The Bernard Review
June 2013

Department website:

Chair: Donna Molinek

Address changes, news of interest to readers?
email us:

Follow underlined links for more information.


RamanujanDavidson has hired a computer scientist! After a visiting position with us for the past year, Professor Raghu Ramanujan will begin a tenure-track position within the department starting this August. Ramanujan has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cornell, specializing in Artificial Intelligence. With his help, we plan to develop more robust computer science offerings and certifications. Professor Ramanujan has a passion for computer science in the context of the liberal arts and will offer a non-major course CSC 108, Explorations in Computer Science, this fall.

At the fall convocation, Professor Donna Molinek won a Boswell Family Faculty Fellowship that will enable her full-year sabbatical 2013-14. In addition to research projects, Molinek plans to develop an entry-level course applying mathematics to environmental issues. Students and faculty thank Professor Molinek for her service in a five-year term as Chair of the department. Professor Laurie Heyer will assume duties as Chair in August.

Congratulations to Laurie Heyer who was promoted to Full Professor effective this August! Professor Heyer is returning from an academic year in the Computer aerial view of U Vic campusScience department at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, hosted by Sue Whitesides, the 2011 Bernard Lecturer. She did research in computational geometry and graph drawing, attended two conferences in these areas, and submitted a paper to a third conference. She audited two classes at UVIC and attended many talks. Professor Heyer got lots of hands-on experience with 3D printing, including an outreach program with middle schoolers. The year provided her with many new research and teaching ideas, which she looks forward to sharing with Davidson students in the coming years.

Congratulations to Michael Mossinghoff who was also promoted to Full Professor effective this August! In his Cryptology seminar this past spring, students particularly enjoyed one final exam problem: break an initial cipher to obtain a secret location, in the form of a latitude/longitude pair; then explore this location virtually using StreetView in Google Earth to find the clues needed to unlock a second cipher, whose solution is the key to a third challenge! Reinhardt polygonMossinghoff continues his international collaborations. Canadian Kevin Hare (who visited Davidson in April) and Mossinghoff recently published an article on "Sporadic Reinhardt polygons," such as the pictured example with maximal perimeter for fixed diameter. With an Australian colleague, another 2013 publication looked at infinite sums related to the Riemann Hypothesis; such as a variation on the harmonic series, summing 1/n, but with negative terms whenever n has an odd number of prime divisors.

Richie KingProfessor Emeritus Richie King just published an article "An Ellipse Morphs to a Cosine Graph!" in the March issue of the College Mathematics Journal, pp 117-123. He shows how to unroll the truncated cone that makes a conic section. Dr. King was also recognized at this year's commencement ceremony with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Community Award that honors his many contributions in service across the central Piedmont.

Jean Jackson, the widow of Professor Bruce Jackson, won the town's G. Jackson Burney Community Service Award in December.

Congratulations to Visiting Assistant Professor Justin Peachey who is getting married this summer! Then, his new wife Kaylin will be moving to Davidson for Justin's second year. We are happy to have him back and happy for them both.

Many other professional highlights are listed below, but we close this section by remembering Dr. Whitton.

Professor Whitton's passion for working with students continues through the Robert C. Whitton Mentoring Fund, established at Davidson College to honor the memory of our beloved longtime visiting associate professor of mathematics who died in November of 2011. This fund is intended to create opportunities for professors and students to form collaborative relationships that will be both academically and personally meaningful and enriching. In order to fully honor Dr. Whitton's myriad interests, special attention will be given to projects that are interdisciplinary in nature. As fundraising continues, alumni and friends are encouraged to contribute. Gifts may be made on-line at Annual fund gifts may be directed specifically to this fund. It is the hope of the family and the Annual Fund office to be able to make the first award at Convocation 2014.

Student Activities and Recognitions

This year had a very strong class of 29 math majors, including a record number of four who graduated with honors!

