Mathematics Departmental News 2012

HMC Professor Named Editor of Online Math Publication SIURO (2012-12-13)

Harvey Mudd College Associate Professor of Mathematics Rachel Levy has been appointed editor-in-chief of SIURO, an online publication devoted to undergraduate research in applied and computational mathematics.

Published by the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics, SIURO (SIAM Undergraduate Research Online) covers a range of topics, including differential equations, discrete mathematics, statistics and operations research.

Levy will succeed SIURO editor Peter Turner, who invited her to serve the next three years in the top editorial spot. She currently works with Turner as an associate editor of SIURO and as a member of the SIAM Education Committee.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to continue Peter’s work with SIURO,” Levy said. “The publication provides a terrific venue for undergraduate research in applied mathematics. Students conduct the research under the direction of a faculty advisor, and then take the lead as authors. The student authors correspond directly with an associate editor as they handle responses to reviewers and revisions.”

Serving in an editorial role comes naturally to Levy, who helps teach Writ 1, an introduction to academic writing course that is typically taken in the fall of freshman year. She also serves as chair of the HMC Teaching and Learning Committee and has advised the College’s Math Club and SIAM student chapter.

“The fact that SIAM has reached out to an HMC faculty member, Rachel in particular, recognizes the College’s culture of excellence in undergraduate research,” said HMC Math Department Chair Andrew Bernoff. “She is an ideal choice due to her track record of excellence in mentoring undergraduate research.”

Levy works extensively with students on research projects such as investigating the motion of thin liquid films with surfactants (such as the lining of human lungs), developing algorithms for the coordination and control of aquatic robots, and modeling whale footprints, slick patches observed on the ocean’s surface in the area of whale activity.

Her efforts have enabled students to collaborate with mathematicians and physicists at other esteemed colleges—such as North Carolina State University, Duke University, Claremont Graduate University and UCLA—and co-author research articles, which have appeared in publications such as the Journal of Engineering Mathematics. Levy has also been instrumental in obtaining funds from the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation and the Office of Naval Research, which have supported student research and two Clinic projects.

Klawe, Pippenger and Benjamin Named to First Class of AMS Fellows (2012-12-12)

The American Mathematical Society has named its inaugural class of AMS Fellows and it includes Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe, Professors Nicholas Pippenger and Art Benjamin and several HMC alumni.

The AMS is the world’s largest and most influential society dedicated to mathematical research, scholarship and education. The AMS Fellows program recognizes society members who have made outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication and utilization of mathematics.

The Fellows will be officially welcomed during the AMS Joint Mathematics Meetings in January.

“I’m thrilled that Nick, Maria and Art were included in the inaugural class of AMS Fellows and are being recognized for their impact on the mathematical sciences,” said Andrew Bernoff, chair of the HMC Department of Mathematics. “One of the joys of teaching at HMC is being surrounded by incredibly talented and dedicated individuals. It is no surprise to see us well represented in this prestigious group.”

President Klawe has made significant contributions in several areas of mathematics and computer science research, including functional analysis, discrete mathematics, theoretical computer science, human-computer interaction, gender issues in information technology and interactive-multimedia for mathematics education. Her current research focuses on discrete mathematics.

Prior to joining HMC as president, Klawe served as dean of engineering and professor of computer science at Princeton University. Klawe joined Princeton from the University of British Columbia where she served as dean of science from 1998 to 2002, vice president of student and academic services from 1995 to 1998 and head of the Department of Computer Science from 1988 to 1995. Prior to UBC, Klawe spent eight years in industry, serving at IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., first as a research scientist, then as manager of the Discrete Mathematics Group and manager of the Mathematics and Related Computer Science Department.

Klawe is a trustee of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley and has held leadership positions with the American Mathematical Society, the Computing Research Association, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and the Canadian Mathematical Society.

Mathematics Professor Nicholas Pippenger’s interests center in discrete mathematics and probability, but also extend into communication theory and theoretical computer science. Prior to joining HMC, Pippenger served as professor of computer science at Princeton University. He joined Princeton from the University of British Columbia, where he served as professor of computer science from 1988 to 2003 and, in 2001, was appointed to a Canada Research Chair. Prior to UBC, he worked for IBM, first as a research staff member and manager of the Theory of Computation Group at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center and then as a research staff member and, later, an IBM Fellow at the Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif. Before IBM, Pippenger was a technical staff member for the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory (currently the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory) in Cambridge, Mass.

