MHC Math and Stat Club

Fall 2015 Events

Wednesday, December 2, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Beverley Bell

Are you interested in making a difference?

Are you interested in teaching Mathematics?

The Master of Arts in Teaching at Mount Holyoke College is an accelerated coed teacher education program for aspiring middle, and secondary school teachers. The flexible, 11-month M.A.T. includes an innovative curriculum with a strong commitment to social justice and equity, a unique collaboration with EL Education. 

Come meet Bev Bell, the director of the MAT program and hear all about it.


Wednesday, November 18, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Alanna Hoyer-Leitzel

The 2-dimensional harmonic oscillator problem and linear flows on the torus

In this talk we'll see how to solve the 2-dimensional harmonic oscillator problem by solving the differential equations (like you'd learn to do in Math 333).  But then we'll take it a step further and look at the problem from a dynamical systems perspective!  We'll take a look at the topology of invariant sets of solutions (tori!) in the phase space and what happens to the solutions on these sets for different harmonic frequencies, and eventually figure out how to get the coolest drawings on a real life 2-dimensional harmonic oscillator machine.

FRIDAY, November 13, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Kabila Williams '99

Ms. Kabila Menesa Williams is a Senior Mathematics Assessment Specialist at TenMarks, an Amazon company.  Ms. Williams received her B.A. in mathematics from Mount Holyoke College (1999) and her Ed.M. in Secondary Mathematics Education from the University of Illinois (2001).  After 5 years of serving as the junior high math department chair at The Lab School of Washington in the nation's capitol, Ms. Williams was introduced to large-scale statewide assessments.  For 8 years, as a Test Development Specialist at The American Institutes for Research, Ms. Williams wrote and reviewed math questions for several national and international assessments including the PSAT and TIMSS.  Ms. Williams currently resides in Oakland, CA and although she misses her friends and family back East, she is thoroughly enjoying the wine, warmer weather, relaxed vibe and friendlier people in the greater San Francisco Bay Area!

Wednesday, November 4, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Spring 2016 Classes

Please join us to hear about 300-level mathematics and statistics classes offered here on campus and around the 5 colleges this spring.

Wednesday, October 28, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Seifu Chonde, Penn State

Big Data Literature Analytics for Disease Dynamics

Text summarization is important in guiding analysts in the so-called problem of 'storytelling'.  Storytelling entails quantifying complex relationships among entities within text for prediction of interesting stories or paths.  Here we present an automated framework of text summarization and visualization.  We focus on capturing and displaying entity relationships to aid in storytelling.  We break our algorithm into the processes of Reading, Assembling, and Interpreting entity-entity interactions.  This talk focuses on interpretation where we discuss how network science captures topological differences between disease topic areas.  We use case studies in biomedical (disease) literature to show how our approach provides summarization of chemical treatments, tracks the evolution of literature, and can be used to find latent links between research areas.  Finally, we adapt Stirling's (2007) framework for quantifying diversity and create a diversity heuristic to be used in science and technology policy for comparing research areas.

Wednesday, October 21, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Andrew Bray

Branch, Bound, and Kill: a family-friendly algorithm for statistical inference

Of central importance to statistical modeling is the likelihood function: the function that expresses all of information held in a data set in the context of a particular statistical model.  Despite its centrality to the statistical process, the likelihood is often frustratingly difficult to deal with analytically.  Of particular interest are the regions where these functions are high, and to find them statisticians often resort to general optimization algorithms that may fail to find the global optimum.  In this seminar we'll discuss a branch and bound style algorithm that evaluates the function to an arbitrary degree of precision within a given region of the parameter space, ensuring that no optima are excluded.


Wednesday, October 14, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Math in the Movies and "The Great Math Mystery: Is Math Invented by Humans, or is it the language of the Universe?"

