Tag Archive for mathematics and computer science

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)


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.

Leidy Receives NIH Grant for Knot Theory Project

Constance Leidy, assistant professor of mathematics, received a grant for $130,436 from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Mathematics Science on Sept. 9. The grant will support a project titled “Non-commutative Techniques in Knot Theory” through August 2014.

Open-Source Software Group Designs Humanitarian Projects

Gabriel Elkind '14 speaks about a graphical software used for forest ecology simulation during the HFOSS Project 2011 Summer Institute final presentations on July 22.

This summer, 26 students representing six colleges and universities in the Northeast participated in the
Humanitarian Free and Open-Source Software (HFOSS) Project 2011 Summer Institute, hosted by Wesleyan.

Wesleyan is part of a growing community involved in The Humanitarian FOSS Project, dedicated to building and using free and open source software to benefit humanity.

Trinity's HFOSS director Trishan DeLanerolle and Wesleyan's HFOSS director Norman Danner, associate professor of computer science, listen to the students' presentations.

Students from Wesleyan, Connecticut College, Trinity, St. John’s College, Mt. Holyoke College, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute participated in the summer institute and designed 11 projects for HFOSS. They presented their research July 22 in Woodhead Lounge.

Diego Calderon ’13, Jeremy Fehr ’13 and Trinity student Vlad Burca worked on a project called “Tor Status,” a support application for the Tor network, a tool that allows for anonymous web access. Tor Status allows users to see general information about the entire network at a glance, as well as get detailed information on any specific server in the network.

Brian Gapinski ’14 and Gabriel Elkind ’14 worked on a project titled “Landis/LIME.” Landis is forest ecology simulation software developed and used by academic researchers, the U.S. Forest Service, land-user managers and others. LIME is a graphical front-end to Landis, making it much easier to use for individuals who might be less comfortable with programming tasks.

Diego Calderon '13 and Trinity student Vlad Burca speak about their HFOSS project, "Tor Status," a tool which prevents anyone from learning a user's online browsing habits. (Photos by Bill Tyner '13)

Calderon, Gehr, Burca, Gapinski and Elkind also worked on a content management system-based “HFOSS@Wesleyan” web site. Norman Danner, associate professor of computer science, is project advisor and director of the summer institute.

Wesleyan is a founding chapter of the HFOSS Project, along with Trinity College and Connecticut College. The HFOSS Project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

To view a list of former Wesleyan HFOSS projects, click here.

Ruberg ’12, Vitale ’11, Wagner ’12 Create Software for Human Rights Workers

Computer science majors Jeff Ruberg ’12, Michael Vitale ’11 and Katie Wagner ’12 participated in the Humanitarian Fee and Open Source Software Project summer internship program.

For their project, they worked on software that is part of the Tor network. Tor is software that allows users to browse the web anonymously, and is used by human rights workers, individuals in repressive regimes, and people who just don’t want corporations tracking their on-line movements. It is implemented as a world-wide network of “relays” that are run by volunteers on anything ranging from academic servers to home computers.

Ruberg, Vitale and Wagner completely re-designed and re-implemented Tor Weather, an application that allows Tor relay operators to sign up to be notified of important events on their relays. Their software has now gone live, and is an important component of the Tor Project.

“Congratulations to these students on a  job well-done and on writing software that is helping to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Norman Danner, associate professor of computer science.

5 Questions With . . . Computer Science’s Eric Aaron

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This issue, we ask “5 Questions” of Eric Aaron, assistant professor of computer science. His article, “Action Selection and Task Sequence Learning for Hybrid Dynamical Cognitive Agents,” was recently published in Robotics and Autonomous Systems. Aaron has a bachelor of arts in math from Princeton University; a master of science and Ph.D in computer science from Cornell University.

Eric Aaron, assistant professor of computer science, is an expert on artificial intelligence, intelligent robotics, hybrid systems and computational intelligence modeling.

Q: How did you become interested in computer science, and specifically artificial intelligence?

A: I’ve always been interested in logical problem solving and how people think. As an undergraduate, I majored in mathematics and took courses in psychology and philosophy, but each of those was only a part of the big picture that really interested me. As I studied more, I found that computer science, and especially artificial intelligence (AI), incorporated parts of all of these perspectives in a single, mind-openingly fascinating and mind-blowingly enormous area of study.

Taylor, Bonfert-Taylor, Bodznick Awarded NSF Grant

Edward Taylor, associate professor of mathematics; Petra Bonfert-Taylor, associate professor of mathematics; and David Bodznick, dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, received a grant worth $199,924 from the National Science Foundation for their “Collaborative Research: Analytic and Geometric Methods in Limited Angle Tomosunthesis.” The grant expires Aug. 27, 2011.

HFOSS Software Featured in Chronicle of Higher Education

Sam DeFabbia-Kane ’11 and Eli Fox-Epstein ’11 interned on the Humanitarian Free Open Source Software 2009 project creating "Collabbit," software that makes communication in disasters easier for relief organizations.

The Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS) project was featured in the Aug. 1 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education in an article titled “In Emergencies, Aid Agencies Turn to a College-Created Software Program.”

The article focuses on an emergency-management program called Collabbit. Collabbit is a continuing effort involving undergraduates and computer science faculty at Wesleyan and Trinity College.

The software tool helps coordinate large numbers of people and supplies involved in responding to disasters like blackouts and flooding.

This is by far the largest project of any kind that I’ve worked on,” Samuel DeFabbia-Kane’11 says in the article. “The developers are seeking to add new features, like the ability to generate a summary of relief efforts after an event, or to allow users to post updates from ordinary cellphones—not just smartphones—by sending a text message.”

HFOSS’s Collabbit also was featured in an Aug. 25 issue of New York’s Messenger Post in an article titled “Making Disaster Communication Easier.”