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Volume 5, Summer 2013

May 24, 2013

Chair’s message

Dr. George Ashline

Dr. George Ashline

At the end of another stimulating academic year at Saint Michael’s, we are recognizing the achievements of twelve graduating mathematics majors.1

Once again, our graduates are formulating a variety of postgraduate plans, from graduate school in statistics and computer science to employment with companies such as Credit Suisse.

Speaking of employment, it is worth noting that once again several of the top rated jobs in 2013 require significant mathematical abilities and skills. In particular, in the Jobs Rated 2013 top 10 list, 4 of their top 5 positions involve proficiency with advanced mathematics.

Check out our alumni spotlights to learn about some of the exciting pursuits of our graduates. We are pleased to hear from our mathematics graduates, whom we encourage to keep in touch!

Other information about and for our current students is available via our departmental webpage. We are pleased that this summer our students are again participating in undergraduate research on campus and at other institutions, including Texas A & M and George Washington University. More information about our students is included at the end of this letter.

This past year, with two Department members on sabbatical, we welcomed a visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Melanie Brown. Prof. Brown, a lively and very busy presence in the Department, taught Linear Algebra, Probability and Statistics, Elements of Calculus, and several sections of Elementary Statistics for us during the year – as well as playing in the Saint Michael’s Wind Ensemble!

In our Departmental Colloquium Series, we have continued to offer talks on relevant mathematical topics. In 2012-2013, we sponsored a diverse array of presentations by our current students and several esteemed visitors. Their talks included:

  • In September of 2012, several undergraduates presented results from their summer undergraduate research work. Here are more details:
    • Kaitlyn Adams ’15, Jessica George ’14, and Jeffrey Trites ’14, “Signature, Letter, and Word Recognition using Wavelet and Fourier Analysis”
    • Alexa Foote ’13, “Explorations in Statistics: San Francisco Bay Area Housing Data”
    • Eric Parziale ’13, “Your Imagination is Only Limited by Lack of Software: Investing in a Liberal Arts Education”
    • Thomas Dickerson ’13, Mary Falcigno ’15, and Saja Willard ’13 (Katelyn Heath ’14, Tyler Hotte ’14, Miranda LaRocque ’14, Eric Sherman ’14), “DNA Nanostructure Design Strategies”
  • Later in September of 2012, Prof. Michael Dorff from BYU, gave the Colloquium talk “Kidney transplants, the Real Iron Man Suit, and the Pixar Movie ‘Incredibles’: What Can you Do with Math?”
  • In October of 2012, Prof. Liz McMahon from Lafayette College presented our annual Pi Mu Epsilon Lecture “Mathematics in the Game of SET®.”
  • In November of 2012, Prof. Kirsten Stor from Castleton State College gave the Colloquium talk “On the Map Coloring Theorem.” Here is a Tegrity recording link.
  • In January of 2013, Prof. Paul Hines from UVM gave the Colloquium talk “Large Blackouts in the Power Grid: Why They Happen and What To Do About It,” and joint Mathematics-Engineering event. Here is a Tegrity recording link.
  • In March of 2013, Prof. Ben Baumer from Smith College gave the Colloquium talk “Moneyball Revisited: Assessing the Sabermetric Revolution in Baseball.” Here is a Tegrity recording link.
  • In April of 2013, Charles Masenas SMC ’69 gave the Colloquium talk “Balancing the Segway,” jointly sponsored by the Depts. of Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics, and Engineering
  • Also, Prof. Jo Ellis-Monaghan has continued to serve as co-organizer/coordinator of the weekly Combinatorics Seminar jointly hosted by Saint Michael’s and the University of Vermont.

