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Use of Computational Math Innovations to Solve Biological Problems Featured at Undergraduate Conference

April 19, 2013

Rose-Hulman is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its distinguished Undergraduate Mathematics Conference with educators and students from throughout the world examining the innovative fields of computational mathematics and computational biology on campus Friday and Saturday, April 19-20.

More than 125 people from 28 colleges and universities will participate in three invited presentations, 35 student talks, and two panel discussions. The conference is being sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America, Metron Scientific Solutions, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratories, the Sandia National Laboratory, and Maplesoft.

“The popularity of this year’s conference proves that undergraduate research is thriving,” says conference co-chair Allen Holder, associate professor of mathematics. He is a senior investigator for computational math projects for a Research Experiences for Undergraduates program on campus, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

       Miffin      Nance     Best
     Thomas Mifflin, PhD
      Tony Nance, PhD
 
     Janet Best, PhD
 

Three invited speakers will feature issues in the expanding fields of computational mathematics and computational biology.

Thomas Mifflin, PhD, Metron’s chief executive officer, will discuss how computational mathematics, through probabilistic search models, helped identify the wreckage of Air France Flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. He formerly was an investigator for the U.S. government’s Federal Aviation Administration’s operations research service.

Tony Nance, PhD, associate director of the NSF’s Mathematical Biosciences Institute will highlight some of the exciting progress being made in the use of computational math to solve problems in biology and medicine. He serves as director of The Ohio State University’s Mathematics & Statistics Learning Center.

“The Dynamics of Sleep” will be a presentation by Janet Best, PhD, of The Ohio State University. She will showcase how mathematical models, through deterministic and random approaches, can help understand sleep-wake rhythms from newborns to adults. This research also has yielded insight into some sleep disorders.

For the first time, three student presentation proposals have been selected as finalists for the conference’s best presentation award. They will be featured on Saturday morning, and competing for a $100 award. Ted Samore of Rose-Hulman will present “Advanced Finite Difference Methods in a Chromatography Inverse Problem”; Lirong Yuan of Purdue University will discuss “The Probability that a Polynomial with Integer Coefficients has all Real Roots”; and Luvsandondov Lkhamsuren of the University of Illinois will talk about “Random Points, Broken Sticks, and Triangles.”

Rose-Hulman students making undergraduate talks during the two-day conference will be Jon Drobny, James Folberth, James Foulkes, Devon Hardman, Christopher Lippelt, Chase Mathison, Vismay Modi, Jack Pringle, Katie Ross, Jacqueline Simon, and Jonathan Taylor.

Other presentations will be made by students from the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (Saudi Arabia), University of Notre Dame, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, Knox College (Ill.), Southwest Baptist University (Mo.), McKendree University (Ill.), Illinois College, University of Evansville, Valparaiso University, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, and Taylor University.

Student presentations may be expanded into research papers for publication in Rose-Hulman’s Undergraduate Mathematics Journal, devoted to scholarly work by undergraduates on topics related to mathematics.

The conference will also feature a panel discussion on industrial careers in mathematics, featuring professional mathematicians John Peach of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, Tim Vrablik of Maplesoft, Mark Inlow (PhD) of Rose-Hulman, and Mifflin. A graduate-school preparation panel will feature two graduate students, both Rose-Hulman alumni, and two graduating seniors that have been accepted to numerous graduate programs.

This year’s conference has been organized by Holder and mathematics faculty colleague Vin Isaia, with assistance from department secretary Michelle Prather.