  • Daniel Bernstein worked with Dr. Neidinger on Algorithmic Definitions of Singular Functions. A real analysis topic, Daniel studied functions that are strictly increasing and yet have derivative zero almost everywhere!
  • Corey Poff worked with Dr. Ramanujan on Pathology in Upper Confidence Bounds Applied to Trees, High Honors. An artificial intelligence topic, Corey showed how computer play of a game can actually do worse by looking further ahead!
  • Colin Thomson worked with Dr. Molinek on A Hierarchy of Chaotic Topological Dynamics. A dynamical systems topic, Colin compared how properties of chaos are related differently on the interval, circle, and torus.
  • Chang (Kyle) Yang worked with Dr. Yerger on The Bordeaux 3-color Conjecture and Near Coloring, High Honors. A graph theory topic, Kyle made progress on when a graph is 3-colorable (related to the famous result that all maps only require 4 colors).

Davidson won first place in the Math Jeopardy contest beMath Jeopardy Teamtween 28 teams from five states at the MAA SE Section meeting. Congratulations to Davidson's team of Bryan Kelly, Colin Thomson, Daniel Bernstein, and Matt Mohorn, pictured left-to-right. At this meeting, Daniel's talk on his honors thesis and won a Patterson Prize for one of the best student presentations. Colin presented some of his thesis at the annual Carolina Dynamics Symposium in Chapel Hill this April. Bryan '14 is the Bernard Society President for next year 2013-14.

Check out the dozens of student research projects from summer 2012 and this past school year 2012-13, all outside of usual courses. Some projects were presented at national and regional conferences: Brian McGue at the annual Joint Math Meetings in San Diego on data mining Twitter for NASCAR (w/ Chartier); Jonah Galoeta-Sprung at the MAA SE Meeting on graph combinatorics (w/ Heyer); Lucy McMurry and Matilda Solinger at the SNCURCS (NC Undergrad. Research) conference on tensegrity structures (w/ Molinek); Colin Thomson at SNCURCS; and see below for the sports analytics conference. Many students were active in math coffees (talks), in addition to exciting visiting speakers. Check out all the various awards and competitions from 2012-13!

hikers at fallsLast fall, math students organized a student & faculty family hiking and camping trip to a state park!

Congratulations to all the 2013 graduates! They have shared many plans after graduation, from Ph.D. programs to Davidson Outdoors, including positions in business and internet analysis, as well as high school teaching.

Davidson in the Math and Applications Community

Sports analytics is now big at Davidson. Dr. Chartier and his students are well-known for sports ranking and bracketology (from the LA Times to Princeton University Press), and are now doing analysis of NASCAR, while Dr. Yerger and students analyze statistics in sports. In April 2013, Chartier co-organized Carolina Sports Analytics Meeting in at Furman University, supported by an NSF through the MAA. The conference featured senior writer Peter Keating of ESPN The Magazine and and Ken Massey of Carson-Newman College who does math rankings for the Bowl Championship Series. Students Miles Abbett, Jena Manilla, and Robert Lorenzen presented posters, Dr. Yerger presented a talk, and Chartier moderated a panel discussion which included John Brenkus of Sports Science through Skype. Chartier advises ESPN'S Sports Science on matters from ranking to the probability of Akers 63-yard field goal. In NASCAR, Chartier NASCAR math coffee flyerworks with Donour Sizemore of Michael Waltrip Racing, who gave a math coffee in the fall. Together with student Brian McGue, they've launched a NASCAR sports analytics blog called The Envelope. With Kalamazoo College student Erica Dominic, they produced an algorithm to indicate whether lug nuts were tightened by the pit gun during a pit stop, with code integrated into instruments during the fall races!

Professor Stephen Davis was one of three candidates on the ballot for Second Vice President of the national Mathematical Association of America (MAA). Davis just finished a term as Governor representing the Southeastern Section and is now Secretary-Treasurer of SIGMAA-TAHSM (Special Interest Group on Teaching Advanced High School Mathematics). He continues to be a leader in AP Calculus, along with Professor Ben Klein.

At the annual Joint Math Meetings in San Diego in January, Professor Tim Chartier delivered a featured MAA Invited Address, entitled Thinking Linearly about Data. Such invited addresses are designed to appeal to all of the over 6500 mathematicians that attended the conference! Chartier also presented in two invited paper sessions and was an invited panelist at the conference. At the MAA Louisiana/Mississippi Section Meeting in March, Dr. Chartier gave an Invited Plenary Lecture and an Invited Workshop on engaging students. At the 10th Annual Science and Math Symposium at California State University, Fullerton, Chartier was the keynote speaker in March. Many schools have invited Chartier to deliver lectures: universities include Saint Louis U.; Wake Forest; Courant Institute at NYU; University of Texas at Tyler; Mars Hill College; Catawba Valley Community College, Hickory, NC; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; and the Citadel; and K-12 schools include Saint Ann's School, Brooklyn, NY and West Fork Middle School, Arkansas.

