Centre News

Centre hosts 2013 Bluegrass Undergraduate Math Symposium

October 3, 2013 By Mariel Smith        
Centre College Keynote speaker Dr. Michael Dorff of Brigham Young University
demonstrates during his lecture with Wendy K. Caldwell of
University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Photo by Forrest Stonedahl.

Centre College Dr. Dorff speaks with Associate Professor of Mathematics Jeff
Heath following his presentation. Photo by Mackenzie Kovaka ’14.

President John Roush opened the Bluegrass Undergradate Math Symposium on Saturday, September 28 by welcoming more than 110 students and faculty from 21 different area institutions across five states for a day of lectures, demonstrations and discussions on a variety of mathematical topics.

Nineteen students from eight different institutions presented on a variety of topics, including profitability models for solar energy, Vicodin addictions and models for estimating expected hitting streaks in baseball.

Several Centre students presented their summer research: Alex Cope ’16, who studied defensive efficiency of basketball players with Associate Professor of Mathematics Jeff Heath; Chang He ’16, discussing capillary forces between partially immersed plates; John Jackson ’14, who studied surfactant-mediated spreading on a non-Newtonian fluid with Assistant Professor of Mathematics Ellen Swanson; EmmaJulia Jones ’15, discussing self-stabilization for minimal liar's domination; and Tristan Conroy ’15, Jeff Elam ’14 and Levi Sledd ’16, who studied two-stack visibility graphs with Assistant Professor of Mathematics Lesley Wiglesworth.

Wiglesworth was particularly excited for Centre students to take part in this event.

"Many people don't know what mathematics research is," she explained. "Attending this symposium is a fabulous opportunity to learn about the work other undergraduate students in the region are doing."

The centerpiece of the symposium was a talk by Dr. Michael Dorff, professor at Brigham Young University and founder of the $2.6 million National Science Foundation-funded Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics. His talk was entitled, "Shortest Paths, Soap Films, and Mathematics."

Aside from the student and faculty presentations, a career panel consisting of five people with interesting careers in mathematics hosted discussions with students interested in mathematical careers. Representatives from several mathematics graduate programs also attended the symposium to answer questions for those interested in continuing their studies at the graduate level.

For EmmaJulia Jones ’15, the panel was an inspiring element of the symposium.

"Although I want to be a high school math teacher, it was very interesting hearing what other things you can do with a math degree," she says. "The panel also gave me some ideas of how I can incorporate math into the real world in my future classroom by having a similar panel or different speakers come talk to my class about how they use math every day in their jobs."

Jeff Elam ’14 also found the panel extremely helpful.

"I thought they had good insight into the job world and were able to give relevant advice on how to go about doing an interview or constructing a solid resume," he says. "They also mentioned a lot about computer programming and being able to think mathematically and how these skills can make oneself more marketable to employers, which I believe to be very good advice."

For Wiglesworth and Heath, the symposium dovetails perfectly with the goals of Centre's curriculum.

"The math program at Centre strives to be a leader for undergraduate mathematics education," she explained. "We feel that research is an invaluable experience for our students, especially those that plan to attend graduate school. This symposium not only gives students an opportunity to share their work but also inspires others students to see similar research experiences in their undergraduate careers."

External funding for the symposium came from the National Science Foundation and the Mathematical Association of America.

To see a complete schedule of the symposium, click here.

Centre College, founded in 1819, offers its students a world of opportunities, highlighted by the nation's premier study abroad program and a faculty ranked #5 in the nation for "Best Undergraduate Teaching" at a liberal arts college by U.S. News & World Report in 2013. Centre graduates enjoy extraordinary success, with entrance to top graduate and professional schools, prestigious fellowships for further study abroad (Rhodes, Rotary, Fulbright), and rewarding jobs (on average, 97 percent are employed or in advanced study within 10 months of graduation).

Have comments, suggestions, or story ideas? E-mail centrenews@centre.edu or contact the Communications Office at 859-238-5748.

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