MHC Math and Stat Club

The Math/Stat Club meets weekly (on Wednesdays over a pizza lunch).  Faculty and students attend; we usually have a full house.  Speakers have been department faculty, invited speakers from other institutions, mathematicians and statisticians from industry, and students.  This meeting is a time for students to present on their summer (as well as ongoing) research, for the department to host prospective majors (our department tea), for pre-registration advising on 300-level courses, as well as to simply participate in mathematics culture.  Faculty and club members attend the Hudson River Undergraduate Conference together in April.    (Advisor:  Giuliana Davidoff)


Spring 2014 Events:

Wed., April 23, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- "Talk Back"

The last Math/Stat Club meeting of the year is our annual “Talk Back” -- an opportunity for you to give the department advice about opportunities and events outside the classroom.  What are your reactions to opportunities and events in 2013-2014?  What advice/suggestions do you have for 2014-2015?  Come share your ideas and join the conversation.

Wed., April 16:  No scheduled talk

Wed., April 9:  Academic Advising: No scheduled talk

Wed., April 2, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- Let's start a book club!
Do we live in an 11-dimensional world?  What shape is the universe?  Which million dollar math problem has been solved and who refused to accept the prize? How does Nate Silver make his predictions?  
We'd like to see if there is interest in starting a book club where participants might get to talk about questions like these.  Come to Math/Stat Club this week to talk about getting this started.  We want to hear from you, especially to hear what kinds of books you would like to read and what format (for credit, frequency and format of meetings) would make the most sense.  If you are interested and can't come, please contact Jessica Sidman (

Wed., March 26, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- 300-level courses

Wondering what to take next fall?  Come talk with Math and Stat faculty members about the 300-level courses they will be teaching.

Wed., March 5, 12:15-1:00 pm., 416 Clapp -- Speakers: Math Modeling Competition Participants

The speakers at this week's Math/Stat Club will be student participants in this year's International Mathematical Modeling Competition. They will discuss this year's contest problems and their solutions, and their experiences with mathematical modeling over the past year. If you are interested in learning more about mathematical modeling and the opportunities for students to get involved, come hear them speak and ask them questions. 


Wed., February 26, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- Speaker: Professor Jessica Sidman, MHC  

     How do we get to the line at infinity?  An introduction to projective space.
In high school geometry we learn that any two lines in the plane must intersect unless they are parallel.  We may also observe that the sides of a long, straight road seem to meet at the horizon.  This suggests that we might be able to augment the plane with a line "at infinity," and that parallel lines will intersect at a point on this new line.  In this talk we will make these ideas rigorous by constructing the projective plane.

Wed., February 19, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- Speaker: Elodie Fourquet

     Perspective in Two Dimensions for Computer Graphics

Holding in mind a 2D projection of a 3D scene is easy; holding in mind the 3D scene is hard. According to recent research in perception the human brain deals more easily with 2D representations than with 3D ones. When perspective was re-invented in the Renaissance artists quickly discovered how to construct accurate perspective without having to work in 3D. Doing so they were able easily to combine perspective with composition, which is dominantly 2D. From this
point of view, modern computer graphics seems gratuitously difficult in forcing its users to develop full 3D models.

The seminal construction in Renaissance artists' perspective is the tiled floor, the many constructions of which I will explain in
detail. Having reduced it to 2D perspective geometry, I will show how other useful constructions can be similarly reduced, including
the double projection required for accurate shadows.  Artists did these computations geometrically, drawing
lines to find their intersections. Using my formalism to reduce geometry to algebra, computers can reproduce the 2D perspective
calculations used by artists.

Wed., February 12:  No scheduled talk

Friday, February 7, 4:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- Speaker: Brad Westgate

      Introduction to Statistical Data Mining

Data mining refers to several types of problems, all involving extracting information from a large dataset.  We will review different branches of data mining, including classification, clustering, and dimension reduction, and consider example applications where these problems arise.  We will focus in particular on classification, which involves predicting an unknown outcome from several other observed variables.  We will discuss and compare classification methods, including Naive Bayes and logistic regression.


Friday, February 7, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- Speaker: Andrew Bray

     Tectonics and Tessellations: residuals for spatial point processes

Earthquakes are one of many natural phenomena that can be effectively modeled as a spatial point process.  However, challenges abound.  In this talk we will outline the process by which earthquake models are formulated and discuss the difficulties that arise in assessing how well they perform.  We will also investigate how spatial tessellations can lend substantial power to the modeling process.


Friday, January 31, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- Speaker Kelly McConville

     If a tree grows in a forest, will a statistician count it?  An introduction to survey sampling

Surveys are fairly common in our society and allow one to make inferences about a population of interest based on sample.  The sample data, collected using a complex sampling design, can often be supplemented with additional data.  In this talk I will discuss how to estimate a population quantity in the presence of both survey and additional data.  In particular, I will present an estimator I developed -- the LASSO Survey Regression Estimator -- and I will address how this estimator compares to other commonly used survey estimators when estimating tree canopy cover for a region in Utah. 