After a brief overview of the Math in the Movies websites, we will watch the recent (April 2015) NOVA Video on a mathematical mystery tour--a provocative exploration of math's astonishing power across the centuries.  We discover math's signature in the swirl of a nautilus shell, the whirlpool of a galaxy, and the spiral in the center of a sunflower.  Math was essential to everything from the first wireless radio transmissions to the prediction and discovery of the Higgs boson and the successful landing of rovers on Mars.  Astrophysicist and write Mario Livio, along with a colorful cast of mathematicians, physicists, and engineers, follow math from Pythagoras to Einstein and beyond.  It all leads to the ultimate riddle: "Is math a human invention or the discovery of the language of the universe?"


Wednesday, October 7, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Reports on Summer Activities from Math/Stat Students, Part III

Wondering what kind of opportunities are available for students interested in mathematics and statistics?  Please join us to hear students Annakate Schatz, Fangyuan Hong, Celine Bien-Aime, and Tahlia Hodes.

Annakate participated in the Population Biology of Infectious Diseases REU at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA.  She worked on a model selection project that used an amphibian fungus as the case study.

Fangyuan attended MTBI, a math REU at Arizona State University for two months.  She built mathematical models to study the genetic and diet effects on obesity.

Celine was a part of the SIBS program at Columbia University where she conducted research on the relationship between discrimination and depression and took an Intro to Biostatistics and a computing course.

Tahlia took part in the Summer Institute in Training in Biostatistics (SIBS) and did graduate coursework at the school of public health at Emory University.  The program had a great influence on her future plans.


Wednesday, September 30, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Reports on Summer Activities from Math/Stat Students, Part II

Wondering what kind of opportunities are available for students interested in mathematics and statistics?  Please join us to hear students Regina Brecha, Emily Castner, Grace Barkhuff, Olivia Justynski, and Chenyue Lu.

Regina did a Research internship for the Air Force Research Lab at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.  She worked in a large group building mathematical models as preliminary research for the Air Force.

Emily was part of the summer REU Winthrop University in SC entitled, "Bridging Applied and Theoretical Mathematics."  Her work was in CS at the intersection between phylogenetics and algebraic geometry.

Grace spent the summer at an REU in the Bioinformatics Department at Boston University.  She used Python and SQLite to parse protein sequence data and analyze its phyiscal structures.

Olivia and Chenyue worked with Dylan Shepardson at MHC and Rob Dorit at Smith College on an interdisciplinary epidemiology modeling project.


Wednesday, September 23, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Reports on Summer Activities from Math/Stat Students, Part I

Wondering what kind of opportunities are available for students interested in mathematics and statistics? Please join us to hear students Rose Dennis, Maya Urbschat, Cecily Santiago, Emma Sweeting, Jacqui D'Angio, Shruti Kumar, and Siying Chen.

Cecily, Maya and Rose participated in the summer research program at MHC with Jessica Sidman and Jennifer Biermann.

Emma worked in the finance department of Wiley Publishing on a 3-4 year long project to convert an old accounting system over to a new one.

Jacqui and Shruti worked in investment firms: Jacqui at Eaton Vance in Boston and Shruti at Allianz Global Investors in NYC as part of the US Business Management & Strategy team.

Siying worked at MHC in Andrea Foulkes' lab applying a Bayesian variable selection algorithm to summary statistics in order to explore the distinction between the influence of genes and that of non-coding RNAs on certain traits.

Wednesday, September 16, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Welcome Meeting

Please join us for our first Math/Stat Club meeting of the year.  This is an opportunity to meet faculty and other students interested in mathematics and statistics.  You will hear about faculty research interests and many opportunities for students to meet each other and get involved in our department.

Spring 2015 Events

Wednesday, April 22, 12:15-1:00, 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 2014-2015?  What advice/suggestions do you have for 2015-2016?  Come share your ideas and join the conversation.

