Tag Archive for mathematics and computer science

Comfort Remembered for Teaching Mathematics 40 Years at Wesleyan

Wis Comfort

Wis Comfort

William Wistar “Wis” Comfort II, the Edward Burr Van Vleck Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, died Nov. 28 at the age of 83.

Comfort received his BA from Haverford College, and an MSc and PhD from the University of Washington (Seattle) and was an expert on point-set topology, ultrafilters, set theory and topological groups. He joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1967 after teaching at Harvard, University of Rochester and University of Massachusetts (Amherst). Comfort taught in the mathematics department for 40 years until his retirement in 2007, where he supervised 17 PhD theses and three MA theses. He was a key figure in the founding of the Math Workshop, a drop-in help center for students that he directed for many years that remains widely used today.

Comfort was named an American Mathematical Society Fellow in the inaugural class of AMS Fellows in 2013 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication and utilization of mathematics. He was active in the AMS, serving as associate secretary of the Eastern Section and as the managing editor of the Proceedings of the AMS. He published three books, including Chain Conditions in Topology (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1982), and more than 100 mathematical papers.

Comfort was a Quaker, a musician who played the trombone in a Dixieland band, and a dignified gentleman who exuded collegiality. He is survived by his daughter, Martha, and his son, Howard. His beloved wife, longtime Wesleyan staff member Mary Connie Comfort, passed away in May 2016. His family requests that memorial contributions be made in Wis’s name to Middletown Friends Meeting (Quakers) or the Essex Meadows Employee Scholarship Fund. A memorial service will be held on campus in April 2017.

Green Street Receives Grant to Expand K-8 Math Institute

Cameron Hill, assistant professor of mathematics, taught an Intel Math course to area teachers as part of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center's K-8 Math Institute. The Department of Education recently awarded GSTLC with a grant to expand its program and reach 90 teachers from three new school districts. 

Cameron Hill, assistant professor of mathematics, taught an Intel Math course to area teachers as part of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center’s K-8 Math Institute. The Department of Education recently awarded GSTLC with a grant to expand its program and reach 90 teachers from three new school districts.

The Green Street Teaching and Learning Center has received a second round of funding from the State of Connecticut Department of Education to expand its K-8 Math Institute to three new school districts over the next two years.

The $428,479 Math and Science Partnership Award will allow Green Street offer the program to 90 teachers from the Hamden, Vernon and New Haven school districts in programs being offered this summer and next. Green Street works closely with district math coordinators to select teachers to participate.

“In Connecticut and all over the country, there are issues with math education—students aren’t achieving at the level they should,” said Sara MacSorley, director of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. “With the adoption of Common Core standards in math, we wanted to come up with a program that would help improve teachers’ mastery of math concepts as well as their confidence with math.”

Starr’s Nanoparticle Research Published in Science

Professor Francis Starr and his collaborators are working to self-assemble a diamond-structured lattice at will from nanoscale particles.(Image by graduate student Hamed Emamy). 

Professor Francis Starr and his collaborators are working to self-assemble a diamond-structured lattice at will from nanoscale particles. (Image by graduate student Hamed Emamy).

Professor Francis Starr, graduate student Hamad Emamy and collaborators from the Brookhaven National Lab have co-authored a paper titled “Diamond Family of Nanoparticle Superlattices” published in the prestigious journal Science on Feb. 5. Starr is professor of physics and director of the College of Integrative Sciences.

Their work proposed a solution to a decades-long challenge to self-assemble a diamond-structured lattice at will from nanoscale particles.

“Such a diamond-lattice structure has long been sought after due to its potential applications as a light controlling device, including optical transistors, color-changing materials, and optical — as opposed to electronic — computing,” Starr said.

To solve this challenge, the team utilized the specific binding properties of DNA as a tool for materials science. Specifically, they created nanoscale “atoms” that consist of 15 nanometer gold nanoparticles coated with many single-stranded DNA. The single-stranded DNA act like binding arms to connect nanoparticle/DNA “atoms” by forming double-stranded DNA links, and analogue of traditional chemical bonds between atoms. By appropriate selection of the sequence and orientation of these DNA links, the nanoparticles will spontaneously arrange themselves into the desired structure.

