Past events

Spring 2012

The Undergraduate Connecticut Valley Colloquium
Thursday March 29 at 7:30 in Kendade 305 (with dessert to follow)

Deanna Haunsperger and Stephen Kennedy, Carleton College

Bright Lights on the Horizon

What do stand-up comedians, square-wheeled bicycles, magical birthdates and spherical painting have in common? All have been featured in "Math Horizons", the magazine published by the MAA for undergraduate math majors. Steve and Deanna edited the magazine for five years and assembled a ten-year "Best of MH" retrospective volume. In this talk they will share some of their favorite highlights from the articles featured in that volume.

The Connecticut Valley Colloquium
Monday March 12, at 4:30 in Kendade 305 (with refreshments and dinner to follow)

Yanir Rubinstein, Stanford University

Uniformization and geometry: the quest for canonical geometric structures on manifolds

What is the ``best", or most canonical, geometric structure on a given smooth manifold? For surfaces, a natural such structure is that of a metric of constant curvature, and the Uniformization Theorem implies that any compact surface admits a constant curvature metric, with the sign of the curvature determined by the genus. In this talk we will explore some higher-dimensional analogues of this result related to "Einstein metrics". This is a century old problem that is still baffling and wide-open to this day. We will touch on aspects of the problem that are on the cross-roads of differential geometry, algebraic geometry, PDEs, and several complex variables. The talk should be accessible to undergraduates.

Truth Values: One Girl's Romp Through MIT's Male Math Maze

Gioia De Cari will present her one-woman show, "Truth Values: One Girl's Romp Through MIT's Male Math Maze" on Monday, Feb 6, 7:30-9:30 p.m. in Rooke Theater.  The show is free and open to the public, but reservations are strongly encouraged.  Email Laurie Kamins ( to reserve a seat.  A discussion will follow the show.

Fall 2011

The Lester J. Senechal Lecture, Mark Peterson
Friday October 14, at 4:00 in Kendade 305 (reception following the talk)

What was Galileo trying to do?
What was Galileo trying to do? The Senechal Lecture. Mathematics changed dramatically over Galileo's lifetime, but without the discovery of any particularly new mathematics. After Galileo, mathematics was suddenly able to model the world in ways that had not even been considered before. This lecture aims to discover what Galileo's (considerable) part was in this development, an aspect of his thought that has been more or less hidden under the more familiar parts of his story like the Copernican controversy.

MHC Math/Stat Club presents the second
Cobb Lecture in Applied Statistics

Friday, February 25, 4:00-5:00 p.m. in 305 Kendade

Sastry Pantula

Director of Mathematical Sciences, NSF
Professor and Head, Department of Statistics
NC State University


A Key to Innovation in a Data-Centric World

A reception will follow the talk outside 305 Kendade.  There will also be a dinner at 6:15 p.m. at the Willits Hallowell Center, $20 per person.  Please contact Laurie Kamins (lkamins) for dinner reservations.

Mount Holyoke College’s Connecticut Valley Mathematics
Colloquium Presents The Lester J. Senechal Lecture 2010

Fractals and PDEs between Scylla and Charybdis

Umberto Mosco, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

305 Kendade Hall, December 2, 4:15


We describe how fractal concepts can be incorporated in the classical theory of partial differential equations and which are the new perspectives they open to applications. We explain how metric notions from abstract harmonic analysis provide a common roof to fractal and sub-Riemannian operators, and how homogenization theory helps to understand the wild metamorphosis of shape and sound of an Euclidean membrane developing fractal features. And what the challenges are in moving away from the classical isoperimetric volume vs surface relation and dealing with boundary value problems in small Euclidean domains with large fractal boundaries.

Refreshments: 5:15-5:45 p.m. – outside of 305 Kendade
Dinner: 6:15 p.m. – Private Dining Room at Willits

Dinner will be $20 per person.  RSVP by November 22nd to Laurie Kamins at if you plan on attending.  Entrée: Boursin Stuffed Chicken (please indicate if you would prefer a vegetarian entrée)
(Non-MHC attendees: please park in the two-hour visitor spaces or in the visitor lot behind Willits-Hallowell Center (near Prospect Hall.)