Wednesday, April 15, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Rudo Mudzi '14, Data Scientist, MassMutual Financial Group

Disability Income Insurance Morbidity Modeling at MassMutual

In the recent years, rich data has increasingly played a pivotal role in how both the private and public sectors make their decisions. MassMutual Financial Group takes advantage of its rich data by building predictive models to make better-informed decisions in running its business. In this talk we will look at survival analysis as a method of predicting incidence rate, as well as other claim experiences for incoming disability income insurance cases at MassMutual

Wednesday, April 8, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Raluca Ursu '10, PhD Student, University of Chicago

The Power of a Ranking: Quantifying the Effects of Rankings on Online Consumer Search and Choice

In this talk I will tell you about my journey from a Math and Economics major at Mount Holyoke College to a PhD student in Economics at the University of Chicago. For my thesis, I study how consumers’ choices are influenced by the order in which products are presented to them. I focus on an experiment done at Expedia where consumers saw hotels ranked in a random order instead of Expedia’s proprietary ranking. This experiment is exciting because it allows me to identify the causal effect of a ranking on purchases, which was previously not possible, as well as study how consumers’ online search is influenced by the ranking they observe. As we advance in an era of information abundance that has to be summarized in order to be useful, understanding how rankings affect choices is paramount. I will focus on how I am using math to study consumer behavior, as well as venture back to my MOHO days and discuss relevant coursework and preparation for those of you who are curious about graduate school.

Wednesday, April 1, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Luong Nguyen '12, Graduate Student, Joint CMU - UPitt PhD program in Computational Biology

Segmenting salient objects: How does statistics bring African safari closer to cancer tumor?

Segmentation is a difficult problem in computer vision. Numerous methods have been developed over the last few decades to tackle this problem. However, there are only a limited number of available methods specially customized for tissue images, in particular ones of biopsied tumors. The biopsied tumors are crucial to treatment decisions for cancer patients. A key component of biopsied tissue analysis is to identify diagnostically relevant architectural elements in a tissue. Despite the significance of this task, most of the currently available segmentation methods are not sufficiently robust and scalable due to their ulitization of highly engineered features and requirements of extensive training data. Recent developments in segmentation of natural images (e.g. African safari) show that statistical representation has the potential to overcome the aforementioned challenges. I will demonstrate a new segmentation approach inspired by state-of-the-art computer vision methods using images of breast tissues. 

Wednesday, March 25, 12:15-1:15 pm, 305 Kendade--Math/Stat and CS Joint Talk

Speaker: Marc Maier, MassMutual Data Science

Abstract:  Data science is an important discipline, generating insights and value to any organization willing to embrace it. In this talk, I will describe how the advanced analytics team at MassMutual approaches data science, and I will introduce our recently established Data Science Development Program. I will also present several concrete examples of completed and ongoing data science projects. These projects span a wide range of domains within the scope of large organization, including marketing and social media, sales and distribution, product development, and accounting. While covering example projects, I will highlight interactive visualizations we develop and key machine learning models we employ.
Bio: Marc Maier is a data scientist for MassMutual Financial Group and runs the MassMutual Data Science Development Program in Amherst. Marc recently earned his PhD in Computer Science from UMass Amherst. His dissertation, "Causal Discovery for Relational Domains: Representation, Reasoning, and Learning" received the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award for 2015. Marc previously earned his MS and BS in Computer Science and BS Mathematics from UMass. During his tenure as a graduate student, Marc has worked on machine learning projects for start-ups, DARPA, IARPA, Comcast, MIT Lincoln Labs, and FINRA. He has publications appearing in top data mining and machine learning conferences and journals, including KDD, UAI, ICML, AAAI, ICDM, and TKDD
Pizza and beverages will be available.

Friday, March 13, 9:26:53 AM, 416 Clapp-- Pi Day Celebration

Hello Pi(e) Lovers!  

Join us for a brief, but fun, (Pre)Pi Day Celebration in 416 Clapp on Friday in 416 Clapp at 9:26:53 AM.  There will be pie for all, and a surprise treat for the first arrivals, until supplies run out. 

Our celebration is taking place exactly 24 hours before the Epic Pi Day of the Millennium --- this year we will be celebrating Pi to 9 decimal places:  3.141592653 --- in other words, March 14, 2015 at 9:26:53 AM.  This won't happen again until the next millennium.

Come a few minutes beforehand for the countdown and give a shout out to Pi --- and join the pi(e) circle!

