Tag Archive for mathematics and computer science

Ph.D. Candidate Marino Attends Workshop on Computational Number Theory

Mathematics Ph.D. candidate Alicia Marino, pictured top, left, joined 11 other women studying mathematics and computer science for a four-day workshop this summer.

Mathematics Ph.D. candidate Alicia Marino, pictured top, left, joined 11 other women studying mathematics and computer science at a four-day workshop this summer.

Mathematics Ph.D. candidate Alicia Marino recently attended a four-day workshop in Portland, Ore. studying various aspects of computational number theory. The workshop focused on Sage, a mathematics software package, developed by and for the mathematical community.

The event included talks, tutorials, and time spent in small project groups developing Sage code. Participants worked to enhance the Sage library and discussed ways to increase the number of women in Sage development. The workshop ran July 28-Aug. 1.

Alicia Marino works on coding at the Sage workshop. 

Alicia Marino works on coding at the Sage workshop.

Marino, who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science, attended the conference to sharpen her programming skills.

“My initial desire to attend the workshop was to throw myself back into that kind of an environment,” she said. “With the knowledge I gained at the workshop, I can continue to develop Sage on my own relative to what I do at Wesleyan.”

Marino learned about the workshop from event organizer Anna Haensch, who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Wesleyan in 2013. Haensch is now on the faculty at Duquesne University.

Professor of Mathematics Wai Kiu “Billy” Chan served as advisor to Marino and Haensch.

“It was definitely an empowering experience to spend a week in a beautiful environment with intelligent women dedicating our time to a merge of math and computer science,” Marino said.

ITS Staff, Students Speak at New England Computing Conference

Four staff from Information Technology Services and one student spoke at the NorthEast Regional Computing Program (NERCOMP) Annual Conference held in Providence, R.I. on March 26.

Karen Warren, director of user and technical services for Information Technology Services,  led a poster session on “The Best thing to Ever Happen at Wesleyan: Justifying and Sustaining LyndaCampus.”

Warren explained the successes of Wesleyan’s LyndaCampus implementation backed by usage data statistics, cost comparisons, and a description of the cross-departmental approach used to garner support campus-wide. The poster featured quotes and anecdotes from Wesleyan student users underscoring the benefits of the campus (versus a limited) implementation.

Heric Flores, manager of instructional media services; Robert Christensen, instructional media specialist; and student programmers Brian Gapinski ’14 and Justin Raymond ’14 spoke on “Cost-Effective Classroom Control: the cmdr Project.”

Built by Wesleyan, cmdr is an open-source touchscreen A/V control system that offers an alternative to the cost-prohibitive vendor solutions controlling the market. Built with Ruby, HTML5/CSS, and Javascript, the cmdr project hopes to bring innovation, budgetary savings and collaboration across higher education institutions.

Wesleyan’s New Computing Cluster Can Process Computations 50X Faster

Henk Meij, unix systems group manager in Information Technology Services, and Francis Starr, professor of physics, look over Wesleyan's new high-performance computer platform, located on the fifth floor of ITS. The new cluster runs calculations up to 50 times faster than the previous cluster, installed in 2010. The new cluster also offers an additional 50 terabytes of disk space for a total of 100 terabytes.

Henk Meij, unix systems group manager in Information Technology Services, and Francis Starr, professor of physics, look over Wesleyan’s new high-performance computer platform, located on the fifth floor of ITS. The new cluster runs calculations up to 50 times faster than the previous cluster, installed in 2010. The new cluster also offers an additional 50 terabytes of disk space for a total of 100 terabytes. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

While technology at Wesleyan is growing by leaps and bounds, the computational capacity is growing by gigaFLOPS and now, teraFLOPS.

Not to be confused with the prehistoric pterodactyl’s beach footwear, a teraFLOP is a term used in high-performance computing to quantify the rate at which computer systems can perform arithmetic operations. TeraFLOPs can perform one trillion operations per second (S), and for scientists at Wesleyan, this means calculations can be done up to 50 times faster with the new computing cluster, installed during the summer 2013.

Even when running at full capacity, the new computer cluster outputs only 78 degrees of heat. The older systems measured 100 degrees, and require more cooling power to operate.

Even when running at full capacity, the new computer cluster outputs only 78 degrees of heat. The older systems measured 100 degrees, and require more cooling power to operate.

“The new cluster has been revolutionary in my own work,” said Francis Starr, professor of physics. “I used to run calculations that would take a month or even a year to compute, and my patience would run out. Now, I can get results in two or three days.”

In 2006, Wesleyan’s computing cluster came in around 0.5 teraflops. In the 2010 at 1.5 teraflops, and the newest cluster has a theoretical capacity of 25 to 75 teraflops, depending on the application.

“By way of comparison, my Mac laptop comes in around 0.02 teraflops, so I would need 3,500 laptops to achieve the same compute power! I think I will need a bigger backpack,” Starr said.