Pippenger is the author of “Theories of Computability,” which was published by Cambridge University Press in 1997. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Academy of Science), a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. He is a member of the Mathematical Association of America and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

Mathematics Professor Art Benjamin’s art of “Mathemagics” has led to many public performances and a guest appearanceon Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” His 2005 TEDTalk on Mathemagics is ranked among the Top 20 most-viewed talks. In October, he was named an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society in Dublin, Ireland, in recognition of his contributions to mathematics and entertainment.

In 2006, Benjamin won the Beckenbach Book Prize from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) for his book Proofs that Really Count: The Art of Combinatorial Proof. For that same book, in the category of outstanding academic title, he won the 2004 CHOICE award from the American Library Association. In 2000, he received the MAA’s Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

Benjamin is also one of 16 prominent members of the mathematical community to be profiled in the book, Fascinating Mathematical People, published last year by Princeton University Press.

HMC alumni Peter Loeb ’59, George McNulty ’67 and Jerrold Tunnell ’72 were also named fellows. Loeb is professor of mathematics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, McNulty is professor of mathematics at the University of South Carolina and Tunnel is associate professor of mathematics at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

David Lingenbrink ’14 Awarded Math in Moscow Scholarship (2012-12-04)

David Lingenbrink ’14 has been awarded a $9,000 scholarship from the American Mathematical Society to study mathematics at the Independent University of Moscow.

The math major is the first Harvey Mudd College student to receive the prestigious scholarship to attend the Russian university’s semester-long Math in Moscow program.

Lingenbrink will begin his study abroad in January.

“I am very excited to learn mathematics from what I hear to be an entirely different school of thought,” said Lingenbrink. “In addition, the thought of traveling to a country that was off limits only 20 years ago is pretty cool.”

A small, elite institution focused primarily on mathematics, IUM was founded in 1991 by a group of well-known Russian research mathematicians, who now comprise the university’s academic council. Its Math in Moscow program was created in 2001 to provide foreign students (primarily from the United States, Canada and Europe) with a program in the Russian tradition, which emphasizes problem solving rather than memorizing theorems. The program’s instructors are internationally recognized research mathematicians, and all instruction is in English.

“The program gives students an enriching opportunity to work closely with other budding mathematicians from a wide variety of colleges and universities, all while experiencing an invigorating style of learning and teaching mathematics,” said Mike Orrison, associate professor of mathematics and faculty chair of HMC’s Study Abroad Committee. “David is a bright, thoughtful and inquisitive student. Given his personality, skills and drive, the sky’s the limit.”

Lingenbrink will reside in a student hostel in Moscow and travel by train to the university. His academic schedule will consist of three courses—Basic Representation Theory, Algebraic Geometry and Algebraic Number Theory—plus a class in Russian to supplement what he’s already gleaned from his Russian 1 course. He also plans to explore Moscow and the surrounding area.

HMC Joins Brain Tumor Ecology Collaborative (2012-12-03)

Harvey Mudd College has been awarded funding through the James S. McDonnell Foundation to pursue the development of the Brain Tumor Ecology Collaborative with Washington University in St. Louis (lead institution), Columbia University and University of California at San Diego. Lisette de Pillis, Norman F. Sprague Jr. Professor of Mathematics and the Life Sciences at HMC, is one of the core group collaborators who will begin work Jan. 1, 2013 on the three-year project.

De Pillis will work with David Gutmann of WUSTL, Peter Canoll of Columbia University and Mark Ellisman of UCSD to establish an interactive scientific forum. Participants will include mathematical modelers specializing in complex systems, integrative cell and molecular biologists working on processes key to establishing and to maintaining cellular communities, and cancer researchers interested in understanding the brain tumor microenvironment. The initiative will enable these scientists to pool their collective expertise and insights to create alternative conceptual frameworks and experimental designs for new types of studies that may result in a better understanding of the behavior of tumors that start in the brain or spine, also known as a glioma.

“One of the goals of this new collaborative is to explore, from an ecological perspective, completely new ways of understanding brain tumors, what stimulates their development, and which factors yield promising treatment targets,” said de Pillis. Recognized as an expert in the field of tumor modeling, de Pillis has published numerous papers on her research: curing cancer with mathematics. She uses differential equations—mathematical sentences—to define the variables involved in tumor growth rates, to identify the effects of different concentrations of immune cells and drugs on tumors and to anticipate the tumor decay patterns.