“This self-assembly approach not only allows for highly specific order, but also offers the potential for tremendous savings in the cost of materials production, as compared to traditional methods used in the semi-conductor industry,” Starr explained.

Emamy, a graduate student in Starr’s lab, carried out numerical simulations that helped to develop the approach and explain how to stabilize the structure. Collaborators at Brookhaven experimentally synthesized and verified the structure and properties. The effort, Starr said, represented an ideal collaboration between experiments, theory and computation.

Pollack, Chan Attend Number Theory Conference in Germany

David Pollack, associate professor of mathematics, and Wai Kiu “Billy” Chan, chair and professor mathematics and computer science, recently attended a conference titled “Lattices and Applications in Number Theory” in Germany.

Pollack and Chan traveled to the Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach (MFO), the first research institution established in Germany after World War II, to take part in a weeklong workshop held Jan. 17-23. Dedicated to providing an institute for international cooperative research, the MFO brings together leading experts from all over the world in order to pursue their research activities, discuss recent developments in their field, and generate new ideas. Pollack and Chan were both invited guests.

The workshop focused on the interaction of lattices with number theory, looking specifically at the application of modular forms, finite group theory, algebraic number theory, and the application of tools from linear and semi-definite optimization; applications of lattice theoretic methods to the investigation of algebraic structures; Arakelov geometry; and algebraic modular forms and Hecke operators, especially for orthogonal groups where lattice theoretic concepts play a major role.

(Article by Fred Wills ’19)

Air Force Supports Licata’s Software Verification Project

Dan Licata

Dan Licata

Dan Licata, assistant professor of computer science, is one of 56 scientists in the country to receive a grant from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) through its Young Investigator Research Program. The AFOSR is awarding approximately $20.6 million in grants.

The Young Investigator Research Program is open to scientists and engineers at research institutions across the United States who received PhD or equivalent degrees in the last five years and who show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research. Licata, who received a PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University in 2011, will use his grant to study “Software Verification with Directed Type Theory.”

Licata’s proposed work will investigate the foundations of proof assistants, tools that programmers and mathematicians can use to help with their work.

“By using a proof assistant, a programmer can rigorously prove that a program will have good behavior every time it is run, finding errors before the program is deployed and run by the user,” Licata explained. “These tools have been used to verify many large programs and programming language implementations, and in the process many behavioral, efficiency, and security problems have been solved.”

The same tools, he said, also can be used by a mathematician to develop mathematics interactively with the computer, and to formally check that mathematical arguments are correct. This increases confidence in mathematical results and in some cases makes proofs easier to develop.

Licata’s will receive $360,000 over three years. The grant will allow him to hire a postdoc to collaborate on the project. For more information on the Young Investigator Research Program and to view other award recipients see this website.

Students Share Summer Research at Poster Session

On July 30, Wesleyan’s Summer Research Poster Session took place at Exley Science Center. More than 110 undergraduate research fellows from Math and Computer Sciences, Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Biology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, the Quantitative Analysis Center, and Psychology presented research at the event. (Photos by Laurie Kenney)

Aidan Bardos ’17 presented her research titled "The Effects of Nutrition on the Immune Response of Wooly Bear Caterpillars Infected by Parasitoid Wasps." Bardos' faculty advisor is Michael Singer, associate professor of biology and environmental studies.

Aidan Bardos ’17 presented her research titled “The Effects of Nutrition on the Immune Response of Wooly Bear Caterpillars Infected by Parasitoid Wasps.” Bardos’ faculty advisor is Michael Singer, associate professor of biology and associate professor of environmental studies.

