Senior lecturer Dr. Jean Marie Linhart (far left) poses with Texas A&M Mathematics' three undergraduate MathFest presenters and award-winners (from left) Daniel Miller, Nicole Gardner and Matthew Barry. (Photograph courtesy of Dr. Jean Marie Linhart.)


Students from the Texas A&M University Department of Mathematics represented both their institution and its commitment to enhancing the undergraduate educational experience in award-winning style at the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) MathFest 2013, held July 31-August 3 in Hartford, Conn.

Senior Daniel Miller was honored with a Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Award, while fellow senior Nicole Gardner earned the Bio-SIGMAA Environmental Math Prize. In addition, senior Matthew Barry won a Pi Mu Epsilon award. Each received a check for $150 and a book, courtesy of Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honor society.

Miller, a 2013 Goldwater Scholar and a University Honors Student double-majoring in mathematics and electrical engineering, presented his original research involving the optimization of solar water heaters conducted as an Undergraduate Research Scholar under the mentorship of senior lecturer Jean Marie Linhart.

Gardner's presentation described climate change in the Florida Everglades, work she did this past summer as a participant in a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at Pennsylvania State University under the mentorship of Jose D. Fuentes and Palash Sinha.

Like Miller, Barry's presentation centered on his Undergraduate Research Scholar thesis, "MathLex: A Web-Based Mathematical Entry System," now available at http://mathlex.org/ as open-source software for non-commercial use. The project, which was the result of research mentored by associate professor Philip Yasskin, was funded in part by Yasskin's NSF grants.

Linhart and Yasskin each delivered two presentations at the meeting, known as the largest annual summertime gathering of mathematicians, while Linhart also served as an MAA undergraduate presentation judge. Professor Sue Geller helped score the problem-solving competition.

Two additional mathematics students, sophomore Will Linz and May 2013 graduate Todd Schrader, finished second and third, respectively, in the National Collegiate Math Problem Solving competition. Linz won a TI-Voyage 200 calculator, while Schrader earned a digital camera. Throughout the past academic year, Schrader had organized and posted the department's bi-weekly undergraduate problem contests, for which Linz had solved the most problems, providing the basis for their respective entries into the competition as organizer and top local competitor.

Showing his versatility, Schrader also took first in the MathFest 5K Run -- a feat of both athletic and intellectual prowess befitting the venue. Each year, participants are challenged to solve a math problem while running, testing their physical and mental aptitude and endurance. This year, competitors had to give a base-7 representation of their bib numbers.

"Todd nearly got 343, which is 7 to the third power, but then, before we knew what the problem was, they swapped his bib out to 344," Linhart said. "He solved it with the greatest of ease. Daniel [Miller] and I also participated in the 5K and successfully solved our problems; however, our 5K times were considerably less impressive than Todd's."

Two other non-Texas A&M students with departmental ties also earned MathFest honors. Ashley Orr, a sophomore from Youngstown State University and a participant in the department's Mentoring through Critical Transition Points (MCTP) Program, also won a general Pi Mu Epsilon award for a project inspired by associate professor Gregory Berkolaiko and visiting assistant professor Adam Larios' mentorship in the Pre-REU Program. Sheridan Grant, a junior at Pomona College who spent part of his summer in Aggieland being mentored by professor Maurice Rojas as a member of Texas A&M's 2013 REU program, also won an MAA prize.

"I offer my sincere congratulations, first and foremost, to the students," said Emil J. Straube, professor and head of the Department of Mathematics. "Credit is also due to our faculty and graduate students, whom I thank for consistently doing such a good job mentoring our undergraduates. It's nice to see that effort recognized and rewarded on the national stage."

Yasskin noted that 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of Pi Mu Epsilon, which plans to host a related celebration at next year's MathFest meeting and hopes to feature as many student presentations as possible. To learn more about this event and other educational outreach opportunities sponsored by Texas A&M Mathematics, go to http://www.math.tamu.edu/outreach/programs/.

For more information about the Mathematical Association of America and MathFest, visit http://www.maa.org/meetings/mathfest.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Jean Marie Linhart, (979) 845-3261 or jmlinhart@math.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Study Break

    (From left:) Dr. Sue Geller, Dr. Jean Marie Linhart, Todd Schrader, Nicole Gardner, Daniel Miller, Aaron Griffin, Will Linz and Bruce Zheng enjoy a break in the MathFest 2013 action. (Photograph courtesy of Dr. Jean Marie Linhart.)

  • Pinball Wizard

    Dr. Geller recharges with an energizing game of pinball between sessions. (Photograph courtesy of Todd Schrader.)

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