The collaborative is comprised of individuals who recognize an unprecedented opportunity to build an infrastructure, including a virtual tissue space and collaborative web-based online forum to integrate data sets from multiple research groups. Collaborators will investigate experimental methods spanning multiple strata, encompassing molecular, cellular and tissue-based data, allowing exploration of this interconnected and complex information.

De Pillis and her undergraduate research partners have garnered attention for their work, including notice from the top professional organization for applied mathematicians. De Pillis has been an investigator on two National Science Foundation-funded mathematical biology projects and advises for HMC’s mathematical biology major, one of the first such undergraduate programs in the United States. HMC’s mathematical biology program, the only program that meets the Bio2010 recommendations for preparing research scientists in the 21st century, has risen to become a leader in both curriculum and undergraduate research innovation. De Pillis also is serving as the director of the HMC Global Clinic program.

De Pillis joined collaborators at WUSTL in December to give a talk in the Neuro-oncology Seminar Distinguished Speakers for 2012 series.

Alumnus Spoofs Math Journal With Computer-Generated Paper (2012-11-29)

A computer program developed by a Harvey Mudd College alumnus created online buzz recently when one of its algorithmically generated math papers was accepted for publication.

The program, Mathgen, randomly generates professional-looking mathematics papers complete with theorems, proofs, equations, discussion and references. Developed by Nate Eldredge ’03, it is modeled after SCIgen, a program that generates random computer science papers.

“Like most mathematicians, I get a lot of spam from questionable journals soliciting papers. When I got Mathgen working, I thought it would be interesting to test them,” said Eldredge, currently a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University. “I went through my spam folder looking for the most impressive-sounding journal title and settled on Advances in Pure Mathematics.”

He submitted the Mathgen-produced paper, “Independent, Negative, Canonically Turing Arrows of Equations and Problems in Applied Formal PDE,” which was provisionally accepted by the APM journal. The journal’s editor even included a list of suggestions for revision for the fictitious author, Marcie Rathke.

Dr. Rathke will remain unpublished, however, partly because of the journal’s requested $500 publication fee but mostly for the sake of academic integrity.

Create your own paper with Mathgen.

Francis Su Named to Benediktsson-Karwa Endowed Faculty Chair (2012-11-19)

Francis Su, mathematics professor and acting chair of the Department of Mathematics, has been named to the newly established Benediktsson-Karwa Endowed Faculty Chair, established with a gift from Harvey Mudd College alumnus John Benediktsson ’01 and his wife, Rajashree Karwa, of Incline Village, Nev.

“As a nationally prominent mathematician and as a dedicated, creative and very successful educator, Francis is an excellent inaugural appointment to the Benediktsson-Karwa Chair,” said Jeffrey Groves, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty. “I’m delighted that John and Rajashree’s generosity will support Francis’ work specifically and our Department of Mathematics generally.”

Endowed faculty chairs are among the highest recognition accorded to a faculty member. An endowed chair honors and recognizes the distinction of outstanding faculty while providing invaluable support for salary, research, teaching or service activities.

“I’m very honored to hold the Benediktsson-Karwa professorship, which is of enormous benefit to the College and the Mathematics Department,” said Su, a member of the HMC faculty since 1996 and acting chair of the Department of Mathematics. “I’m especially pleased because I know John and Rajashree to be wonderful people. They greatly value the work of the College in the lives of students, and they have exhibited in their own work the central role that mathematics plays in any scientific or technical field. Their generosity will leave a lasting impact on the mathematics program and many generations of Mudders.”

Su’s work has been recognized by the Mathematical Association of America with the Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College or University Mathematics Faculty Member (2004) and the Merten M. Hasse Prize for outstanding mathematical exposition (2001). He has been awarded two National Science Foundation grants that utilize methods from combinatorics, topology and geometry to study problems in mathematical economics and the social sciences; in particular, problems related to voting and fair allocation. In addition to his teaching and research activities, Su served as vice-president of the Mathematical Association of America and is the creator of the award-winning Math Fun Facts website.

Benediktsson and Karwa are both engineers and have productive careers in the financial industry. Benediktsson, a member of the HMC Board of Trustees, graduated from HMC with an engineering degree and an interest in computers and economics. Karwa holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering with honors from Cummins College of Engineering, India.

