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Math Journal Features a Wealth of Original Undergraduate Research

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
RHIT Abby Mann Article

Summing up: Abby Mann's paper published in the spring 2015 issue of The Rose-Hulman Undergraduate Mathematics Journal stemmed from research she and a co-author completed during a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at Mount Holyoke College. From research to publication required about 13 months.

A mathematics department at an engineering school might be expected to play second fiddle, but not at Rose-Hulman, where the math department consistently shines.

One reason is The Rose-Hulman Undergraduate Mathematics Journal, the longest-running publication of original undergraduate-only math research in the United States.

"The journal's online archive of undergraduate math papers from around the world is among the most extensive anywhere and has garnered the mathematics department international attention," says Roger Lautzenheiser, a retired Professor of Math at Rose-Hulman and the journal's founding editor.

For the journal's first decade, Lautzenheiser served as editor before turning over that position to assistant editor David Rader in 2010. The current editor is Tom Langley, who says students are always very excited to learn their papers have been approved for publication.

"That's one of the most rewarding parts of my job," he says.

The Spring 2015 issue features an article titled "Deconstructing the Welch Equation Using p-adic Methods" by Rose-Hulman senior Abby Mann and co-author Adelyn Yeoh, who graduated last year from Mount Holyoke College. Their research has important implications for cryptography.

"I felt that [being published] was a big accomplishment and it was exciting for me to know that my work was being recognized beyond the classroom," says Mann, who is has a double major in computer science and mathematics.

The size of each journal, which is published twice annually, has increased over the years. Each paper is carefully screened, and getting a paper published requires original thinking, strong work habits, and motivation, Lautzenheiser says. Often it also involves working in teams, as many papers have multiple authors. Successful publication can be a plus for students planning to attend graduate school, he adds.

Each paper must have a faculty sponsor, but faculty co-authors are not permitted. The journal has a strict undergraduate-only policy.

The papers published in the journal are highly theoretical, but many also deal directly with real-world problems. For instance, Lautzenheiser recalls a nationally acclaimed paper published in 2004 by three California State University students that used mathematical modeling to improve health outcomes for newborn babies with jaundice.

"Our main goal [establishing the journal] was simply to provide an outlet for students who had worked on some mathematical problem and were willing to spend time writing a paper to publish their results," Lautzenheiser says. But another benefit has been to enhance the reputation of an already nationally recognized mathematics department and its faculty.

"Over the years I have had faculty from other schools comment on our journal," Lautzenheiser says. "All positive, by the way."