Celebrating Mathematical Achievement

Every year, the BYU Math Department hosts a banquet for high school students in the Utah Valley and Salt Lake City areas who excel in math. The banquet provides an excellent arena for students to learn about the benefits and opportunities of pursuing math in college and in their careers.

This year, the banquet was held on Tuesday, November 6. In attendance were 39 students and 10 teachers from around the area. Students with exceptional math skills were nominated by their teachers to attend the banquet and had the opportunity to have many of their questions about becoming a math major answered.

Questions such as, “What is required of a math major?”, “What do math majors actually study?”, and perhaps most importantly, “What can I do with a math major?” were all answered.  Students learned about the career services the university offers and important places to look for resources in finding what interests them and how math can help them reach their goals.  One such resource is WeUseMath.org. The Department was able to highlight the exciting work and research occurring within the math programs.

Each year the BYU Math Department also recognizes one outstanding high school or middle school math teacher at the banquet for their teaching excellence.  This year’s teacher award went to Troy Jones, a high school teacher, from Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs.  Mr. Jones not only received a certificate of merit, but also a $500 award.
 
The banquet was very helpful in allowing high school students to see what their options are with a future in mathematics. But, the main purpose of the night was to celebrate the students and their academic achievements in math.

If you would like your high school to be involved, please contact us at events@math.byu.edu.

From Austria to BYU

Dr. Joerg Thuswaldner came to BYU from Austria to build bridges.
 
Thuswaldner, a mathematician, said he loves to teach because teaching builds bridges to young people. He also values team research because of its ability to span disparate fields and bring people together.
 
Dr. Thuswaldner chose BYU specifically because of the Mathematics Department’s Gregory Conner and his expertise in complicated mathematical spaces. Having previously collaborated on technical projects, Thuswaldner knew Dr. Conner would be helpful.
 
“[Conner’s] expertise fit extremely well to my problem,” Thuswaldner said. “I saw before that [it] fitted extremely well, but after this year it turns out, [his expertise] fitted exactly.”
 
Thuswaldner came to BYU seeking Conner’s expertise to assist with an exciting project. A material scientist in Austria figured out that when steel is cut, it retains a self-similar structure, and he recruited Thuswaldner to help him figure out how this structure functions and then to construct models of the process.
 
Self-similar structures occur when a part of an object resembles the entire object. We find these structures all over the place.
 
In nature, we find self-similar structures in coastlines, ferns, livers, shells, and even romanesco broccoli. Outside of nature, we find self-similar structures in telecommunications, the stock market, and graphic-animated smoke and fire.
 
If Thuswaldner and Conner can figure out how these self-similar structures work, they might be able to create computer generated 3-D models allowing material scientists to study steel in simulated, applicable situations.
 
The project has turned out to be more complicated than initially thought and BYU has approved Thuswaldner to stay longer than originally planned. Due to the complexity of the project, Thuswaldner and Conner have become united as a team in the discovery effort.
 
“Every bit that we’ve managed to do has taken both of us,” Conner said. “This is more teamlike than anything I’ve ever done.”
 
Not only have they grown together as research partners, but they’ve also built bridges by becoming friends.
 
“(Thuswaldner)’s become one of my best friends,” Conner said. “He’s overall a delightful person—puts up with all my quirks.”
 
—Curtis Penfold, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences

“Unfolding” Dr. Lang’s Visit to BYU

 

Dr. Robert Lang, a world-renowned physicist and origami theorist, paid a visit to Brigham Young University Thursday, October 11, 2012. Completing his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering at Cal Tech, Dr. Lang moved on to receive a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University and a PhD from Cal Tech in Applied Physics. Dr. Lang is now retired from his career as an engineer, but continues to utilize and hone his skills in mathematics in his now full-time position as a master origami artist. He is considered today as one of the world leading experts in origami. We were happy to have Dr. Lang come unfold (pun intended) the curious art form of origami. 

Origami, the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, is not a new practice in society. In fact, origami has existed since the 17th century and generated a large student base outside of Japan in the late 1900’s. Today, origami is a globally appreciated modern art form. However, don’t let the seemingly simple art fool you; origami is not just folding paper in the right places. Large origami structures have multiple theories and patterns governing the folding techniques used by experts such as Dr. Lang. He elucidated theories such as Abe’s Trisection, Messer’s Cube Double (doubling the volume of a cube) and Binary Expansion Theory (which holds the key for folding shapes).  Making patterns is a very difficult, but straightforward mathematical problem. In solving the folding problems of origami, one can solve a series of math problems. Likewise, in order to solve origami packing problems, Dr. Lang relies upon his mathematics knowledge and math literature to aid him. Origami structures are geometry based, and Dr. Lang uses geometry theories to find relations between fold and curvatures of origami figures.