“Mathematics is a foundation for success in science and technology fields,” said Benediktsson. “I’ve found math to be useful for understanding data and gaining a competitive edge in mastering its implications. I’ve seen repeatedly the professional advantages that a solid math background can provide, particularly in the field of finance.”

Benediktsson has been involved in running several electronic trading firms, managing their technical growth from small startups to mature, successful enterprises. Prior to working in finance, he spent several years as a senior engineer for a media technology firm. These days, he describes himself as an “engineer, entrepreneur, trader, technologist and angel investor.”

During his early years of employment, Benediktsson said that he realized some of his success was due to his “Mudd education, the fantastic professors and the close friendships with classmates.” He decided to reconnect to the College and, in 2008, accepted the offer to join the board of trustees where he could contribute to the management of the College. He serves on the Investment and Board Affairs committees.

“At Harvey Mudd College, math forms an essential part of the Core curriculum and is a critical component to the curriculums of every major offered. Rajashree and I believe that supporting the math department supports every department to the benefit of all students.”

HMC Math Professor’s Adventure Teaching High School Math Featured in AMS Notices (2012-11-12)

Darryl Yong, associate professor of mathematics, shares his experience teaching high school math in the November issue of the American Mathematical Society publication Notices.

For his sabbatical, Yong spent the 2009-2010 academic year teaching—Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry and a mathematics intervention class—at a Los Angeles public high school.

He chronicled his journey in a blog and later presented on the subject at Park City Mathematics Institute.

In the Notices article, “Adventures in Teaching: A Professor Goes to High School to Learn about Teaching Math (PDF),” Yong discusses his experience and the four lessons he drew from it.

“This is not the story of a professor coming down from his ivory tower and becoming outraged by the horrors of how children are taught in schools,” writes Yong. “This article conveys one person’s perceptions of the struggles that novice teachers face in one school and discusses what the general public rarely hears about public education.”

Mathematics of Voting Proves Eye-opening (2012-11-07)

As the nation reflects on yesterday’s presidential elections, students in Professor Mike Orrison’s class, “The Mathematics of Voting,” are using mathematics to see how voting procedures can affect election results. Their analysis reveals surprising, and sometimes troubling, facts about the fairness of voting systems. In fact, it has caused students to think differently about voting—from national elections to choosing a student body president.

Orrison’s class is learning how the winner of a given election can depend entirely on the procedures used to tally votes.

One of the examples they saw works roughly like this: start with a set of ballots in which voters have ranked three candidates, and tally the results using six common voting systems. In each of the six cases, the same ballots produce completely different outcomes.

For instance, if you use the current U.S. system for presidential elections—plurality— in which voters choose one favorite candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins, you get a certain result. If you use a different voting system, such as “instant runoff,” in which voters’ choose a first, second and third choice, the same ballots might produce a different winner.

“It was extremely counterintuitive to see how some voting systems that I thought were perfectly reasonable could actually produce results that seemed unreasonable,” said Jennifer Rogers ’16. “It made me look deeper into what constitutes a `reasonable’ voting system, and what it really meant for a voting system to represent ‘the will of the voters.”’

“I didn’t know there were so many possibilities to decide an outcome,” said Jazmin Ortiz ’16, an aspiring math major. “I thought it was about a winner and a loser. Through this course, I’ve seen that it varies so greatly over the method you use. It’s definitely changed my perspective on voting.”

Students put the various voting systems used in the U.S. and Europe for national, local and informal elections to the test by evaluating them against a set of commonly accepted conditions for fair voting. These conditions, developed by economist Kenneth Arrow, include such criteria as: if all voters prefer candidate A over candidate B, candidate A should win; all votes should count equally; and, a group’s preference for candidate A over candidate B should not be affected by relative preferences for candidate C.

“After learning about several systems as well as Arrow’s Theorem, I was really taken aback by how flawed many of the voting systems that we use are,” said Alec Dunton ’16. “The idea that ANY voting system will exhibit one or more undesirable properties was very hard to comprehend at first. After finishing a several page proof of Arrow’s theorem for a homework assignment, it became much more understandable.”

Applying math to analyze elections involving multiple candidates was particularly thought-provoking for several students.

