Tag Archive for mathematics and computer science

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.

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.