A poster titled "Immunohistochemical Analysis of Status Epilepticus Mice Treated with Striatal-Enriched Tyrosine Phosphatase Inhibitor" was presented by Matt Pelton ’17. His advisor is Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

A poster titled “Immunohistochemical Analysis of Status Epilepticus Mice Treated with Striatal-Enriched Tyrosine Phosphatase Inhibitor” was presented by Matt Pelton ’17. His advisor is Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

GSTLC Math Course Provides Tools for Teachers

This summer, almost 30 K-8 teachers from Middletown and Meriden are participating in the Intel Math Summer Course at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. The intensive 80-hour math content course is being co-taught by a mathematician and a math education specialist: Wesleyan’s Cameron Hill, assistant professor of mathematics, and Shelley Jones from Central Connecticut State University. The course is part of Green Street’s Math Institute, a program designed to get teachers excited about math, prepared for Common Core, equipped with a toolkit of activities to bring key math concepts into their classrooms through the arts, and more.

“With Common Core and STEM interest taking center stage in education, mathematics is a major area of focus for school districts,” said Sara MacSorley, director of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center and Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS). “Our Math Institute helps teachers better understand the concepts they are teaching, build their own math confidence, and also gives them tools to use in the classroom.”

Green Street teaching artist Elizabeth Dellinger is also participating in the program. “The arts can play an important role in differentiation and helping each student math content in different ways,” MacSorley said. “Since Elizabeth is an incredible vocalist and musician, shel’ll be helping to develop a math and music workshop to help educators integrate the arts into math instruction.”

Later this month, Green Street will be hosting a second Intel Math Summer Course in Killingly, Conn. featuring Christopher Rasmussen, assistant professor of mathematics, and Sharon Heyman, a PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut.

(Photos by Laurie Kenney)

Almost 30 teachers are participating in this summer's Intel Math Summer Course at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Almost 30 teachers are participating in this summer’s Intel Math Summer Course at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76 Discusses Ways Science, Entertainment, Education Overlap

On June 22, Christopher Weaver MALS'75 CAS '76 presented a seminar titled "Amplius Ludo: Beyond the Horizon" to interested students and faculty at Exley Science Center. Weaver is an author, software developer, scientist and educator. He is the founder and CEO of Bethesda Softworks, where he co-developed wildly popular games, including The Elder Scrolls role-playing series and John Madden Football for Electronic Arts.

On June 22, Christopher Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76 presented a seminar titled “Amplius Ludo: Beyond the Horizon” to interested students and faculty at Exley Science Center. Weaver is an author, software developer, scientist and educator. He is the founder and CEO of Bethesda Softworks, where he co-developed wildly popular games, including The Elder Scrolls role-playing series and John Madden Football for Electronic Arts. Success in these ventures has required Weaver to bring together elements of computer science, design, and storytelling. As a result, he is an expert in the special niche where science, entertainment, and education overlap.

Graduate Student Factor Studies Planet Formation Around a Young Star

Sam Factor, a graduate student in astronomy, at the Submillimeter Array, located on Mauna Kea in Hawai'i in March 2015.

Sam Factor, a graduate student in astronomy, at the Submillimeter Array, located on Mauna Kea in Hawai’i in March 2015.

#THISISWHY
In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Sam Factor ’14, a graduate student in astronomy.

Q: Sam, congratulations on completing your master’s thesis in astronomy! We understand you took your first astronomy class in the fall of your senior year at Wesleyan. What was your undergraduate major and how did your late-developing interest in astronomy come about?

A: Thank you very much! As an undergrad, I majored in physics and computer science. During the fall of my senior year I took Introductory Astronomy (ASTR 155). I signed up for the course mainly because I wanted an interesting and relatively easy course to fill out my schedule. I had been interested in astronomy since I was very young, but had never taken a formal class. I absolutely loved the class and decided to apply to the BA/MA program.

Q: How and when did you decide to stay on at Wesleyan to pursue a master’s degree in astronomy?

A: I actually decided to apply to the BA/MA program only a few weeks before the application was due!

Faculty, Staff Share Service- and Project-Based Learning Stories

#THISISWHY

On April 15, faculty and staff met to share their service- and project-based learning stories during an Academic (Technology) Roundtable lunch at the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. A(T)R lunches are designed to promote conversation, cooperation and the sharing of information, ideas and resources among faculty members, librarians, graduate students and staff.