“Math of Voting taught me how much third party candidates can affect an election even when they have no chance of winning,” said Maddie Weinstein ’16. “Like Nader and Perot—these two candidates may have changed the outcomes of the presidential election they were in even when they only received a small percentage of the vote. Before this class I thought scrapping the Electoral College in favor of a simple popular vote could make for a reasonable voting system, but now I think we need a top-two primary if we want to choose a president that will make the greatest number of voters happy.”

More than one student was excited about applying math to a social phenomenon as complex and important as voting. It helped many understand where voting systems are vulnerable to arbitrariness or manipulation.

“We have empirical evidence of a voting system not reflecting the wishes of the electorate, which is something that always bothered me,“ said Jean Sung ’16. “But before I came to this class I had no way to show that a particular system specifically violates a condition or criterion that we like…. We can use math to model the different voting systems and show which systems violate certain properties. It’s really exciting to use math to show the different voting systems in a concrete, quantitative way.”

The class has inspired students to think critically about the informal voting they often participate in such as electing a class president, choosing a dorm T-shirt design, or deciding which movie to see with a group of friends. They now think about how their vote will be used. If they are in a position to define the rules of voting, they consider how the voting procedures chosen will affect the outcome; or, how the system might be manipulated by strategic votes.

“Math of Voting has handed me a large supply of voting systems and taught me in what situations they work well,” Weinstein said. “If I ever have the power to help a small group make a decision, I’ll be able to suggest a way to make a choice that takes into account every person’s entire ranking of preferences.”

“This course is the perfect combination of rich mathematical ideas, pressing practical issues, and sometimes surprisingly emotional responses,” math Professor Mike Orrison said. “Given the prominent role that voting plays in how we make all sorts of decisions, it can be jarring to realize how complicated voting can be. In the end, I am absolutely certain that the students will emerge from the course with an empowering sense of confidence when it comes to weighing the pros and cons of the many voting systems they will undoubtedly encounter.”

Math Collaborative Completes Second Successful Summer (2012-08-24)

During closing ceremonies of the Claremont-Long Beach Math Collaborative, participants had more than the end of summer to celebrate.

Parents, teachers, mentors and friends cheered the achievements of the 30 students who participated in the second summer of the Math Collaborative. Chief among the accomplishments of the rising ninth and tenth graders—all African-American males—was the strides they made in their mathematics proficiency.

Lisa Loop, co-director of teacher education at Claremont Graduate University (CGU), congratulated scholars on their hard work at the closing ceremony Aug. 3. She reported that at the start and finish of the four-week camp held on the HMC campus, the participants took the Geometry Readiness exam of the UC/CSU Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project. Most of the young men increased their scores substantially.

Victor Henderson, the top scorer and a rising freshman, credited his success to the Math Collaborative teachers. He said that his favorite subject is algebra, and that he may one day be a math teacher. “I’m going to keep my grades up, stop procrastinating and do as well as I can. If I hadn’t come [to the Claremont math camp], I would’ve been unprepared for high school,” he said.

The young men, all who met specific academic criteria to qualify for the program, participated in rigorous math classes, Spanish class (new this year), tutoring and extracurricular activities. CGU’s School of Educational Studies (SES) provided teachers, whose teaching credentials were partly funded by National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Fellowships. Also participating were HMC faculty members Adrian Hightower (engineering), Rachel Levy (mathematics), Talithia Williams (mathematics) and Darryl Yong (mathematics). HMC student Elizabeth Kelley ’15 served as a residence staff member, and administrators and staff members of Claremont Graduate University and Harvey Mudd College provided program support.

Parents at the closing ceremony also had been hard at work while their children attended the Math Collaborative. Parent training classes held in Long Beach included guidance on working with their children’s teachers, school administrators and district personnel. Denise Phelps, mother of ninth grader Stelton Phelps expressed pride in her son’s achievements both in school and at the Math Collaborative. “He works hard,” she said, describing how he checks out dozens of library books every weekend. She said the program has provided even more encouragement for him to succeed.

Intended to provide a model for locally focused partnerships nationwide, the Claremont-Long Beach Math Collaborative is a partnership between Claremont Graduate University (CGU), HMC and the Long Beach Unified School District. The program connects excellent mathematics teachers and mathematicians with students in North Long Beach, a high-minority community whose African-American males, in particular, have fallen behind students statewide in math performance.

The math program was conceived by Rev. Leon Wood, CGU director of the McNair Scholar Program, who approached HMC President Maria Klawe and CGU President Deborah Freund with his idea and received immediate support. Wood’s vision materialized with support from teachers and mentors from The Claremont Colleges, the Claremont University Consortium, the Long Beach Unified School District, and financial contributions from individuals and numerous companies.

