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Departmental News

Smith Team receives Meritorious designation in Interdisciplinary Contest for Modeling

This year three Smith teams received recognition for their work in the ICM! Two received Honorable Mention and one received a Meritorious designation. Congrats to Vera Bao, Maria Xu, Lucy Li, Rebecca Rohrlich, Elizabeth Freeman, Ji Won Chung, Erina Fukada, and Monica Zhang.

Smith Team wins Best in Show at ASA Five College DataFest

Once again a Smith team won Best in Show at the annual ASA Five College DataFest competition. The winning team DataBest consisted of Zainab Aqdas Rizvi, Subashini Sridhar, Ji Young Yun, Ji Won Chung, and Van Nguyen.

Smith Team wins Best in Show at ASA Five College DataFest

For the second year in a row, a Smith team brought home the Best in Show prize at the annual ASA Five College DataFest competition. The winning team, called 2β||!2β, consisted of Galen Long, Sara Stoudt, Zhenzhen Tan, Aiyi Zhang, and Vega Zhang.

Ruth Haas awarded the 2015 Gweneth Humphreys Award

Professor Ruth Haas was named as the recipient of the 2015 Gweneth Humphreys Award from the Association for Women in Mathematics. The prize recognizes outstanding mentorship in encouraging female undergraduate students to pursue mathematical careers and/or the study of mathematics at the graduate level. From the press release:

The importance of Haas’s contributions to Smith and to the mathematics community in general is best understood by the following extraordinary statement from her nomination letter: “Of the U.S. citizen women earning doctorates in mathematics in 2013 from the top 100 graduate schools in America, 6% were mentored by Ruth Haas. From her position at a relatively small school, Ruth Haas is mentoring a sizable percentage of the new generation of American women mathematicians.”

Stoudt '15 wins First Prize in Statistics in Sports Undergraduate Research Competition

Sara Stoudt '15 was awarded First Prize in the 2014 Statistics in Sports Undergraduate Research Competition held at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Boston in August. The competition was sponsored by the Statistics in Sports section of the American Statistical Association and was open to all undergraduate students doing research in sports analytics. Stoudt received a $250 cash prize for her entry: The Perfect Bracket: Machine Learning in NCAA Basketball

Warren Buffett's 1 billion dollar prize for the perfect 2013 - 2014 NCAA bracket and Kaggle's March Machine Learning Madness competition increased the stakes of predicting this year's tournament results. Adding to the core data given by the Kaggle competition of team wins and loses since 1995 - 1996, we gather other team data to allow for more flexibility and options for modeling. We investigate different ensemble methods in R that contain strategies such as a modified PageRank algorithm, decision trees, neural networks, among others to predict probabilities of different match-ups and create a bracket for this season. We discuss strengths and weaknesses of our approach.

At the JSM, Stoudt gave a four-minute SPEED talk and presented an electronic poster the next morning. These presentations were the culmination of work conducted as part of MTH 301 in the spring of 2014 with Loren Santana '14 and Ben Baumer. The resulting paper will be published in the Proceedings of the JSM and is under review for a special issue of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports centered around the Kaggle March Machine Learning Madness competition.

Smith students recognized in Amstat News for DataFest

Several Smith students were featured in a recent article about DataFest published in the Amstat News. The inaugural Five College DataFest took place at UMass in late March. The article describes how DataFest has spread to multiple locations across the country in 2014.

Evelyn Boyd Granville turns 90!

Evelyn Boyd Granville '45, the second African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics, turned 90 on May 1, 2014. Scientific American followed with a nice article about her life in mathematics.

Mary Murphy Named as Winner of Sherrerd Teaching Award

Mary Murphy, senior lecturer of mathematics and statistics, was named recently as a winner of the 2014 Kathleen Compton Sherrerd ’54 and John J. F. Sherrerd Prizes for Distinguished Teaching. Each year, Smith students, faculty and alumnae submit nominations for the Sherrerd teaching prize, which recognizes the distinguished teaching records and demonstrated enthusiasm and excellence of Smith faculty members. It has become a symbol of the value, commitment and dedication Smith places on superior pedagogy.

This year’s recipients will be formally recognized at the Sherrerd teaching prize ceremony and reception on October 16, 2014, which is open to the Smith community.

New School Record Set in Putnam Competition

The scores from the 2013 Putnam Competition are in, and Smith's team, organized by Rajan Mehta, had a record-high ranking of 66 out of 557 competing schools. The Putnam is notoriously hard -- half of the students that take the exam get a score of zero. At Smith, out of eight students taking the exam, six earned positive scores. Four students (Vera Bao '17, Helen He '16, Emily Li '17, and Yijin Wei '16) ranked in the top 1000 out of more than 4000 competitors. Our highest performer, Yijin Wei, ranked in the top 15%.