Last December, Davidson hosted the annual MAA State Dinner featuring Professor Jane Hawkins of UNC Chapel-Hill, speaking on Coding, Symbolic Dynamics, and Automata: Efforts to Simplify the Complex World. In November, Michael Pearson, the MAA Executive Director, visited Davidson for a day of discussions and a presentation.

Bernard Lecture

The 2013 Bernard Lecturer will be Dr. Larry Baggett, Davidson College class of 1960. Dr. Baggett was the first blind student admitted to Davidson College and the first blind doctoral student in mathematics at the University of Washington.  He is Professor Emeritus from the University of Colorado Boulder. Baggett's new memoir In the Dark on the Sunny Side: A Memoir of an Out-of-Sight Mathematician was published in 2012 by the MAA. The lecture is at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 29. Come join us in welcoming him home!

Outreach and Pedagogy

In the new wave of online courses and lectures, Professor Tim Chartier is getting national attention for showing how Davidson can contribute and benefit. He was named elite instructor on for his course Math is Everywhere: Applications of Finite Math, which had over 6,000 people subscribed to the course at the beginning of May. Chartier's new uDemy course March MATHness has over 600 subscribers with an average 5/5 rating.  The course was also of interest in various media inquiries and was WSJ video article cover image of Chartierutilized by professors from various institutions during the term in their courses. Dr. Chartier also used digital facilities of Davidson's Center for Teaching and Learning to create flipped classroom lectures for MAT 210, watched outside of class which is reserved for interaction. These efforts were noticed in a Wall Street Journal article (see accessible summary and this cover image of Dr. Chartier from the article's video tab) that mentioned Chartier as one of the new stars in online teaching.

The Charlotte Math Club continues to provide enrichment for area high and middle school students under the leadership of Professors Davis and Yerger. They traveled with a group of around fifteen students to Charleston, SC for the College of Charleston Math Meet.  Along with Dr. Bivens and Dr. Klein, Dr. Yerger was a judge and problem writer for Carolina Panthers Numbers Crunch at Bank of America Stadium this March. Dr. Yerger was also a problem writer for the “Who Wants to be a Mathematician?” contest run by the American Mathematical Society at the Joint Mathematics Meetings this past January in San Diego, CA.

Professor Chartier is teaching Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers through Charlotte Teachers Institute seminars. Each seminar spans May to December (with a summer reading break). In 2012, Chartier led "Entertaining with Math" and in 2013 his seminar is "Math and Sports." The participants were also involved in the Gathering for Gardner event that Dr. Chartier organized at Davidson in November to help the public have fun with math.

Area students in math from elementary to high school now have an innovative online map-based resource created by Dr. Chartier's MAT 110 (Finite Math) class. The NITLE and Davidson College sponsored project, entitled Digital Field Scholarship, involved the creation of online maps of locations where mathematical principles are seen and explained or questioned online. This geotagging allows sites to be located via smartphones and computers. MAT 110 students worked in collaboration with local school teachers. See the article on this service-learning project.

In December, MoMath, the National Museum of Mathematics, opened in New York City. As chair of the Advisory Council for MoMath, Dr. Chartier and his family enjoyed the event and he later attended a MoMath Masters Tournament hosted by Will Shortz.

Faculty Professional Activity, Some Other Highlights not mentioned above.

Tim Chartier

  • Continued to write for the Huffington Post with articles coauthored with Dean Chadwin, Kevin Hutson and John Harris.
  • "Math's Life Lessons" published in Math Horizons, April 2013, v. 35.
  • Organized MAA Invited Paper Session on "Thinking Linearly about Data in Research and Teaching," Joint Math Meetings, San Diego, CA. January 2013.
  • Elected to subcommittee on Mathematics Across the Disciplines, Mathematical Association of America, 2013-2016.
  • Chartier's web page Academic Review Games was translated for the Ukraine.
  • Chartier's general audience book with Princeton University Press went under contract and entered production.  The book is on schedule for release in February 2014. 