“This program is here because I am convinced—we are all convinced—that our African-American youth can become not just good mathematicians, but great mathematicians,” said Wood during the Claremont-Long Beach Math Collaborative 2011 opening ceremony.

Alfonso Castro Wins Simons Grant to Forward Understanding of Semilinear Equations (2012-07-31)

Professor of Mathematics Alfonso Castro has been awarded a Simons Foundation Collaboration Grant for Mathematicians to support research involving equations fundamental to every area of science.

The five-year, $35,000 grant will fund collaboration, travel and research expenses for Castro’s project, “Solvability of semilinear equations with discrete spectrum.”

“Understanding the temperature distribution in a star, for example, requires balancing heat diffusion, generation and radiation. In recent years, I have fully classified the radial solutions to this problem,” he said. “The fundamental nature of my research allows me to involve mathematics majors interested in differential equations in my research program.”

Research students he has mentored have pursued graduate study and many have gone on to academic careers.

Mississippi State University and the University of Alabama have dedicated their upcoming 9th Differential Equations & Computational Simulations Conference to Castro in celebration of his outstanding contributions to differential equations research.

Castro joined the faculty at Harvey Mudd College in 2003. His research areas include partial differential equations (including semilinear equations with discrete spectrum), variational methods, inverse-function theorems and water waves (solitons). He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from the National University of Colombia and his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Cincinnati.

His book, Ecuaciones Semilineales con Espectro Discreto (Semilinear Equations with Discrete Spectrum), will be published this fall by the National University of Colombia (NUC). Co-authored with NUC math Professor Jose Caicedo, the book will help prepare scholars interested in researching the solvability of semilinear equations with discrete spectrum. “It is the first of its nature and grew out of several monographs I have written over the last thirty years. Several publishers have shown interest in having it translated into English,” he said.

Established in 1994 by Jim and Marilyn Simons, the Simons Foundation aims to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences. The goal of its Collaboration Grant for Mathematicians program is to support the “mathematical marketplace” by substantially increasing collaborative contacts in the community of mathematicians working in the United States.

2012 International Mathematical Contest in Modeling and Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (MCM/ICM) Results (2012-04-16)

The results of the 2012 International Mathematical Contest in Modeling and Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling have just been announced. HMC had seven teams of students participating in the contest, which took place over a long weekend from February 9 through February 13.

We are pleased to report that one of our HMC teams earned the designation of Finalist, placing in the top 2% of over 5000 participating teams worldwide. This team consisted of Dylan Marriner ’12 (CS/M), Louis Ryan ’12 (Math), and Daniel Furlong ’12 (CS/M) This is quite an achievement ! (The same team achieved an Outstanding and the SIAM Award in last year’s contest.)

Moreover, two HMC teams earned the designation Meritorious (top 11%), two earned Honorable Mention (top 39%), and two were Successful Participants. This is an incredible showing for HMC and a testament to the strength of our core curriculum and academic program.

The MCM/ICM is analogous to an applied Putnam exam, in the form of a grueling 96-hour competition. As Ben Fusaro, creator of the contest in 1983, puts it: “Most problems that come up in business, government, or industry are solved by teams, are likely to take many hours, and would not be restricted to using only pencil and paper. Moreover, the answer must be presented to an executive who wants a clear, understandable response.” Thus, during the contest, students work in teams of up to three students and have 96 consecutive hours to develop a mathematical model and write a formal paper describing their work. The team’s papers are judged not only on their scientific and mathematical accuracy, but also on their clarity of exposition, insight, and creativity.

This year’s problems were

  1. How much do the leaves on a tree weigh?
  2. Scheduling river rafting trips along the Big Long River
  3. Modeling for Crime Busting

Here are the participating HMC teams and their scores:

Problem Rank Team
B Finalist Daniel Furlong ’12
Dylan Marriner ’12
Louis Ryan ’12
B Meritorious Martin Loncaric ’15
Xinlei Xu ’15
Paul Hobbs ’12
C Meritorious Ryan Brewster ’12
Jack Newhouse ’12
Richard Porczak ’12
C Honorable Mention Sean Campbell ’14
Shreyas Kumar ’14
Andrew Yandow ’14
C Honorable Mention Sorathan Chaturapruek ’14
Joel Ornstein ’14
A Successful Participant Eric Autry ’13
Natasha Parikh ’14
Christian Mason ’14
A Successful Participant Katarina Hoeger ’13
John Wentworth ’13
Ben Gross ’13

2011 HMC William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition Results (2012-03-19)

The results of the nationwide 2011 William Lowell Putnam Competition have just been announced, and HMC had another strong showing.