Five Math Majors win Best in Show at 2014 Five College DataFest

11 students from Smith, including two entire teams of five students, competed for prizes in the inaugural Five College DataFest held at UMass over the weekend of March 28-30th. DataFest is a nationally-coordinated data analysis competition for undergraduates that has grown from one site to five in just four years. This first edition of the Five College event, which was sponsored in part by the department, featured over 60 students representing each of the Five Colleges. Three of the nine teams that finished the competition contained Smithies, including two teams comprised mostly or entirely of math majors:

  1. The Unpredictables: Elizabeth Atkins '15, Carmen Augusto '16, Yadira Flores '15, Ji Ah Lee '14, and Shreeya Rajanarayanan '14
  2. P-Valuables: Deirdre Fitzpatrick '14, Michele Handy '15, Maja Milosavljevic '14, Sara Stoudt '15, and Dana Udwin '14

After a careful deliberation from the judges, the P-Valuables brought home the Best in Show prize.

Student Work Featured at Celebrating Collaborations

A number of math students and faculty will have their work showcased at Celebrating Collaborations, which will take place on Saturday, April 12, 2014.

The morning Science Poster session contains several math and statistics related projects:

During the afternoon concurrent sessions, an entire session is devoted to:

Insights Through Math, Statistics and Logic: Seelye 206

while more mathematics will be seen in:

Structure and Movement: Seelye 211

New Data Science course featured in Alumnae Quarterly

The department's newest course, MTH 292: Data Science, was featured in the Spring 2013 issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly. The course, taught by Ben Baumer, develops students' abilities to extract meaningful information from large, messy, complex, and even live data sets. These skills are in high demand, but require a blend of training in mathematics, statistics, and computer science. Sara Stoudt '15, Dana Udwin '14, and Kelly Francis '15 completed a project for the course on people's perceptions of the weather that is featured in the article. For a more complete description of their work, see their presentation at Celebrating Collaborations. A second group project from the course by Maja Milosavljevic '14, post-bac Loren Santana, and Jordan Menter '16, will also be featured in the same session.

Atela delivers lecture in "Sunny in the Furance"

In Aki Sasamoto's performance "Sunny in the Furnace," Pau Atela delivers a lecture on catastrophe theory. The performance debuted in Chelsea in early March and features large mathematical objects designed by Atela. Read more in The New York Times.

Department to sponsor upcoming Five College DataFest

We are happy to announce that the Five College DataFest, sponsored in part by the department, will be held the weekend of March 29th and 30th at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. DataFest is a nationally-coordinated competition that challenges undergraduates working in teams of up to five to extract meaningful insights from a rich and complex data set. A number of prizes will be awarded, including: "Best in Show", "Best Visualization", and "Best Use of External Data". Previous DataFests held at UCLA and Duke University have drawn large numbers of students, and we are hoping for a great turnout from the Five Colleges. Please contact Ben Baumer or Andrew Bray for more information.

Henle awarded Robbins Prize at Joint Math Meetings

On Januray 16, 2014, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings held in Baltimore, Jim Henle and his son Frederick shared the David P. Robbins Prize, which is awarded every three years by the Mathematical Association of America for a paper that reports on novel research in algebra, combinatorics, or disceret mathematics, has a significant experimental component, and is on a topic which is broadly accessible.

The text of the Citation is presented below. Please see the Prize Booklet for a fuller description.

Frederick V. Henle and James M. Henle
"Squaring the plane," American Mathematical Monthly, 115 (2008), no. 1, 3–12.
The problem is simple. You are supplied with infinitely many square tiles, but they all have different sizes, in fact there is exactly one n-by-n square for each positive integer n. Your task is to use these squares to tile the plane, no overlaps or gaps allowed, and you must use all of the squares. A traditional tiling uses many congruent copies of the same tile or a few tiles. Now, no two tiles are alike.
Inspired by a paper of William Tutte in 1950 showing that a square can be tiled by finitely many different smaller squares, Solomon Golomb (recent winner of the U.S. National Medal of Science) posed the question in 1975 on whether the plane can be tiled with the integer squares. Shortly after, it was picked up by Martin Gardner in his Scientific American column, and several partial results appeared in the intervening years.
With only meager progress, some began to think such a tiling was not possible. But it is.
This delightful article gives a complete description of a tiling of the plane using one square of each integral side. The argument itself does not bring in any “big guns” to settle the problem; rather it uses “big ingenuity,” which is always prefer- able. As such, the paper is completely accessible to undergraduates. The article closes with a number of intriguing open problems; we hope that this award will help call attention to them.

Students, faculty, and administrators were in attendance to offer their congratulations to Jim and Fred.

A number of students and faculty engaged in other talks at the Joint Meetings: