Mount David Summit
  Joint Mathematics Meetings
  Alumni Panel
  Departmental Seminars
  Math Council
  Math Morsels
  New Classes
  The Style File

Welcome to the Bates College Mathematics Department Newsletter!

Mount David Summit   photos courtesy of Chip Ross

This year's Mount David Summit was held Friday, April 1. Seniors Dave Alie, Heather Bracken, and Chi Nguyen presented posters on their senior theses while senior Jennifer Hanley gave a talk on her honors thesis.

Dave Alie with advisor Peter Wong    Dave's poster: "Fractals and Deterministic Chaos with Applications to Cryptography"
Heather Bracken with advisors Bonnie Shulman and Mark Semon    Heather's poster: "Inverse Problems and Integral Equations"
Chi Nguyen and advisor Chip Ross    Chi's poster: "How do we define Julia sets?"
Audience listening to Jennifer Hanley's presentation    Jennifer talking about a mathematical model for the Mad Cow disease

HRUMC   photos courtesy of Meredith Greer
Nate Stambaugh    Emily Katz    Group outside Williams College

Bates students Melissa Geddes, Jennifer Hanley, Emily Katz, Cassandra Kirkland, Nate Stambaugh, Alicia Voukides and faculty member Meredith Greer attended the annual Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Conference held at Williams College on April 30. Two students gave presentations: Nate talked about the mathematics of roller coasters and Emily discussed the convergence of subharmonic series. Here is what Emily says about the experience:

On April 30, I went with five other students and one professor to the Hudson River Undergraduate Math Conference (HRUMC), easily one of the most developed and distinguished undergraduate conferences. In fact, one speaker mentioned that most undergraduate conferences are modeled on HRUMC. There were 21 different generalized topics for each of three blocks of time—a morning session and two in the afternoon. I had to choose which categories I was interested in learning more about—game theory, biomathematics, applied math, geometry, calculus… and the list goes on. In each of those categories, there was a series of four 15-minute presentations on more specific topics that fell into those categories. In our group of students from Bates, we brought two presenters—Nate Stambaugh and myself. Nate discussed the research he did in preparation for the roller coasters short term, and I talked about the subharmonic series, an interest which stemmed from Calculus II. I really enjoyed seeing what a student could do with an interest in math. One person discussed game theory and the mathematics in bluffing in poker. Even though I do not play poker, knowing that that much knowledge about math could win you money was really interesting. I also went to two presentations on biomathematics—two disciplines I want to pursue throughout college. I was excited by the level of biology integrated into the math in their projects.

Joint Mathematics Meetings  

Seniors Jennifer Hanley and Oliver Gjoneski attended the annual Joint Mathematics Meetings in January 2005 along with faculty members Meredith Greer, John Rhodes, and Peter Wong. Jennifer gave a talk on her summer research program and presented a poster on her senior thesis. Oliver says the following about his talk and his experience:

Along with one other Bates student and several professors, I attended the Joint AMS/MAA Meeting which took place in Atlanta, GA in January of this year. Funded by the Bates Student Research Fund and a matching grant from the REU program at Central Michigan University, I had an opportunity to present a paper I co-authored with my research advisor at CMU, Dr. Ken Smith, on the non-existence of a difference set with the Higman Sims parameters. While I was certainly excited about presenting at the conference, I am now confident that the most valuable experiences in Atlanta were the numerous talks and colloquia I attended, where leading mathematicians introduced the most exciting branches of current research to the general audience. In addition, it was a great occasion to catch up with friends from around the country whom I had done research with in the summer of 2004!

Alumni Panel   photos courtesy of Chip Ross

The Math Council and SWIMS cohosted an alumni panel composed of actuaries Susan Pierce and Tori Peterson, researcher Maria Joachim, lawyer Racehl Hampe, graduate student Caleb Shor and professor Jill Shahverdian. The panelists described their career paths and answered all sorts of questions from a group of students eager to learn about life after Bates.

Departmental Seminars   contributed by the presenters

Seminars, held a few times each semester, give math faculty a chance to explain our research and mathematical interests to each other. We also use seminars as an opportunity to work through new problems and gain feedback from others.