Forty-two HMC students spent a Saturday in December (12/3/11) taking this very hard 6-hour exam, which requires a unique blend of cleverness and problem-solving skills. Nationwide, 4440 students competed, and this year the median score was 1 out of a total of 120 points.

In the team competition, our team of Palmer Mebane ’12, Sorathan (Tum) Chaturapruek ’14 and Craig Burkhart ’12 placed sixth (out of 572 colleges and universities).

As usual, HMC was the top-scoring undergraduate institution although this year another undergraduate institution, Williams College, joined us in the top-ten schools nationally.

In the individual category, Palmer Mebane scored thirteenth nationally and will receive a $1000 cash prize. Harvey Mudd College had seven students in the Top 100 nationally.

Special honors go to the following participants:

Palmer Mebane ’12 57 13 Runner-Up
Aaron Pribadi ’12 49 30 Honorable Mention
Peter Fedak ’13 40 65 Top 100 List
Craig Burkhart ’12 33 88.5 Top 100 List
Tum Chaturapruek ’14 33 88.5 Top 100 List
Kevin O’Neill ’13 33 88.5 Top 100 List
Jennifer Iglesias ’12 33 88.5 Top 100 List
Hehua Huang ’15 29 152.5 Top 200 List
Jackson Newhouse ’12 25 176.5 Top 200 List

In addition, the following students all made the Top 500 List:

  • Connor Ahlbach ’13
  • Emil Guliyev ’13
  • Samuel Gutekunst ’14
  • Spencer “Spike” Harris ’14
  • Matthew Prince ’13

We are proud of all 44 students who sacrificed their time, talent, and energies to represent HMC in this year’s Putnam competition. These students who enjoy problem-solving represent a cross-section of majors at the College. Please join us in congratulating all those who participated!

Talithia Williams Elected to SACNAS Board (2012-02-16)

Talithia Williams, assistant professor of mathematics, has been elected to serve on the board of directors for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).

SACNAS is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering the success of Hispanic/Chicano and Native American scientists—from college students to professionals—including obtaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership. Its annual meeting is the largest meeting of minority scientists in the nation; the Society’s 2011 meeting had more than 3500 participants. Board members provide leadership and contribute to the organization’s fundraising efforts.

Williams’s election to the SACNAS board is another sign of the growing collaboration between the organization and The Claremont Colleges. In 2011, Williams and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dagan Karp organized a conference on “Broadening Participation in the Mathematical Sciences” at which SACNAS Executive Director Judit Camacho delivered a keynote presentation. Camacho later returned to the HMC campus with members of the SACNAS board and met with HMC President Maria Klawe to discuss future collaborations.

Out of these discussions a Claremont Consortium-wide SACNAS student chapter was born and now HMC students not only plan events locally, but also promote attendance at the SACNAS national conference. Karp is the faculty sponsor of the 7-C SACNAS chapter and also serves on the SACNAS National Math Task Force. He has organized numerous mathematical symposia at SACNAS National Conferences.

“I’m immensely proud of the leadership roles Professors Williams and Karp have taken with SACNAS,” said Andrew Bernoff, Chair of the Mathematics Department. “It is great to see our mathematics faculty embracing and advancing the college’s commitment to diversity and outreach.”

Williams joined the HMC faculty in 2008 after receiving her bachelor’s in mathematics from Spelman College, her master’s in mathematics from Howard University, and her doctorate in statistics from Rice University. She has a passion and commitment to outreach. Last spring she organized the first Sacred SISTAHS math and science conference at HMC, which brought 140 middle- and high-school girls to campus. The event focused on empowering young African-American girls by introducing them to successful academic and professional role models.

Williams helped develop the Claremont–Long Beach Math Collaborative, a free, four-week, residential summer math program at HMC that brings motivated African-American male eighth graders to The Claremont Colleges to live, learn and take part in inspiring math explorations. This summer, Williams will facilitate the Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) summer workshop at Pomona College, which mentors women starting doctoral programs in the mathematical sciences.

