January 17, 2013

Attending World’s Largest Meeting of Mathematicians Adds Up to a Great Experience for La Salle University Students


Recently, six La Salle University students attended the Joint Mathematics Meetings, the world’s largest gathering of mathematicians, in San Diego, Calif. Two of the students made presentations based on research they’ve been conducting at the University.

Senior mathematics majors Kristen Heaney and Amanda Russo were presenters, and the other students who attended were Alex Confer, Georgia Hansen, Katherine Boligitz, and D. Joseph Barron.

Heaney, from Newport News, Va., has been conducting research with Janet Fierson, assistant professor of mathematics, on “Rainbow Coloring and Optimization.” She and Fierson gave a talk at the conference, and Heaney had her research displayed in a poster session.

“I participated in some of the talks related to what I had done in my research and some (panels) designated for teachers. These were informative and interesting and were all very different,” said Heaney, who after graduation will be teaching high school math in Camden, N.J., with Teach For America. “I also went to a panel of mathematicians who work in industry that included a participant who works in finance for Ford Motor Company. This was helpful in learning about careers outside of academia for mathematics majors.”

Russo, from Delmar, Md., has also been doing research at La Salle with Fierson concerning an application problem in graph theory.

“I spent most of my time (at the conference) with other graph theorists, and the sheer amount of knowledge in every room was astounding,” she said. “The presentation of my own research was also considerably rewarding. I was able to explain what I had done, and the questions asked by those who stopped to talk about my poster provided insight into both what I had done and what was still to be done.”

Russo and Heaney will also be giving talks at the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln later this month.

The students who attended the conference said they took away lessons that will help them in their future studies and in their careers.

Hansen, a senior mathematics and secondary education major from Medford, N.J., is student-teaching this semester and plans to teach math at a middle or high school after graduation. “I spent most of my time (at the conference) going to talks about K-12 math education and teacher education. It was great to see so many people with a common interest of improving math education in America working together,” she said.

“I learned about careers in mathematics that are not in education,” said Boligitz, a sophomore from Roslyn, Pa., who is a double major in mathematics and economics. “I also was able to make connections to some of my courses at La Salle, like my introductory game theory class with Dr. (David) Robison in the Economics Department. After attending an undergraduate poster session, I began thinking about where I might want to do research in the future. I’m always planning my future, but the conference really gave me some ideas to make it possible.”

All six students will eventually make a presentation to the Mathematics and Computer Science Department faculty and other students about their experiences at the conference.

“I am very excited that six of our majors were willing to give up a significant amount of time during their short winter break to spend time at a mathematics conference and that they are all willing to bring their experiences back to campus to share them with their peers this upcoming semester,” said Jonathan Knappenberger, Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.

He added, “Having two students present posters at this conference reflects very positively on the department’s students and the work that they have achieved.”


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