Wednesday, March 11, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Amelia McNamara, UCLA

Statistical programming-- past, present, and future
While statistics has been practiced for centuries, and computer-aided statistics for decades, we are still learning what makes it easy to do and understand statistics. Statistical computing tools have improved since the early days, but there are still features dreamed of in the 1970s that remain unimplemented, and many computational programs simply attempt to emulate what was done with pencil and paper. However, computers offer the possibility to go beyond just speeding up processes that could be done by hand, and data have changed since the time when many statistical packages were written. So, it is clear there is a need for new computational tools.
Furthermore, there is a gap between the tools we use to do statistics and those we use to learn and teach statistics. Often, there is no bridge to span that gap, which leaves users to struggle to make the connection. My research explores the qualities of a statistical programming tool that would support a user "from cradle to grave," taking them through the entire learning-to-doing trajectory. I will present my theory and an experimental prototype that shows some of the features I envision.
Wednesday, March 4, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Michael Flynn, Director of Mathematics Leadership Programs (MLP) at MHC

Making Mathematics Meaningful: The Changing Tide in K-8 Math Education and How MHC Helps Teachers Navigate New Territory. 
Michael Flynn, Director of Mathematics Leadership Programs (MLP) at Mount Holyoke College will discuss how math education has changed for students and teachers and how he and his colleagues work to support educators in evolving their practice. MLP had developed some innovative methods for working with teachers including virtual lesson studies and dynamic hybrid learning environments. Their work has piqued the interest of organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who are interested in supporting their projects. Learn about some of this amazing work as well as emerging career opportunities in the field of math leadership.

Thursday, February 26, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Sara Nunez, UMass Graduate Student

Translating Math into a Career
Navigating the roadmap from education to career is challenging in any discipline. As a Mathematics or Statistics major in particular, the opportunities are endless, but this does not make it any easier. My undergraduate education in Mathematics prepared me for a strong career in a way I had not understood until recently. I will be discussing my journey that led me to work in a biostatistics lab here at MHC, as well as some of the reasons I find biostatistical research to be interesting. I will also give a brief overview and example of the kind of data and challenges we deal with everyday that make positions like mine invaluable.
Wednesday, February 25, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Prospective Major/Minor Lunch

Considering Mathematics or Statistics for your major or minor?  Come join us for pizza and conversation!!  Current majors and minors are invited to come share their experiences with you. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 18, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speakers:  Dara Zirlin and Samantha Vanschalkwyk

An Interactive Discussion of the Putnam Exam and the Problem Solving Group
The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, also known as the Putnam Exam, is a thought-provoking undergraduate mathematical competition administered the first Saturday of every December. We will take a look at some problems from previous Putnam Exams in an attempt to introduce the Putnam Exam as well as other similar problems. We will also discuss the role of the Problem Solving Group in preparing for the Putnam Exam.

Wednesday, February 11, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Eric Reed, UMass Graduate Student

A brief discussion of interdisciplinary studies combining mathematical principles with life sciences

Biostatistics and bioinformatics are two overlapping fields of study that combine elements of mathematics, statistics, biology, public health and computer science.  Both involve building, applying and evaluating useful mathematical models, within the context of life and health science research. In this talk, I will discuss how I came to pursue degrees in both areas. I will introduce topics in genetics that illustrate the utility of a fundamental understanding of mathematics and statistics. Lastly, I will summarize some of the highlights of my own collaborative research, which seeks draw inference for association between genetic variation and the expression of specific traits.  

Wednesday, February 4, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Jessica Sidman

Geometry and the complexity of computation

Algebraic geometers study curves, surfaces, and higher dimensional objects that are defined implicitly by systems of polynomial equations.  Manipulating polynomial equations on a computer can reveal interesting geometric properties of their solution sets. There are examples showing that such computations can be very costly in general.  However, in nice geometric situations, computations are often quite manageable. I will discuss joint work with Aldo Conca treating a special case of this phenomenon.

Wednesday, January 28, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Grace Barkhuff '16, Research Through the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics REU Class

Using Randomization to Understand Neural Networks

The brain is comprised of millions of neurons, connected in particular patterns in order to send electrical impulses and messages between one another. These neurons and connections are often visualized as graphs comprised of points and lines, called vertices and edges. On the graph, vertices represent individual neurons and edges represent the connections between them.