Dr. Lang’s enthusiasm about his work was contagious. He was thorough in explaining the intricacies of the origami science to those in attendance at the lecture, offering intriguing insight into the multifaceted world of origami. His lecture showed that origami, though not for the faint of heart, is a rewarding and exciting science and art form. He avidly emphasized the real world applications of mathematics, telling listeners, “Once we develop laws, we can solve art problems and real world problems.”

Learn more about Dr. Lang and his work.  
 
-Hannah Gasparrini, BYU Mathematics Department
 
 

 

Intermountain Math Competition

This Saturday, BYU students will have the opportunity to take part in a problem-solving competition against various universities throughout Utah and Idaho during the Intermountain Math Competition (IMC).

 

The IMC is comparable to a mini-Putnam competition.  It’s a great opportunity to practice problem-solving and possibly win cash and prizes.  We mustn’t let the U of U defeat us!  And you can help.

 

No sign-up is necessary, and you don’t need to be a math major.  All you need to do is show up in rooms 111 & 112 TMCB.  The test will be administered from 9am to noon.  A free breakfast will be arriving at 8:30am, so come early if you want time to eat.  Otherwise, you will be allowed to munch as you take the test.

Intermountain Math Competition 2012

This Saturday, BYU students will have the opportunity to take part in a problem-solving competition against various universities throughout Utah and Idaho during the Intermountain Math Competition (IMC).

 

The IMC is comparable to a mini-Putnam competition.  It’s a great opportunity to practice problem-solving and possibly win cash and prizes.  We mustn’t let the U of U defeat us!  And you can help.

 

No sign-up is necessary, and you don’t need to be a math major.  All you need to do is show up in rooms 111 & 112 TMCB.  The test will be administered from 9am to noon.  A free breakfast will be arriving at 8:30am, so come early if you want time to eat.  Otherwise, you will be allowed to munch as you take the test.

 

Anyone who receives an above-average score will receive a bookstore gift card.  


For questions, email Dr. Nielsen at 
pace@math.byu.edu.

Virginia Tech Mathematical Contest

The 34th annual Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest is set to take place on Saturday, October 27.  The test will be given from 9am to 12pm in rooms 111 & 112 of the Talmage building.  All students are welcome to participate, no sign-up necessary.  Just show up!  Breakfast will be provided and can be eaten during the test.  Hope to see you there!




 

Virginia Tech 2012

The 34th annual Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest is set to take place on Saturday, October 27.  The test will be given from 9am to 12pm in room 136 of the Talmage building.  All students are welcome to participate, no sign-up necessary.  Just show up!  Breakfast will be provided and can be eaten during the test.  Hope to see you there!



Learn more about VTRMC.

Creativity + Math = Prizes

Remember these?

 

 

As great as these t-shirts are, the Math Department is ready for something new … and you can help!  We’re looking for a new design and we’re turning to students for help. 



The rules are pretty simple: come up with something fun and new, bring the idea to 275 TMCB by 5pm on Monday, October 22, and that’s it!  The winner will receive a $50 campus card and prize giveaway bag.  Design ideas can include anything from a fun graphic to a clever formula, or even just a catchy "math" phrase.

 

If you have any questions, contact Will (SAC President) at sac@math.byu.edu.  

To Be or Not To Be a Math Major

Choosing a major is tough.  All the different options can be a bit overwhelming, and gathering information on each one can feel virtually impossible.



The Math Department wants to help!  If you have ever had any interest in mathematics, or maybe you just did really well in a math class, you are invited to attend our opening social.  The social is intended to provide you with the basic information you need to know about being a Math major.  In addition, we’ll talk about all the different career options you’d have with a degree in mathematics.  There will be a question and answer session after the general presentation, along with free pizza!


The "To Be or Not To Be" a Math major opening social will be on Thursday, October 18 at 5:30pm in room 1170 TMCB.  Hope to see you there!



To learn more about the benefits of a degree in mathematics, visit WeUseMath.org.

New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Meghan De Witt

The Math Department welcomes Dr. Meghan De Witt as a two-year visiting faculty member.  

 

De Witt graduated with honors from Brigham Young University with a degree in mathematics and a minor in music.  As an undergraduate, De Witt completed her honors thesis under Dr. Darrin Doud in the field of algebraic number theory.  She then studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under Dr. Nigel Boston.  She earned her doctorate in Mathematics in 2011.  She taught at the University of Central Oklahoma for a year before coming back to BYU to teach.  

 

Her primary research focus is the inverse Galois problem, although she is also highly interested in the history of math, and math education.  De Witt has worked with both advanced and struggling students preparing for college, as well as several outreach programs designed to explain the wonders of math to the public.