The Bernard Review
June 2014

Department website: www.davidson.edu/math

Chair: Laurie Heyer

Address changes, news of interest to readers?
email us: mathdept@davidson.edu

Department News

The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science is the new expanded name for our department and Prof. Laurie Heyer is the new chair! We have always been interdisciplinary with computer science, starting when Prof. Jerry Roberts helped lead us through the emergence of computers at Davidson. Since then, many of our mathematicians have nurtured strong connections to computer science and bioinformatics. Prof. Raghu Ramanujan was our first Computer Science Ph.D. and Tabitha Peckour second, Tabitha Peck, starts a tenure-track position this fall. Their respective areas of expertise, Artificial Intelligence and Computer Graphics, are the titles of new CS courses next year. We now offer a Minor in Computer Science and hope to offer a Computer Science major in the near future. It is an exciting time for the department, and there are many new opportunities for students. As computer science continues to grow, we expect to participate in the campus-wide Digital Studies program (recently awarded major funding from the Mellon Foundation) and build new interdisciplinary collaborations.

New Professor Tabitha Peck has degrees in computer science with undergraduate from Bucknell and graduate from UNC Chapel Hill. Her specialty is virtual reality and human-computer interaction. After completing her Ph.D. in 2010, Dr. Peck was a researcher at University of Barcelona in Spain for two years, where her team's work can be seen in a BBC news video. For the past two years, she has been Visiting Professor of Computer Science at Duke. Dr. Peck relates well to mathematics, since linear algebra is foundational for computer graphics, and to the liberal arts, with social scientists interested in her work on using virtual reality to reduce racial bias or abusiveness. One of her Ph.D. co-advisors was Mary Whitton, sister of our beloved late Professor Rob Whitton.

Kate ThompsonThis fall we also welcome Visiting Professor of Mathematics, Katherine (Kate) Thompson, who just completed her Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Univ. of Georgia. Her undergraduate was Oglethorpe Univ. where she majored in Music History! Dr. Thompson's research area is number theory, particularly quadratic forms, and she is also interested in outreach programs. She is succeeding Dr. Peachey in a two-year teaching postdoctoral position.

A fond farewell to Prof. Justin Peachey who was a successful teacher and researcher in number theory, and who was a volunteer leader at the Charlotte Math Club. His most significant accomplishment was getting married to Kaylin last June! We wish them both well in his new position at the Center for Naval Analyses, in Alexandria, VA, near DC.

For his upcoming sabbatical year, Prof. Carl Yerger awarded a Eugene P. Shelly professorship at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He will be teaching one class each semester and enriching his research collaborations, matching the goals of this position to share teaching and research perspectives between schools like Davidson and CMU.

Math Bytes bookThe Mathematical Association of America named Prof. Tim Chartier as the first Math Ambassador. Indeed, Chartier is a media celebrity in bringing math ideas to the public in books, presentations, interviews, and online; fueled by public fascination with his Mime-matics and Bracketology. Check out a partial list of media coverage including CBS Evening News, NPR's Here and Now, and Time Magazine online, just to name a few! His newly published book Math Bytes by Princeton University Press shares many more fun and fascinating math tidbits that appeal to all ages, such as the vanishing empire state building illusion. Look for other examples in his Huffington Post blog. Chartier is in big demand for presentations and interviews with dozens of each. At the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) in New York City, Chartier gave one of their monthly talks (MoMath Encounters) in January and returned on Pi Day where they partnered with a Google connected classroom. It was at that January Encounter that the MAA Executive Director announced the new Math Ambassador program. Chartier's sports analysis garners public coverage, as in ESPN Sport Science, but also, as Chartier explains, "This led to requests from professional sports organizations requesting me to work on various projects, many involving students and most confidential in nature."

Math MagicIn addition to the new CS courses in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Graphics, Prof. Irl Bivens will be offering a seminar course in Math, Magic, and Mystery! This echoes the title of an early and influential book by Martin Gardner and the theme of Mathematics Awareness Month, April 2014, whose website (sometimes too popular to load) is linked above for you to anticipate the kind of fun and learning that Dr. Biven's students will encounter. We enjoyed his math coffee on card tricks!