The new technology also is “green.” While the new machine is 100 times more powerful than the 2006 cluster, it requires half the the electrical power to operate and less cooling power to run the hardware.

The new cluster is currently used by faculty and students in chemistry, computer science, physics, biology, the social sciences and the Quantitative Analysis Center. Henk Meij, unix systems group manager and a senior consultant for the QAC, manages the facility’s operation and offers support and maintenance for any software issues. He also offers training and teaches faculty and students how to submit jobs to the scheduling system.

“Anyone on campus who needs a fast computation, ITS offers this tremendous resource which can be very beneficial to your research,” Meij said. “We can now solve real world problems in a matter of days.”

The newest cluster cost $125,000,

Professor Emeritus Reid Remembered for Being a Pedagogical Innovator

James Reid, professor of mathematics, emeritus, died Oct. 27. An authority on algebra, Reid joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1969 as associate professor, becoming professor of mathematics in 1971. Previously, he had held faculty positions at Syracuse University and Amherst College, and he also had served as a research associate at Yale University.

He obtained his PhD from the University of Washington, where he was an instructor. Reid published in scholarly journals throughout his career, presented numerous invited lectures, and was an adviser for 14 PhD students, 11 master’s degree students, and six undergraduate honors theses. Among his colleagues, he gained a reputation as a pedagogical innovator, and he offered the University’s first course in programming and computerized computation before Wesleyan had hired its first computer scientist. He was also the architect of the course “Introduction to Mathematical Thought: from the Discrete to the Continuous,” a popular First-Year Initiative class.

“Jim was a gifted mathematician who taught courses at all levels, ranging from a ‘Teaching of Math’ course in the former Educational Studies Program to introductory calculus to graduate level courses. His kindness and gentle demeanor won him the admiration of colleagues and affection from students during his long and productive career,” said Ruth Striegel Weissman, provost and vice president for academic affairs, the Walter A. Crowell University Professor of the Social Sciences, professor of psychology.

Reid retired in 2001, but continued to teach one or two courses at Wesleyan every spring, including last semester.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy, and three children–James Jr., Margaret, and Gerald ’91–and five grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Rasmussen Teaches K-8 Math Teachers in Summer Program

Chris Rasmussen

Chris Rasmussen

Chris Rasmussen, assistant professor of mathematics, recently finished teaching a summer professional development course for K-8 teachers in the Danbury, Conn. school district.

The program, called Intel Math, increases the mathematical content knowledge of elementary and middle-school teachers, with the long-term goal of strengthening STEM training.

The Intel Math course ran eight hours a day for two weeks. Rasmussen co-taught the course with Sharon Heyman, a mathematics education specialist from the University of Connecticut.

In 2012, Rasmussen taught the course with a cohort of 15 teachers from around central Connecticut. This summer, he taught 23 teachers in the Danbury school district.

“The goal is to strengthen the mathematical knowledge of the participants to aid them in their own K-8 classrooms. Pedagogical issues are also discussed, but mathematics itself is the primary focus,” Rasmussen said.

This fall at Wesleyan, Rasmussen is teaching “Abstract Algebra” and “Algebra II.”

Hill Researching “Mysterious” Zero-One Laws in Mathematics Department

Cameron Donnay Hill, assistant professor of mathematics, joined the faculty this fall.

Cameron Donnay Hill is an assistant professor of mathematics.

In this Q&A we speak with Cameron Donnay Hill, assistant professor of mathematics. Hill joined the Wesleyan faculty this fall.

Q: Professor Hill, welcome to Wesleyan! What attracted you to the University and the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science?

A: Wesleyan provides a wonderful balance between teaching and research that can be found almost nowhere else, and I can only think of a few additional places where the “average” undergrad is remarkably clever and curious.

Q: What are your research interests?

A: I’m mostly interested in questions about “finite and discrete” mathematical objects, but my research program is to adapt technology originally developed for “infinite and smooth(ish)” objects for studying my finite, discrete things. Right now, I’m specifically studying two phenomena known as zero-one laws and Ramsey properties, respectively.

Q: Please explain what a zero-one law is.

A: If you have a collection of objects and some property, one can sometimes say “all but a negligible fraction of the objects in my collection have this property.” Really, we are interested in collections of properties, too, so the zero-one law will say something like, “for each of these properties, all but a negligible fraction of the *large enough* objects in my collection have that property.” Up to now, when I’ve said “collection of objects,” I’ve been talking about finite things, but when this zero-one law phenomenon happens, we find ourselves with an infinite object that has all of those properties and just generally represents the collection of finite objects but is far, far easier to work with.

Q: Will you continue this research at Wesleyan, or what do you hope to ultimately accomplish?

A: Unless something much more interesting comes along (which I doubt), I will keep going along the same research program. In the near term, I and several other logicians in New England hope to get a hold of zero-one laws in particular, which on the whole are quite mysterious to humans right now.

Q: What classes are you teaching this year?