Other Recent Activity

  • The Mathematics Department hosted a Northeast Section of the MAA dinner meeting in September of 2012, at which Prof. Michael Dorff from BYU presented “Filling Courses and Recruiting Math Majors,” an abbreviated version of a workshop he has given at several national MAA meetings. Twenty Mathematics faculty members from across Vermont and beyond gathered for the event.  Attendees included faculty from UVM, Norwich, all of the VT State Colleges, as well as SUNY Plattsburgh and the University of New England. The session addressed many ways to enhance mathematics programs through a variety of ideas gleaned from successful initiatives at BYU and other institutions, as well as additional ideas generated by the group.
  • On campus collaboration in undergraduate research in the area of graph theoretical self-assembly design strategies has continued with undergraduates during the 2012-2013 academic year, under the direction of Profs. Ellis-Monaghan (Mathematics) and Greta Pangborn (Computer Science). Several papers, posters, talks at academic meetings, and a project website have resulted. For example, several students/groups of students presented their research in a wide variety of venues, including the Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Conference (Apr. 2013) and the Saint Michael’s Student Research Symposium (Apr. 2013).  Six Saint Michaels’ College students will continue the work of the project through the summer of 2013.
  • Awarded a major $200,000 three-year National Science Foundation grant  running through Aug. 2013, Principal Investigator Prof. Ellis-Monaghan and co-principal investigator Prof. Pangborn continued their collaborative work with undergraduate students and between the mathematics and computer science departments focused on design strategies for nanoconstructs, with potential for wide practical application.
  • In 2013, Prof. Ellis-Monaghan continued as Editor-in-Chief of the journal PRIMUS: Problems Resources and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies.
  • Under the mentorship of Prof. Phil Yates, Eric Parziale wrote “Keep the Ball! The Value of Ball Possession in Soccer” and submitted it for journal publication review. It has been published in the April 2013 issue of Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research .
  • Under the mentorship of Profs. Pangborn and Ellis-Monaghan, Tyler Hotte and Miranda LaRocque wrote “Design Techniques for the DNA Cubic Lattice”, which has been accepted to appear in the American Journal of Undergraduate Research.
  • Under the mentorship of Prof. Ellis-Monaghan, Rob Hammond wrote “Graph theory and its importance to conservation”, which has been accepted to appear in the Rose-Hulman Undergraduate Mathematics Journal.
  • In Fall 2012, Prof. Jim Hefferon was on sabbatical and wrote a Free and Open Source lab manual to accompany his text, Linear Algebra. During the 2012-2013 academic year, Prof. Lloyd Simons was on sabbatical and worked on extending his scholarly focus in algebraic number theory to the areas of algebraic geometry and topology.
  •  Prof. Ellis-Monaghan has a new monograph, Graphs on Surfaces: Dualities, Polynomials, and Knots, now available for preorder through She will be teaching a workshop on this topic at the Rocky Mountain Mathematics Consortium in June, 2013.
  • Students and faculty participated in April, 2013 Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Conference at Williams College. Nineteen Saint Michael’s students and five faculty members participated in the Conference, celebrating undergraduate mathematics research with students and faculty from across the Northeast. Students presenting included:
    • Krista Bird ’13, Thomas Dickerson ’13, and Jessica George ’15: “Techniques for Fractal Terrain Generation”
    • Brianne Conlon ’15 and Robert Hammond ’13:  “Graph Optimization in Self-Assembling DNA Nanostructures”
    • Colin Delaney ’13, Patrick Knapp ’13, Julie Mullowney ’14, and Alison Shappy ’13: “Archimedean Screw”
    • Amber Emmell ’15: “Leonhard Euler and the Basel Problem”
    • Alexa Foote ’13, Erika Gravelin ’14, Emma Hauser ’13, and Robert Hammond ’13: “Gömböc: An Exception to the Four Vertex Theorem”
    • Jessica George ’14: “Search for General Solutions of the Cubic, Quartic, and Quintic Equations”
    • Maria Leuci ’13 and Michael Thompson ’13: “Minimal Surfaces”
    • Maura O’Riordan ’14: “Evaluating ELL Reform in a Teacher Education Program”
    • Eric Sherman ’14 and Saja Willard ’13: “Self-Assembling Objects with Central Vertices”Profs. Ashline, Hefferon, Pangborn, and Yates chaired conference sessions. Also attending was Prof. Ellis-Monaghan.

hudson river undergraduate mathematics conference

  • Profs. George Ashline and Ellis-Monaghan have continued to give invited talks and workshops at schools in Vermont through the Vermont State Math Coalition’s Expanding Horizons program. For example, in May of 2013, they gave invited presentations at Brattleboro High School and Champlain Valley Union High School, respectively.
  • Several mathematics majors are participating in off campus mathematics programs for the summer of 2013.
    • Katelyn Heath ’14: Selected to participate in the competitive Summer Program for Women in Mathematics at George Washington University from Jun. 29- Aug. 3, 2013. “SPWM will offer a number of seminars led by active research mathematicians, with the assistance of graduate students. The seminars will be organized to enable the students to obtain a deep understanding of basic concepts in several areas of mathematics, to learn how to do independent work, and to gain experience in expressing mathematical ideas orally and in writing. There will be panel discussions on graduate schools, career opportunities, and the job market. Weekly field trips will be organized to facilities of mathematical interest around the Washington area.”
    • Mackenzie Edmondson ’16, Amber Emmell ’15, and Celsey Lumbra ’16: Selected to participate in the competitive summer mathematics pre-REU program on “Signal and Image Analysis” at Texas A & M University during Jun. 23-Jul. 27, 2013.  “As technology becomes more sophisticated, the need for efficiently handling vast amounts of data has grown tremendously. In this program, the basic ideas behind the use of Fourier analysis and wavelets in signal and image analysis will be introduced. The material will be appropriate for students who have completed a typical three semester calculus sequence. Initially, in the morning sessions, a faculty member will present ideas, techniques and examples. For the afternoon sessions, faculty and graduate students will be available to provide further guidance to the students while they work on problems over the material presented in the morning sessions. As time goes on, the students will break up into groups and work on projects involving real-world examples.”

1 Our 2013 mathematics graduates with their majors and some of their honors are:

Krista Bird


Michael Carpenter


Colin Delaney b


Thomas Dickerson b, c, d


Alexandra Foote a,c,d,v


Robert Hammond b


Emma Hauser


Patrick Knapp


Maria Leuci


Eric Parziale a, c, d, k


Alison Shappy


Michael Thompson


a – Pi Mu Epsilon member and co-President of Vermont Alpha chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon
b – Pi Mu Epsilon member
c – Phi Beta Kappa member
d – Delta Epsilon Sigma member
k – Saint Michael’s College Roger Keleher Award, Outstanding Student Athlete of Class of 2013
v – Saint Michael’s College Class of 2013 valedictorian

Finally, here is an interesting recent Chronicle of Higher Education article on the importance of mathematics as a foundation to develop the advanced skills required in many fields.

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