Congratulations to Prof. Donna Molinek who has been elected to the highest faculty office at Davidson, Vice Chair of the Faculty pro tem. Dr. Molinek will be the lead representative of the faculty to the administration and Trustees. Her three-year term begins this August. Dr. Molinek is returning from a year sabbatical, working on dynamical systems modeling of disease progression.

Student Activities and Recognitions

We are proud of all 26 math majors in this year's graduating class. We thank Bryan Kelly for his leadership in the many Bernard Society events and Phillip Wall for helping to publicize and organize events, along with other Bernard officers Carlee Simon and Miles Abbett.

In the international Mathematical Contest in Modeling, Davidson teams were very successful! The competition poses open-ended, applied problems requiring a busy four-day period of research and writing to teams of three students. Davidson entered eight teams who tackled: how to assess and report the “best all-time college coach” male or female, for the past century, from among such sports as college hockey or field hockey, football, baseball, softball, basketball, or soccer. In all, a total of 6755 teams participated in the MCM with 94% of the teams coming from counties other than the United States. Two Davidson teams were designated Meritorious Winner, the rank just below the top 25 teams and putting them in the top 9% worldwide: congratulations to the team of Eric Hart, Angie Healy, and Lauren Pendo and the team of Michael DeSimone, Richard Yan, and Yiwei Zhang. Two other teams received Honorable Mention putting them in the top 31% worldwide: congratulations to the team of Eddie Isola, Caroline Thompson, and Emma Tobey and the team of Courtney Cochrane, Olivia Marsh, and John Roche.

Bobcat InternsCheck out the dozens of student research projects from summer 2013 and this past school year 2013-14, all outside of usual courses. Students continue to be active in interdisciplinary research in synthetic biology, using genomics, mathematics, and computer science. Sports analytics continues to grow, featuring NBA camera analysis (interns shown in the photo), CatStats, and a variety of sports problems. A new connection was made this year with students working with the U.K. company Twizoo, founded by Davidson graduate Madeline Parra '09, to analyze twitter feed data to evaluate restaurant comments.

This was the fourth year for Davidson participation in the at the ACM Regional Programming competition held at Chapel Hill, NC. Coached by Profs. Carl Yerger and Raghu Ramanujan, Davidson entered teams (Sam Castle, Cooper Karisch, Matt Mohorn, Tommy Rhodes, Jackson Spell, Ben Wiley). This year, one of our teams answered three problems correctly, our best result ever in this contest.

Davidson had nine students participate in Virginia Tech Regional Math Contest and two in the Putnam Mathematical Competition. Davidson's high scorers were Richard Yan and Ty Williams, respectively, each ranking around the top third overall.

To see where our graduates go in the first year out, check out the listing starting on page 25 of the 2013 Outcomes Report.

Conferences and Programs: Mathematics faculty hosted conferences at Davidson during the year and will lead an REU program at Brown University!

PANTSXX conference PANTS XX, the twentieth meeting of the Palmetto Number Theory Series, was hosted by Profs. Justin Peachey and Michael Mossinghoff at Davidson in September.  (The name refers to the Palmetto State, as these conferences are held in and around South Carolina.)  21 visitors, including four special invited speakers, presented on many current research topics in number theory to an audience of 55.  One invited speaker, Bill Banks from the University of Missouri, gave a Math Coffee for Davidson students just prior to the conference, on applications of number theory in cryptography.

Dyanmics SymposiumThe Carolina Dynamics Symposium, an annual meeting supported by an NSF grant, was hosted Prof. Donna Molinek at Davidson, April 25-27. There were 23 participants and 11 speakers, including our own Prof. Richard Neidinger, speaking on "A Fair-Bold Gambling Function that is Simply Singular."