Laurie Heyer

  • In time away from Victoria, she gave two talks and consulted with faculty at St. Olaf College, presented a poster at the Institute for Biological Engineering annual conference, and organized student activities at the MAA Southeastern Section meeting.
  • had a week of research at the Bellairs Research Institute in Barbados with Dr. Yerger and other researchers, starting problems related to computational geometry. 

Michael Mossinghoff

  • With Australian colleagues Mossinghoff co-organized and spoke at an AMS-SIAM special session in "Mathematics of Computation: Algebra and Number Theory" at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego in January.
  • published "The distance to an irreducible polynomial, II," Math. Comp. 81 (2012), no. 279, 1571-1585. This is joint work with Michael Filaseta at the University of South Carolina. This paper investigates some problems regarding the density of irreducible polynomials, among all polynomials with integer coefficients.
  • spoke on a large computational problem in combinatorics at a conference at High Point University in April. More than seven core-years of computation was required in this project; computations were performed at a high-performance computing consortium in western Canada. He also spoke on this topic at a Colloquium at Wake Forest University in March.
  • spoke on "Between the problems of Polya and Turan" in a special session on analytic number theory at a sectional meeting of the American Mathematical Society in Rochester, NY, in September.
  • is giving talks in two sessions at the annual summer meeting of the Canadian Mathematical Society in June in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  One talk is in a session on "Experimental Methods in Number Theory", another is in a session on "Discrete and Combinatorial Geometry".

Carl Yerger

  • co-organized, with Glenn Hurlbert of Arizona State University, a mini-symposium last summer on graph pebbling at the 2012 SIAM Conference on Discrete Mathematics held at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Yerger gave a talk entitled, “Discharging in pebbling on low-diameter graphs”.
  • visited Winona State University last summer to participate in the CICCADA Reconnect workshop on Game Theory and Security.  He has developed a teaching module with fellow researchers there on applications to game theory, which he hopes to use as part of his Fall 2013 seminar in game theory and mathematical finance.
  • attended the TURMS (Trends in Undergraduate Research in the Mathematical Sciences) conference in October which focused on undergraduate research in mathematics. A paper based on activities held at this conference will appear in the journal Involve: Z. Kudlak, Z. Teymuroglu and C. Yerger “Alternative resources for funding and supporting undergraduate research.”
  • had a week of research at the Bellairs Research Institute in Barbados with Dr. Heyer and other researchers, starting problems related to computational geometry.
  • was an invited speaker at the recent Clemson Mini-Conference on Discrete Mathematics and Algorithms in November 2012 and gave a talk entitled: “Planar Graphs with no 5-cycles, 6-cycles and Intersecting Triangles are 3-colorable.”
  • spoke in February at the Wake Forest math colloquium on “Steinberg's Conjecture, the Bordeaux Coloring Conjecture and Near-Coloring,” which was related to his work as well as thesis work with student Kyle Yang.
  • visited the AIT-Budapest study abroad program in computer science this May in Budapest, Hungary.
  • plans this summer to visit Daniel Kral at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom to continue work in structural graph theory.

Alumni News

John Helms '07 has been teaching at UCSB this year after finishing his Ph.D. in math at UNC Chapel Hill. He and his wife have been enjoying the Santa Barbara area.

Daniel Orr '08 got a Ph.D., a new baby, and a new job this spring. The Ph.D. is in mathematics from UNC Chapel Hill. The baby boy was born March 13. The job is a two-year post-doc at Virginia Tech. Triple congratulations!

Jimmy Rountree '11 is finishing his Masters in Computer Science at William and Mary and will soon start work at Amazon in Seattle.

Joseph Rusinko '01 was awarded tenure and promotion at Winthrop University, SC, Department of Mathematics. Joe was also honored at graduation with the University’s Outstanding Junior Professor Award. Congratulations Joe!

Continuing Support

Thank you for your continuing support of the Richard R. Bernard Society for Mathematics at Davidson College. Your gifts support outside speakers and math coffees, student travel to conferences, and other mathematical events.

To make a contribution to the society, please specify "Bernard Society" on your check and mail it to the Office of Development, Davidson College, Box 7173, Davidson, NC 28035-7173. Gifts to the Bernard Society are separate from the Annual Fund.