatic-critical subgraphs of Kneser graphs.

According to the Morgan Prize citation, “The committee was impressed by the depth and quality of Greene’s research, and by his command of a large body of topology, geometry, and combinatorics required for his work”. The citation also says that “his insight in topological combinatorics bypasses traditional technical difficulties in this area, and experts predict that his method will become the standard approach in this rapidly developing area of mathematics”.

The Morgan Prize was first awarded in 1995. Another Harvey Mudd graduate, Aaron Archer ’98 was a runner-up for this Prize in 1998, winning an honorable mention. Previous winners of the Morgan Prize have come from Harvard University, the University of Michigan, and Washington University.

Josh Greene graduated from Harvey Mudd College in 2002 with honors in mathematics. Currently, Josh is spending the year building houses with Habitat for Humanity in Appalachia through the AmeriCorps service program. Next fall, he will enter the Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago.

For more information, see the AMS-MAA-SIAM citation.

Six Students Present Their Research at the Winter Meetings (1/03)

Harvey Mudd undergraduates Matt Macauley, Melissa Banister, David Uminsky, Nate Eldredge, Adam Bliss, and Jeremy Rouse attended the Joint Math Meetings in Baltimore, Maryland, and presented their research in various forums.

Jeremy, Nate, and Adam presented their work in a special session on research by undergraduates, whereas David and Matt gave talks in contributed sessions. Jeremy and Melissa also presented posters in the undergraduate-research poster session, where Jeremy won one of the $100 prizes given for best poster.