Monday, January 27, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- Speaker: Andrea Foulkes

     Statistical deception and the era of "big data"

The familiar phrase "Lies, damn lies and statistics" takes on new meaning in the era of "big data".  In this Math/Stat club talk, we will begin by exploring various ways in which statistics and statistical graphics have been used to persuade and, at times, deceive us. Focus will be on the thematic use of several important statistical concepts, ranging from misrepresentation of a mean to taking advantage of the presence of selection bias. We will then consider how big data applications present an entirely new opportunity to use these old tricks, as well as a few new ones. Students (and faculty) will learn to have a more discerning eye, as well as learn about why understanding and applying elementary statistical concepts is so important in the big data arena.


Fall 2013 Events:

Wed., December 4, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp

End-of-Term party:  Come celebrate the last Math/Stat Club meeting of the semester


Wed., November 20: Event Cancelled

Wed., November 13, 12:15-1:00 pm, 407 Clapp (note location)

"Enabling Secure Computing through Fully Homomorphic Encryption"

Come join us for an very interesting cross-disciplinary talk by Kurt Rohloff of BBN Technologies. 

One of the major breakthroughs of theoretical computer science in the 20th century was the formalization and development of mathematically secure encryption technologies.  These breakthroughs have enabled people to securely share information over the Internet without prior interactions.  In this talk we'll provide an introduction to prevalent encryption technologies such as one-time pads, AES-based symmetric key encryption and RSA-based public key encryption technologies.  We'll particularly focus on practical trade-offs associated with building and using these technologies.  Building upon this prior work, we will also discuss the first major breakthrough of computer science in the 21st century - the demonstration of public-key Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE). FHE allows sensitive data to be encrypted such that arbitrary programs can be securely run over the encrypted data where the output, when decrypted, is equivalent to the result of running the original algorithm on the unencrypted data.  FHE is an area of high ongoing interest from both theoretical and practical perspectives.


Wed., November 6, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp

300-Level Course Meeting

Faculty members who are teaching 300-level courses in the spring semester will discuss their offerings.  It will be a chance to think over your math majors and minors and ask any questions you have on those.

Wed., October 23, 12:15-1:00 pm, Clapp 407 (Note change of room)

Rigidity Theory for Robotics, Drug Design and CAD

Jessica Sidman and Audrey St. John 

When designing a bridge, how can we minimize the amount of building materials while maintaining stability? Are there computational tools that can help predict protein flexibility, a key component in drug design? Rigidity theory seeks to answer these questions by studying structural properties from the mathematical and computational perspectives. In this talk, we will discuss the fundamental questions considered by rigidity theory and its applications, including those in robotics, structural biology and Computer Aided Design for mechanical engineers. We will provide an overview of the mathematical tools used in analysis and discuss opportunities for getting involved in ongoing research projects.


Wed., October 9, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp

Presentations on Summer Work by Fellow Mathematics and Statistics Students Part II


Wed, October 2, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp

Presentations on Summer Work by Fellow Mathematics and Statistics Students Part I


 Wed, September 25, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp

A Look at the World of Finance, Zheyuan Hu, BlackRock Financial Management in NYC


Events for Spring 2013



The Problem Solving Seminar is an off-shoot of the Math/Stat club.  Students who intend to take the Putnam along with others interested in improving their problem-solving  abilities meet weekly on Friday for lunch noon to 1:00 in Clapp 416 (in the fall semester) with a faculty member to work on problems.  The seminar is not for credit, it is an extra-curricular activity.  Read this article about our problem solving group from 2 years ago group at: .
This year the club will hold its first meeting on Friday, September 28, problems get sent out on Sundays for group members to look over. We alternate weeks between solving problems one week and practicing our presentations the next week. On the first Saturday in December members from the Problem Solving Seminar take the Putnam exam.

Are you interested in learning to use mathematical methods to solve real world problems? The Mathematical Modeling Club meets weekly to discuss modeling strategies and work together on problems. Members of the Mathematical Modeling Club will elect a 3-person team to represent Mount Holyoke College in an international mathematical modeling contest that takes place in February. You do not need to be a mathematics or statistics major. Being able to think creatively about how to solve real problems is the most important thing, and the group benefits from having a variety of perspectives. People from other disciplines are welcome!

If you are planning to take the GRE Subject Test in Mathematics this fall (October or November), you should be working problems in as many sample tests as you can find.  You should also be giving yourself timed practice tests, since there is no substitute for that experience.  If you have questions about any aspect of this exam, whether about particular problems or particular topics, be sure to get those answered.

You're more than welcome to join the Mount Holyoke Actuarial Club if you're interested in becoming an actuary and want to learn a great deal about the insurance industry!

The Actuarial Club at Mount Holyoke College aims to help its members become strong actuarial candidates, to provide resources necessary for them to prepare for an actuarial career, and also to build a professional network with our wonderful alumnae actuaries. 


2012 Math/Stat Club Events

2011 Math/Stat Club Events