Presidents Showing Off Math Skills on a Regional and National Stage

Created: April 10, 2014
Last Updated: December 10, 2019

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WASHINGTON, Pa. (April 1, 2014)—Do the math and it’s clear: professional math organizations offer a wide variety of networking, educational and career opportunities at their annual national and regional conferences and meetings, and Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) students and faculty are taking advantage of them.

Five faculty members and eleven students attended the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and the American Mathematical Society National Joint Mathematics Meeting in Baltimore in January. Nine students will be attending and one will be presenting research at the upcoming MAA Allegheny Mountain Section Meeting at Westminster University. W&J will host next year’s Allegheny Mountain Section Meeting.

It all adds up to this: the W&J math department is making a name for itself and students continue to take advantage of all that is offered to them.

“There are a number of practical things students can learn at these meetings,” said Ryan Higginbottom, associate professor of mathematics at W&J. He added that W&J students have been encouraged to attend and present at these meetings more in the last five years. “Students can attend a graduate school fair, for example. Hopefully, they get an understanding that math is something you can do professionally.”

Higginbottom is organizing the 2015 MAA Allegheny Mountain Section Meeting, which will be held at W&J next April. He said he expects approximately 250 people to be in attendance to celebrate the centennial year of the MAA.

“These opportunities are good for our students to see what research others are doing,” said Roman Wong, professor of mathematics at W&J.

In addition to Higginbottom and Wong, math faculty Janet Harding, Kim Jones, and Jenny Kline were accompanied at the January MAA meeting by eleven students, seniors Jake Fluke, Ron Graf, Casey Hansen, Zoe Levenson, Hope Snyder, Samantha Taylor, and Laura Lee; juniors Sean Leavor, Kim Phillips, and Zachary Pochiba; and sophomore Savanna Starko.

Snyder presented “How Low Can You Go? Estimating the Maximum of a Polynomial,” research she did with a group at Kent State University last summer. Phillips presented a talk on “Tiling m-Deficient Mutilated Chessboards with m-Polyominoes,” research she did with Higginbottom in the last six months. Leavor and Pochiba gave a talk on “Aperiodic Binary Strings.” The work was an extension of their Junior MathTalk they did with Wong in the fall.

During the conference, students attended talks on Mathematics and Sports and other presentations. They also attended the Book Exhibits and the Graduate School Fair at the conference. A math alumna, Michaela (Kimbell) Kubacki, 2007 W&J graduate, attended the conference and presentations by W&J students. Kubacki will receive her doctorate in applied mathematics this year from the University of Pittsburgh.  Two other math alumnae, 2013 graduates Emily Sasala and Cammie Monahan, also travelled to the conference to “reminisce with their former W&J friends,” Wong said.

“I find that the Math meetings provide numerous opportunities to network with individuals from other universities. One of the most important aspects of attending these meetings is that they give students the opportunity to be exposed to new mathematical ideas that they may have otherwise never come in contact with. All of this new exposure and networking helps guide students into making decisions about what graduate programs to attend and what career possibilities interest them,” Taylor said.

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