Barbara Juhasz, director of service-learning, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, led the session, providing an overview of service-learning at Wesleyan as well as the variety of ways that service can be used as a pedagogical tool. Other speakers included Rob Rosenthal, director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology; Peggy Carey-Best, Health Professions Partnership Initiative advisor; Cathy Lechowicz, director of the Center for Community Partnerships; Sara MacSorley, director of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center; Janet Burge, associate professor of computer science; Jim Donady, professor of biology, director of Health Professions Partnership Initiative; Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology; and Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance.

eve_atr_2015-0415230622

Jim Donady discusses his ongoing service-learning work at Connecticut Valley Hospital. Left to right: Donady; Sara MacSorley, who shared how service-learning courses can interface with programs at Green Street; Janet Burge, who spoke about how project-based activities are incorporated into her service-learning course, Software Engineering; and Director of Service Learning Barbara Juhasz.

 

Burge Specializes in Software Engineering, Design Rationale

anet Burge, associate professor of computer science, is teaching a service learning course, COMP 342 Software Engineering, this fall. The course includes a survey of current programming languages, advanced topics in a specific language, design patterns, code reorganization techniques, specification languages, verification and tools for managing multiple-programmer software projects. Burge joined the Wesleyan faculty this semester. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Janet Burge, associate professor of computer science, is teaching a service learning course, COMP 342 Software Engineering, this fall. The course includes a survey of current programming languages, advanced topics in a specific language, design patterns, code reorganization techniques, specification languages, verification and tools for managing multiple-programmer software projects. Burge joined the Wesleyan faculty this semester. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Q: Welcome to Wesleyan, Professor Burge! Please fill us in on your life up to now.

A: I’m originally from Michigan, and attended undergrad at Michigan Tech. I moved out to Massachusetts and worked on radar systems for quite a few years. I did a lot of off-site work traveling all around the country; it’s exciting to see the products you build in action. I always planned to go back to graduate school, and I decided to pursue a master’s in computer science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I started out there part time, but then an opportunity arose and I made a quick decision to go full time to earn a Ph.D. I then taught for nine years at Miami University in Ohio before coming to Wesleyan. I’m very excited to be here.

Q: How did you wind up at Wesleyan, and what is your impression of the school so far?

A: From the time I was a high school student, I wanted to be at a small liberal arts college, but it never quite worked out before now. I also knew a few former and current faculty members at Wesleyan, and they raved about the students here. If anything, the students are even more awesome than they had told me.

Student Programmers Compete in 48-Hour App Competition, Tech Bootcamp

weshack20142

Julian Applebaum ’13, co-founder of the Hackathon, presented at the Bootcamp on Sept. 6.

Experienced programmers and tech newbies alike gathered Sept. 5-7 for WesHack 2014, a two-part conference that included a daylong tech crash course for students, alumni and friends, and a 48-hour “Hackathon” app-development competition.

WesHack was founded in May 2013 by Julian Applebaum ’13, Evan Carmi ’13 and Anastasios Germanidis ’13, who, shortly before graduation, “decided Senior Week would be even more fun if they stayed awake for 36 hours writing software to solve the pressing problems of Wesleyan students,” according to the WesHack website. In fall 2013, WesHack 2.0—a second Wesleyan-themed Hackathon and day-long intro tech bootcamp for students and alumni—was organized by students with Instructional Media Services and the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. The dual-track approach was repeated this year, and the organizers hope to make it an annual event.

Applebaum, now a software engineer at Squarespace, the presenting sponsor of WesHack 2014, returned this year to present at the Bootcamp, along with about a dozen other recent alumni, students, and faculty. See all presenters here.

A team starts to map out ideas for their app on Sept. 5.

A team starts to map out ideas for their app on Sept. 5.

According to Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, “There is an alumni affinity group called Digital Wesleyan that is extremely active, engaged, and supportive of students.” Some of the presenters came from that group, while others were people Kingsley has worked with over the past few years.

Seventy-three people attended the Bootcamp, which covered basic tech skills such as creating a website from scratch and graphic design and video production. Kingsley said most who attended had limited or no tech skills, though the event also drew students who are aces with hardware, highly-regarded bloggers, and those who have a background in one specific skill, such graphic design or data analysis.