Mathematics Departmental News for 2004

Julijana V. Gjorgjieva Wins Prize at SACNAS (10/04)

Julijana Gjorgjieva ’06 (mathematics) had the prize-winning poster at this year’s Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Conference.

Julijana’s poster, “The Role of Vaccination in the Control of SARS”, was based on research done at the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute in collaboration with Carlos Castillo-Chavez and undergraduates Jessica A. Snyder and Kelly R. Smith.

More information about the conference (including a picture of Julijana presenting) can be found in the AMS report Mathematics at the 2004 SACNAS Conference.

Senior Eric Malm wins National Problem-Solving Competition (8/04)

Senior mathematics major Eric Malm took first prize at the National Problem-Solving Competition, sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America, held at MathFest in Providence, Rhode Island, on Saturday, August 14. Eric was the first student (among 25 participants, representing twenty institutions) to correctly solve seven challenging math problems on topics including geometry, number theory, combinatorics, probability, and differential equations. Richard Neal, director of the competition, said that Eric “finished the exam in record time”.

Eric needed less than 30 minutes to answer all seven questions. To give you an idea of the sorts of questions on the test, here is one:

Without using a calculator, find the prime factorization of 49 + 39.

For his first-place finish, Eric will receive a paid summer internship at Lawrence Livermore Labs next summer. Also participating in the competition was math major Eric Harley ’04

Since the Problem-Solving Competiion’s inception in 1998, HMC has had a history of finishing in second place, as evidenced by the scores of Andrew “Rif” Hutchings, Paul SanGiorgio, Daniel Boylan, and Robin Baur.

Professor Francis Su Receives MAA’s Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching (8/04)

Professor Francis Su is the first recipient of the MAA‘s Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning Faculty Member. This award honors beginning college or university faculty whose teaching has been extraordinarily successful and whose effectiveness in teaching undergraduate mathematics is shown to have influence beyond their own classrooms. Professor Su received his award in Providence, Rhode Island, at the MAA MathFest, August 12–14, 2004.

Mathematical Biology Major Wins Watson Fellowship (4/04)

Tara Martin ’04, a mathematical-biology major at harvey mudd college, has won a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for the 2004–2005 academic year. Tara’s project, “Finding the Inner Beat: Cultural Expression Through Movement”, will take her to Argentina, Brazil and Cape Verde as she studies dance forms including tango, samba, capoeira, and their African precursors.

Three NSF Fellowships and Six NSF Honorable Mentions for 2004 (3/04)

Three math majors from Harvey Mudd College have won National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships this year, and six more won Honorable Mentions, representing more than a quarter of this year’s graduating math majors.

Math majors David Gaebler ’04, Andrew Niedermaier ’04, and Anne Short ’02 were awarded these prestigious fellowships, which provide $30,000 per year plus a $10,500 cost-of-education allowance for three years of graduate study.

Gaebler and Niedermaier’s awards were in mathematics; Anne Short’s award was in environmental sciences.

Seven more HMC math majors won honorable mentions, including Melissa Banister, Ariel Barton, Adam Bliss, David Gleich (CS-math), Chris Pries, Ross Richardson, and Michael Vrable (CS-math).

HMC Places Fifth in Putnam Competition (3/04)

The results of the nationwide 2003 William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition (held on December 6, 2003) have just been announced. Fifty-six HMC students chose to take this difficult six-hour exam, which requires a unique blend of cleverness and problem-solving skills. Nationwide, 3615 students competed, and the median score this year was 1 out of a total of 120 points.

HMC’s team of Andrew Niedermaier, David Gaebler, and Jason Murcko won fifth place out of 479 schools.

The top teams in the country this year were:

  1. MIT
  2. Harvard
  3. Duke
  4. Caltech
  5. Harvey Mudd College

Following us, in 6th through 10th place (in unannounced order) were Princeton, UBC, UC-Berkeley, U-Toronto, and U-Waterloo. The HMC team has landed in the top ten for each of the past four years, but only once before has a Harvey Mudd College team made it to the top five (third place, in 1991). HMC is the only undergraduate college to have made it to the top five in the past thirty years, and we’ve now done it twice!

In the individual category, a total of seven students made the Top-200 List. Andrew Niedermaier and David Gaebler earned honorable mentions by placing in the top fifty, with Jason Murcko, Jeffrey Hellrung, Eric Malm, Michael Vrable, and Robert Gaebler all making it into the top 200.

A total of twenty students made the Top-500 List, including Melissa Banister, Ariel Barton, Jeff Brenion, Alan Davidson, Chris Erickson, Alex Eustis, Rachel Gabor, Duane Loh, Tyrel McQueen, Alex Popkin, Tyler Seacrest, Elan Segarra, and Lori Thomas. Only three other (much larger) schools could boast about having more students in the Top 500.

Three HMC Teams Win Top MCM Honors (3/04)

The results of the 2004 International Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) have just been announced, and HMC had another stellar performance, with three HMC teams earning top honors of “outstanding” and one team earning “meritorious”.

Twenty-one HMC students participated in this year’s competition. The contest gives each team of three students 96 consecutive hours to develop a mathematical model and write a formal paper describing their work.

This year’s problems concerned: A. the question of uniqueness of human fingerprints; B. schemes for fast-pass systems at amusement parks; and C. optimizing security measures for academic information systems.

There were 599 entries from around the world, of which only 1% were selected for top honors (outstanding), including our team of Steven G. Avery, Eric T. Harley, and Eric J. Malm. The team, which chose Problem A, also earned the SIAM Prize, which granted each team member $300 and a one-year student memberships in the organization).

For the Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (ICM), teams must choose Problem C. From 143 entries worldwide, only 4 were selected as outstanding. This year, two of those teams were from Harvey Mudd College: Warren Katzenstein, Tara Martin, and Michael Vrable, and Eli Bogart, Cal Pierog, and Lori Thomas.

All three “outstanding” teams will have their papers published in the Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics and its Applications (UMAP). Other schools with outstanding papers include Harvard, UC Boulder, University of Washington, Merton College at Oxford University (UK), and University College, Cork (Ireland).

Harvey Mudd College also had one team earning a meritorious ranking (top 10%): Les Fletcher, David Gleich, and Jeff Hellrung. Three more HMC teams earned an honorable mention (top 25%).

Ariel Barton ’04 wins Honorable Mention for Nationwide Schafer Prize (1/04)

Ariel E. Barton ’04 was awarded honorable mention for the Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Woman, awarded by the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) at the AMS-MAA Winter Meetings in Phoenix, Arizona, in January, 2004.

The criteria for selection include, but are not limited to, the quality of the nominees’ performance in mathematics courses and special programs, an exhibition of real interest in mathematics, the ability to do independent work, and, if applicable, performance in mathematical competitions.