While sleeping or resting, the hippocampus of the brain sends electrical impulses in a Sharp Wave Ripple (SWR) pattern which helps the brain form memories. Given a specific set of data which represents a neural network of the hippocampus of a rat brain, my research group used computer simulations to understand which particular aspects of the structure of the neural network were vital to have a functioning hippocampus, as determined by the presence of SWR. This was done using randomization processes on an adjacency matrix of the neural network in order to rule out one at a time which aspects of the network are not necessary to produce SWR.

Fall 2014 Events

Wednesday, December 3, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Where in the world can math/stat majors go?

Please join us for the final Math/Stat Club meeting of the semester. As this semester comes to a close, a lot of us are already thinking about next semester and beyond. At this meeting we will talk about opportunities for study abroad for majors in mathematics and statistics and any special planning necessary. Students who have returned from study abroad experiences will be on hand to talk about their experiences and help answer questions.

Wednesday, November 26 -- Thanksgiving Break: no scheduled talk

Wednesday, November 19, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Chaitra Gopalappa, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, UMass

Systems Simulation Modeling for Public Health Applications

Infectious diseases such as HIV, TB, malaria, and Ebola disproportionately affect certain populations. Though the how-tos of prevention are known, their implementations are challenging because of the complicated interactions between disease, socio-economics, and behavior. A holistic approach to disease prevention often includes interventions at the individual-level, such as testing programs to diagnose and treat infected persons, interventions at the population-level, such as awareness programs, and interventions at the systemic-level, such as timely updates to guidelines and policies. Interventions may also include continuing care at various stages of disease progression to minimize disease burden. Several of these interventions differ by population groups based on need.

Given these complicated interactions, techniques that can model the dynamics of these interactions, such as systems simulation models, are used to evaluate intervention scenarios so the limited resources can be allocated efficiently. Analyses of short- and long- term impacts and costs of alternative scenarios of combination intervention programs could inform the development of strategies for disease prevention. In this talk I will discuss two types of systems simulation modeling techniques, compartmental and agent-based, for application to public health decision making.  

Wednesday, November 12, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Isabelle Beaudry, UMass, Amherst
An overview of the actuarial profession

Have you considered an actuarial career but you are not too sure what actuaries do in practice? With a 26% projected growth in employment from 2012-2022*, the possibility of undertaking this profession is worth exploring. Come learn more about this exciting profession and its challenges. In this talk, I will present an overview of the typical roles of actuaries, who their employers are, what the examination process is and finally, a brief description of my personal experience as a retirement plan actuary.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Actuaries

Wednesday, November 5, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Adam Gamzon

Euclidean proofs of the infinitude of primes in arithmetic progressions

Euclid's proof that there are infinitely many prime numbers is known for the simple yet elegant way it argues this classic result.  In 1837 Dirichlet proved the following generalization: if a and n are integers whose greatest common factor is 1 then there are infinitely many primes of the form a + nk for some integer k.  For example, if a = 1 and n = 4 then this means there are infinitely many primes of the form 1 + 4k where k is some integer.  That is, there are infinitely many primes like 5 = 1 + 4, 13 = 1 + 4(3), 17 = 1 + 4(4) and so on.  However, in contrast to Euclid's proof that there are infinitely many primes, Dirichlet's argument uses some deep results of analytic number theory.  In the course of this talk, we will give Euclid's classic proof, explain what we mean by a Euclidean proof of Dirichlet's theorem and then endeavor to answer the question: is it possible to provide a simple proof along the lines of Euclid's argument for Dirichlet's theorem?

Wednesday, October 29, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Spring Classes!!

Please join us to hear about 300-level classes offered here on campus and around the 5 colleges this spring.