Prof. Tim Chartier was a co-organizer of the Carolina Sports Analytics Meeting held at Furman Univ. in April, where Prof. Mossinghoff spoke on "FIFA foe fun!" Several Davidson faculty and students participated.optimal polygon

Prof. Michael Mossinghoff is looking forward to leading a research program for undergraduates this summer at Brown University in Rhode Island, at ICERM, the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics, together with Sinai Robins of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.  Their eight-week program, titled Polygons and Polynomials, will lead 19 students from around the country in mathematical investigations at the intersection of analysis, number theory, combinatorics, discrete geometry, and computation.

Bernard Lecture and Wearn Lecture

Pixar's Tony DeRose will deliver the College's 2014-2015 Wearn Lecture on Tuesday, September 16. Former Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington (1986-1995), DeRose currently serves as a Senior Scientist and lead of the Research Group at Pixar Animation Studios where he focuses on the revolutionary impact of physics and applied math in the movies.DeLoera

Less than two weeks later, the 2014 Bernard Lecturer will be delivered by Jesús De Loera, Professor of Mathematics at the Univ. of California, Davis, at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 28. Dr. De Loera works in discrete and computational geometry, in particular on the combinatorial structure of convex polytopes. Convex polytopes in two and three dimensions (polygons and polyhedra) were extensively studied by the ancient Greeks. In this century convex polytopes have appeared in many areas of mathematics.

Come join us for these exciting events!

Outreach and Pedagogy

In January, Prof. Raghu Ramanujan was a panelist discussing Artificial Intelligence on WFAE Charlotte Talks. He joined James Barrat '83, who spoke at Davidson and is author of Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era.

CTIThrough the Charlotte Teachers Institute, CTI, Prof. Ramanujan is offering a 2014 seminar on "Artificial Intelligence". Davidson professors have offered several CTI seminars, which usually span from May to December. Prof. Tim Chartier completed a 2013 seminar on "Math and Sports" that involved 11 CMS teachers in study and individual projects.

Davidson math made ESPN The Magazine!  John Brenkus, host of ESPN's Sport Science, called Prof. Chartier asking for help with a question, what is the probability that a shot onto the green by Tiger Woods will hit the flagstick? Prof. Mike Mossinghoff and James Bramlett '14, Davidson golfer and math researcher, did a lot to help bring about the result you'll see in the ESPN article, which can also be found in print. 

The Charlotte Math Club continues to provide enrichment for area high and middle school students under the leadership of Professors Davis, Yerger and Peachey, who organize monthly activities and an annual trip to Charleston, SC for the College of Charleston Math Meet. Prof. Yerger organized all aspects of a 2013 Davidson Invitational Math Tournament on December 7, 2013.  This was an ARML-Style mathematics meet attended by 24 students from 7 different middle and high schools. 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 Baltimore.

Prof. Mossinghoff gave a talk at the "Learning in Retirement" series at The Pines retirement community in Davidson, on "Six degrees of separation".  This talk discussed features of highly interconnected networks among acquaintances, among actors, and among baseball players.

Finite Math students work with campus and nonprofit groups for final projects in Prof. Chartier's classes. Last fall, they were part of the poster session on Community Based Learning and several of their posters were featured in the art gallery of Dinner at Davidson and others were hung in Davidson Town Hall for the month of January.

Prof. Chartier received support via the Robert C. Whitton Mentoring Fund for schools programs he is developing with students.  One will explore mathematical puzzles and optical illusions.  The other will explore computer science ideas with the Maker movement materials which are accessible and often low-cost.

Last August, three Davidson faculty, Tim Chartier (organizing committee), Stephen Davis and Mike Mossinghoff, participated in the MOVES: Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects conference at the National Museum of Mathematics in New York City.

Faculty Professional Activity, Some Other Highlights not mentioned above.

Irl Bivens

Tim Chartier

Stephen Davis

Laurie Heyer

Donna Molinek

Michael Mossinghoff

Richard Neidinger

Justin Peachey

Raghu Ramanujan

Carl Yerger

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 Fund for Davidson.

Contributions are also welcome to the college-wide Robert C. Whitton Mentoring Fund, to honor the memory of our beloved longtime visiting associate professor of mathematics who died in November of 2011. Gifts may be made on-line at www.davidson.edu/giving.