A: This fall, I am teaching one calculus class and a set theory course for math majors.

Math Department Honors Retiring Professor Wood at Algebra Conference

Carol Wood, the Edward Burr Van Vleck Professor of Mathematics, retires this summer after 40 years at Wesleyan. In honor of her retirement and her many contributions to the University and the profession, the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science hosted the Conference on Model-Theoretic Algebra, May 31-June 1. Professor Wood is pictured below in the green sweater. (Photos by Eki Ramadhan ’16)

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12 Students Compete in Wesleyan’s Senior Week Hackathon

Twelve students participated in the Senior Week Hackathon in Exley Science Center May 18-19. For 36 hours straight, the students worked in teams of four to create different web application products. The winning team was “WesMaps+.” Team members included Justin Raymond ’14, Tobias Butler ’13, Max Dietz ’16 and Anastasis Germanidis ’13. See their app online at: http://wesmapsplus.com/

Wesleyan computer science alumni Sam DeFabbia-Kane ’11, Carlo Francisco ’11, Micah Wylde ’12, and Ryan Gee ’11 judged the final apps on a scale of 1-11 in creativity, technical difficulty and polish. A video and photos of the Hackathon are below:

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The "WesMaps+" team included Justin Raymond '14, Tobias Butler '13, Max Dietz '16 and Anastasis Germanidis '13.

The winning team was “WesMaps+.” Team members included Justin Raymond ’14, Tobias Butler ’13, Max Dietz ’16 and Anastasis Germanidis ’13.

Mathematics Ph.D. Student Haensch Receives Mass Media Fellowship

Anna Haensch is one of two mathematicians selected for the prestigious Mass Media Fellowship this year.

Anna Haensch is one of two mathematicians selected for the prestigious Mass Media Fellowship this year.

When Anna Haensch tells new acquaintances that she’s a mathematician, many people immediately recoil.

“There’s this repellent nature to math,” she said. “There’s this big wall up around it—people find it terrifying or uninteresting.”

That’s exactly why Haensch, a Ph.D. student who just successfully defended her dissertation, wants to learn how to communicate better to the general public about math. She is the recipient of a Mass Media Fellowship, administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Haensch’s fellowship is sponsored by the American Mathematical Society (AMS). The 10-week summer program, which starts June 3, places graduate and post-graduate level science, engineering and mathematics students at media organizations around the country, where they develop skills to translate their work to the public. Haensch will be stationed at the NPR Science Desk in Washington, D.C.

She was one of two mathematicians selected for the prestigious fellowship this year. Thirteen fellowship recipients in other scientific fields will be stationed at media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, NOVA, Scientific American, and WIRED.

Haensch, who earned her undergraduate degree at the State University of New York at New Paltz, has been at Wesleyan for the past six years, working on number theory under Professor of Mathematics Wai Kui Chan.

“I plug integers into polynomials and see what integers I get out,” she explained. “This is a question that’s really easy to ask, but it’s very hard to get our hands on the solution. Over the last several hundred years, this has been a question people have been very interested in.”

After passing her qualifying exams at Wesleyan, Haensch began teaching courses in pre-calculus

Wesleyan Team Places in Top Third during Mathematical Competition

A Wesleyan team scored 130th out of 402 teams at the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, administered by The Mathematical Association of America. In Dec. 2012, 4,277 students from 578 institutions took the exam. Some students competed in groups of three.

Wesleyan’s top scorer was Joshua Neitzel ’14 with a rank of 239. Sangsan Warakkagun ’15 ranked 569, and Eli Halperin ’15 and Jeremy Fehr ’13 ranked 870.5.

The Putnam Exam is given every year on the first Saturday in December. The exam’s first problem was:

“A1 (2012) Let d1, d2, …, d12 be real numbers in the open interval (1,12). Show that there exist distinct indices i, j, k such that di, dj, dk are the side lengths of an acute triangle.”

“Wesleyan students did very well in the contest this year. It is an exam given for fun, with extremely challenging problems,” said Karen Collins, professor of mathematics.

More than 52 percent of all the contestants received a score of 0.

Wood, Comfort Named American Mathematical Society Fellows

Carol Wood

Carol Wood

Wis Comfort

Wis Comfort

The American Mathematical Society (AMS) named Carol Wood and Wis Comfort to its inaugural class of AMS Fellows.

Wood is the Edward Burr Van Vleck Professor of Mathematics. She is an expert in mathematical logic and applications of model theory to algebra. Comfort is the Edward Burr Van Vleck Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus. He’s an expert on point-set topology, ultrafilters, set theory and topological groups.

The Fellows of the American Mathematical Society program recognizes members who have made outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication and utilization of mathematics.

NSF Supports Leidy’s Knot Theory Research

Constance Leidy, assistant professor of mathematics, received a $130,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Mathematics Science to support her research on “Noncommunative Techniques in Knot Theory” through Aug. 31, 2014.