Wednesday, October 22, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Math/Stat Club at the Movies....
Please join us for a viewing of the movie Flatland.  From

"FLATLAND: THE MOVIE" is an award-winning animated film inspired by Edwin A. Abbott's classic 1884 novel, “Flatland.”  Set in a world of only two dimensions inhabited by sentient geometric shapes, the story follows Arthur Square (Martin Sheen) and his ever-curious granddaughter Hex (Kristen Bell).  When a mysterious visitor arrives from Spaceland (Michael York), Arthur and Hex must come to terms with the truth of the third dimension, risking dire consequences from the evil Circles that have ruled Flatland for a thousand years.

Wednesday, October 15, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Speaker: Samrachana Adhikari, MHC '11

Statistical Analysis of Real-World Networks

Network data representing complex phenomena in fields such as biology, physics, economics, finance and education is abundant today. Social online networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter), brain networks, gene networks, financial networks, friendship networks of teachers in schools, etc. are some of the examples of such real-world networks. Researchers hope to understand underlying complex phenomena that form such networks in these fields by analyzing observed network data. A network consists of fixed nodes (e.g. social online users) and dependent edges (e.g. friendship relations). Many real-world networks are noisy and very large. Modeling stochasticity in such highly dependent complex structures poses challenges in existing statistical approach and is computationally harder. Most of the recent works in statistics to analyze networks has been on this front. In this talk, I will delve into the need to build consistent and interpretable statistical models to analyze real-world networks in a systematic and computationally feasible manner. I will motivate the talk by giving examples of networks from different domains, as well as the associated questions researchers in these domains attempt to answer. Next, I will give a general overview of the existing methods for network analysis. In particular, I will discuss ongoing work in the Hierachical Network Methods (HNM) research group in the Statistics Department at Carnegie Mellon University.

Wednesday, October 8, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Reports on summer activities from Math/Stat students, Part III

Wondering what kind of opportunities are available for students interested in mathematics and statistics?   Please join us to hear students Adelyn Yeoh, Caiyun Zhu, Anne Waldo, Dara Zirlin, Maria Ferreras, and Stephanie Stark share information about their summer experiences.

Adelyn, Caiyun and Anne worked together in a number theory research group on campus.  Stephanie also stayed on campus and worked on problems in rigidity theory related to computer-aided design.  Dara went to the REU at Lafayette College and Maria was an intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Equity Capital Markets.

Wednesday, October 1, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp--Reports on summer activities from Math/Stat students, Part II

Wondering what kind of opportunities are available for students interested in mathematics and statistics?   Please join us to hear students Taylor Anderson, Mariah Mullins and Stephanie Stark share information about their summer experiences.

Taylor participated in the Complex and Dynamical Systems REU at the University of Minnesota.  Mariah did research with a professor of statistics at UMass who works with network methods used by the CDC and UNAIDS.  Stephanie stayed on campus and worked on problems in rigidity theory to computer-aided design.

Wed., September 24, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- Reports on summer activities from Math/Stat students, Part I

Wondering what kind of opportunities are available for students interested in mathematics and statistics?  Please join us to hear students Sam VanSchalkwyk, Amanda Benson, and Maria Sellanes share information about their summer experiences.  

Sam participated in the MSRI-UP research program.  Amanda taught math and art classes to children in Nicaragua.  Maria worked as a camp counselor at MathPath.

Wed., September 17, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- The Math/Stat Book Club presents: The Man Who Knew Infinity

Please join us for a conversation about the life of famed mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan hosted by the Math/Stat Book Club. This summer the book club read the biography of Ramanujan,The Man Who Knew Infinity, by Robert Kanigel.  We'll lead a discussion inspired by the book, asking questions about genius, the "best" way to educate a mathematician, how social class shapes mathematical culture, competition in mathematics, whether proof is necessary, and more.  No need to have read the book to join in the conversation, though it may inspire  you to read it later!

Wed., September 10, 12:15-1:00 pm, 416 Clapp -- Welcome Meeting

Please join us for our first Math/Stat Club meeting of the year.  This is an opportunity to meet faculty and other students interested in mathematics and statistics.  You will hear about faculty research interests and many opportunities for students to meet each other and get involved in our department.

We will have pizza, drinks, and… surprise gifts!
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 Some Truly Impressive Figures, May 2, 2011.

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.