Jean Sammet Lecture 2010

Symbiotic Robot Autonomy: Autonomous Mobile Robots Coexisting with Humans in Indoor Environments

Manuela Veloso, Carnegie Mellon University

Hooker Auditorium, November 18, 7:30 PM


We envision ubiquitous autonomous mobile robots that can help and coexist with humans. Such robots are still far from common, as our environments offer great challenges to robust robot perception, cognition, and action. We realize the envisioned robot and human co-existence as a symbiotic human-robot interaction, such that robots and humans build upon their complementary limitations and expertise. I will present CoBot, our visitor's companion robot that can provide guidance to visitors unfamiliar with the building, while it can also identify and overcome its limitations by asking for human help. I will present CoBot's effective mobile robot indoor localization and navigation algorithms that use a WiFi signature perceptual map combined with geometric constraints of the building. I will illustrate CoBot's performance with examples of autonomous hours-long runs of the robot in our buildings. I will then discuss the opportunities and tradeoffs raised by the symbiotic human-robot interaction, and present illustrative studies. I conclude with the presentation of our second CoBot robot and its novel mobile telepresence, and our ongoing work towards having multiple robots and humans engaged in planning and coordination for a variety of tasks.

Tuesday, December 2 2008

7:30 pm, Hooker Auditorium

Andrew McLaughlin, Head of Global Public Policy and Gov't Affairs, Google, Inc. Ethan Zuckerman, Researcher at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Co-founder of Global Voices.

Internet for the Other Five Billion, How and Why?
In 1988, the Internet was an academic curiosity, used by less than a million students and professors.  Twenty years later, it's the backbone of communication, commerce and technological innovation around the world.  It's easy to forget that most of the world still is not connected to the internet and that the internet continues to change and evolve as people from different countries, languages and cultures connect to the network.

How and when will the internet reach the five billion people not currently connected?  How will the inputs of these new users change and reshape the internet?  Who's responsible for bringing the internet to a wider world - governments?  NGOs?  private companies? - and should this be a priority for international development?  Our speakers may answer these questions differently, and our talk will be a lively and wide-ranging discussion on the cultural, political, technical and economic future of the internet.


  • Department of Mathematics and Statistics
  • Department of Computer Science
  • McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives
  • A Gift from Jean E. Sammet, MHC Class of 1948

2008 Jean E. Sammet Lecture

Tuesday, November 18
7:30 pm, L2 Cleveland Hall
Speaker: Prof. Afra Zomorodian, Dartmouth College, Department of Computer Science
Geometry of Colon Cancer
Topology of Lipid Fusion

2008 Lecture in Honor of Prof. Emeritus Lester J. Senechal

Friday Oct 17
5:00 p.m.,  305 Kendade Hall
Tea at 4:30 p.m. in Room 416 Clapp Laboratory
Our speaker was: Prof. Raji Balasubramanian, Sc.D. (MHC, '96), UMass School of Public Health
Estimating HIV Incidence based on Combined Prevalence Testing

Knowledge of incidence rates of HIV and other infectious diseases is important in evaluating the state of an epidemic as well as for designing interventional clinical trials. Estimation of disease incidence from longitudinal studies can be expensive and time-consuming.  Alternatively, Janssen et al. (1998) proposed the estimation of HIV incidence at a single point in time based on the combined use of a standard and ``detuned" antibody assay.  In this talk, this problem is framed using a maximum likelihood based approach, from which the estimator of incidence is determined and compared with the Janssen estimator.  This formulation also allows estimation for general situations, including different batteries of tests among subjects, inclusion of covariates, and a more complete evaluation of different test batteries to help guide study design.  The methods are illustrated with data from an HIV interventional trial and a seroprevalence survey recently conducted in Botswana. (This is joint work with Stephen W. Lagakos.)

This work is very applied and should be accessible to most students.  The talk will begin with motivation and examples, describe the method and conclude with a data example and further applications.