January 19:

Chip Ross: "Preperiodic Points in the Bifurcation Diagram"

February 2:

David Haines: "How to Extend a Homomorphism Without Knowing How You Did It"

February 9:

Bonnie Shulman: "Mathematics in Farey Land"

March 9:

Melinda Harder: "Confidence Intervals for Proportions"

Math Council  

The Math Council sponsored two meetings in which faculty members and current seniors discussed the capstone experience for the benefit of future math majors. There was pizza to go with the interesting discussion.

Math Morsels   contributed by N. Bourbaki

On Friday, April 8, the last day of winter semester classes, all math major and concentrators were treated to a feast of delicacies prepared by their instructors.

Throughout the day, the halls of Hathorn were abuzz with excitement as rumor and speculation circulated about the secret ingredient in Professor Ross's legendary brownies. I determined to learn the identity of this ingredient not just for myself, but for you, dear reader.

At first sight of the brownies, my mouth began to water.

After eating one, my palate was atingle. After two, my taste buds were in ecstasy. Devouring the third brownie, I began to feel a warm glow. Upon eating the fouth, I was at peace with the world.

Swallowing my fifth delicious brownie, I suddenly realized the identity of the mystery ingredient. Thrilled with my discovery, and perhaps a bit overconfident as a result, I continued to eat more and more of Ross's scrumptious snacks.

Alas, gentle reader, after ten or twelve brownies, my mind (and the room) began to spin and my memory to fade. I staggered out of the building and back to my room. When I awoke the next morning, I realized to my dismay that I had forgotten the name of the secret ingredient. (I had also forgotten my impressions of all the other math professors' treats, but my friends assure me that I loved them all and swore eternal devotion to the chefs.)

Although I admit defeat to the brownies this year, I vow to conquer them at a future math food feast and thus uncover Professor Ross's secret. Just don't let me eat more than five next time.

New Classes  

Last fall, the Great Ideas in Mathematics course was offered for the first time. Here is what Brittany Zuckerman says about the course:

For some, math evokes images of pain and frustration, a chaotic flux of formulas, equations and unsolvable questions. Great Ideas in Mathematics, a new course taught by Professor Bonnie Shulman, redefines math class and even helps sort out some of the chaos. In this class we studied Chaos Theory, Infinity, Probability, Fibonacci Numbers, The Sexy Rectangle and many other great mathematical ideas. This course emphasizes concepts supported by quantitative elements. Students are encouraged to go to guest lectures on topics such as Music and its translation to mathematics. Guest speakers, including the author of the text Heart of Mathematics, visited the classroom. Students were asked to pick a topic, not discussed in class, and create a poster and twenty minute presentation. Students worked on Newcomb’s Paradox, The Infinite Monkey Theorem, Voting, Mobius bands, Tile Patterns and the Butterfly Effect, to name a few. Other assignments included a portfolio of labs, reading articles, and other math related challenges or intrigues. Students were also asked to read a book or play and write a five page report relating the book to mathematics and how it functions in society. This class emphasized thinking about math, not as numbers but as concepts. It extended the scope and perception of mathematics in everyday society. Great Ideas in Mathematics was a fascinating course that grappled with some of the most brilliant concepts in mathematics. As an artist I usually don’t even dare to enter the sphere of influence that is mathematics. This class helped merge the concrete with the conceptual. It was the most interesting course I took this semester. It forced me to see the unseen truths of math.

This fall, students will think about shortest paths between two locations in the course Graph Algorithms. The course will be developed during summer by Pallavi Jayawant and Eric Towne. (We thank the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for funding the development of the course.)

The Style File   contributed by A. Fashionista

This year's Math Camp students are finding out that, although it is never wise to favor style over substance, style points do count. Some key tips they have been given so far are the following.

2 out of 3 math instructors consider it extremely bad form to start a sentence with a number or symbol.

The uninterrupted use of the word "so" to link implications in a proof runs the risk of boring the reader and causing the writer some humiliation. So, the students have been getting accustomed to using other connectives, such as "thus" and "consequently".

The abbreviations "i.e." and "e.g" do NOT mean the same thing, for crying out loud! I.e., you should not use them interchangeably.

Check back next year for more style tips, or just ask your favorite Math Camper.

This page was last updated May 11, 2005. Email the current editor if you have comments, suggestions ... or a submission for the next issue!