Math Major Merits Runner-Up in Schafer Prize (2012-02-22)

The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) has chosen Jennifer Iglesias ’12 as the runner-up for its 2012 Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Woman.

The math major and President’s Scholar received recognition for her mathematical prowess, passion and performance in research projects and competitions.

“I am deeply honored and would like to thank the AWM not only for this award but also for their devotion to mentoring and nurturing women mathematicians,” Iglesias said. “There are many people who have helped and encouraged me to pursue mathematics, and I am truly grateful for all the Harvey Mudd professors for all their awesome teaching and support.”

Iglesias scored in the top 500 on the 2011 Putnam exam and placed 86th out of more than 300 participants at the 2011 International Mathematics Competition in Bulgaria. She also received the math department’s highest honor, the Giovanni Borrelli Mathematics Prize for an outstanding senior mathematician.

Her work on two mathematical Research Experience for Undergraduates projects led to the development of four manuscripts, which her prize recommenders advise will “almost certainly lead to publication in research journals.” Iglesias has presented her research at the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women and the 2011 Joint Mathematics Meetings.

She shares her passion for the discipline through teaching and mentoring others, including work with MathPath, a mathematics enrichment camp for middle school students, service as a student coach for the nation’s China Girls Math Olympiad team and volunteering for the Mathematics Olympiad Summer Program.

The Schafer Prize was established in 1990 to honor Alice T. Schafer, one of the AWM founders and its second president, who contributed greatly to the advancement of women in mathematics. Prize recipients—including runners-up and honorable mentions—are selected based upon their performance in math courses, special programs and mathematical competitions, along with the ability to do independent work and demonstrate a genuine interest in mathematics.

Martonosi to Receive 2012 Alder Award for Teaching (2012-02-08)

The Mathematical Association of America has selected Susan Martonosi, associate professor of mathematics, to receive its 2012 Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning Faculty Member. The award will be presented August 3, 2012, at the MAA’s MathFest in Madison, Wisconsin.

Martonosi is the third Harvey Mudd College faculty member to receive the award since its inception in 2003, and HMC is the only college to land more than once on the Alder Award list.

The award honors faculty whose teaching is effective and extraordinary and extends its influence beyond the classroom. Recipients receive $1,000 and a certificate of recognition.

“What sets Susan apart is a desire to bring real-world examples and applications to the fore in education. She is uniquely able to inspire her students to pursue both careers and graduate studies in operations research and related fields,” said Andrew Bernoff, chair of the HMC Department of Mathematics.

The Alder Awards committee cited Martonosi’s ability to encourage the national operations research community to embrace undergraduate research as one of the reasons she was chosen. It also noted her work with students in the classroom and beyond.

Martonosi has supervised more than 30 students in research projects—senior theses, Clinic projects and summer research experiences—and more than half have pursued graduate programs. Five of her research students have received National Science Foundation grants.

As director of the Mathematics Clinic, Martonosi recruited industrial projects and added a professional development component that taught students how to thrive in a corporate environment. In 2007, as faculty adviser to HMC’s student chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), she helped students raise $40,000 to support an outreach project in Africa. Martonosi and the student ESW chapter developed a water filtration prototype and, in 2009, traveled to a village in Kenya to build it. While there, she taught a class on operations research to teenage Kenyan students.

Martonosi’s research focuses on applying operations research methodology and applied probability to solving homeland security issues. She also uses game theory, social networks analysis and graph theory to solve problems in resource allocation and terrorist network disruption.

The MAA established the Alder award in 2003 and presented its first awards the following year. Professor of Mathematics Francis Su received the award in 2004 and former Associate Professor of Mathematics Lesley Ward received it in 2006.

Art Benjamin on NPR’s All Things Considered (2012-01-12)

Harvey Mudd College and mathematics professor Art Benjamin were featured this week on the National Public Radio (NPR) program All Things Considered. The news outlet covered the 2012 Joint Mathematics Meetings last week in Boston, where Benjamin’s presentation caught the attention of NPR reporter Ari Daniel Shapiro.

Shapiro interviewed Benjamin after watching him use the game of backgammon to illustrate math principles. “Math definitely makes me a better backgammon player,” Benjamin said. “If you can figure out probabilities, it’s essentially like rolling the game out infinitely many times. It gives you a great deal of information.”

Listen to the NPR broadcast “A Unique Expression Of Love For Math.”