The BYU Math Department is excited to announce the appointment of Michael Dorff as the new chair of the Department of Mathematics. Drs. Paul Jenkins and Darrin Doud will serve as associate chairs. Dr. Dorff is replacing Dr. Robin Roundy, who served as the Department of Mathematics chair for three years.
Michael J. Dorff, Mathematics—
Dorff received his BS in Mathematics Education from BYU and his PhD in Complex Analysis from the University of Kentucky in 1997.
Dorff is the founder and director for the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics (CURM), which began in 2007. He also started and leads BYU’s “Careers in Math” Speaker Series and BYU’s summer 8-week Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). He has received over two million dollars in grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support and fund these programs.
Dorff has received national recognition for his dedicated work in developing mentored undergraduate research in mathematics. In 2010, Dorff won several awards, including the Distinguished Teaching Award from the college, the Maeser Excellence in Teaching Award from BYU, and the Haimo Award from the Mathematics Association of America. Dorff has also received BYU’s Lawrence K. Egbert Teaching and Learning Fellowship and was named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2012.
“Retired coach leads team to victory” – a seemingly unlikely headline, but an accurate description of a recent BYU event.
Retired professor David Wright led a group of thirteen high school students to a fifth place finish in the online “Math Madness” AMC Interstellar High School Mathematics National Championship. These students, sponsored by the BYU Department of Mathematics, may just be the newest generation of BYU Mathletes. A total of 346 high school teams competed in the Mathematical Association of America-sponsored event. After three preseason contests, BYU’s team was put in a bracket with 64 teams with average team size between 11 and 15. The BYU team won its bracket and earned a fifth place ranking.
The team score is the sum of the top five students. In the championship match, BYU defeated eighth ranked Davidson Academy of Nevada by a score of 39 to 34. BYU’s top five scorers are: Nicholas McConnell (10/10), Thomas Draper (8/10), Annie Yun (7/10), Josh Speckman (7/10), and Quinlan Leishman (7/10). All of these contestants are currently in grades ten and eleven and are likely to compete again for BYU next year. Dr. Wright invited students who had previously attended BYU Math Camps, BYU Math recognition programs, or whom he had connections to through BYU Math majors and alumni to join the Math Madness team. Students from out-of-state are able to participate on the BYU team because the competition is entirely online.
Dr. Wright retired in August 2015, but has remained involved in the BYU math community, especially with student outreach programs. He coordinates competitions, math summer camps, and other activities for junior high and high school students, hoping that some of the students will attend BYU and compete on the Putnam mathematical team.
For more information, visit this link (http://in-ter-stel-lar.com/math_madness/5/rankings).
Here is a list of the members of the BYU team who have contributed to a winning score in at least one match:
Annie Yun, Junior at West High, Utah
Rohan Jairam, Junior at West High, Utah
Daniel Swingle, Senior at Seven Lakes High School, Texas
Ben Baker, Senior at West High, Utah
Josh Speckman, Sophomore at West High, Utah
Thomas Draper, Sophomore at Montgomery High School, New Jersey
Nicholas McConnell, Junior at Princeton High School, New Jersey
Quinlan Leishman, Junior at Bountiful High School, Utah
Lucy Ward, Ninth Grader at Mill Creek Jr. High, Utah
Emil Geisler, Ninth Grader at Mill Creek Jr. High , Utah
Eli Child, Ninth Grader at Mill Creek Jr. High, Utah
Alex Cheng, Ninth Grader at Midvale Middle School, Utah
Collin Allred, Eighth Grader at Mountain Ridge Junior High, Utah
Team members who are nationally ranked in the top 1,000 out of 17,539 participants.
Nicholas McConnell: 5
Josh Speckman: 93
Thomas Draper: 104
Annie Yun: 194
Rohan Jairam: 511
Lucy Ward: 551
Alex Cheng: 625
Ben Baker: 975
Choosing a major is tough. BYU’s wide variety of options can be a bit overwhelming, and gathering information on each one can feel virtually impossible.
The Math Department wants to do everything possible to make this selection process easier for students. 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 an info session about the Mathematics degree on Thursday, October 17. The meeting is intended to provide all the basic information you need to know about being a mathematics major or minor. In addition, there will be a discussion on all the different career options you would have with a degree in mathematics. A question and answer session after the general presentation will follow.
If a successful future in mathematics is not enough to convince someone to attend the info session, pizza may do the trick. Free pizza will be provided for all who attend. So if you have an interest in mathematics, and have friends who also enjoy math and free food, then come and join us on the 17!
The “To Be or Not To Be” a Math major/minor info session will be on Thursday, October 17 at 5:30pm in room 1170 TMCB.
To learn more about the benefits of a degree in mathematics, visit WeUseMath.org.
You might see Dr. Donald Robinson’s name on a plaque in the Talmage, unaware of the legacy he left behind.
Born in 1928 on a leap day, this 84 year-old retired BYU professor was one of the first Mathematics PhDs to teach at BYU when he started teaching here in 1956.
“I’m proud of him for the way he’s tried to live his life, do the best he could, and serve other people,” said Allen Robinson, Dr. Robinson’s son.
The math department awarded Dr. Robinson with a plaque that is now displayed in the Talmage Building and thanked him for his generous endowment that has allowed and will continue to allow four math students every year to have a full-ride scholarship, for many years to come.
Dr. Don Robinson demonstrated an exceptional love for mathematics and the students who study it. A former professor and chair of the department, Don first discovered his passion for mathematics in grade school, as he recalled finding entertainment in working on extra problems his teacher would challenge the class to solve. He met his sweetheart, Helen, in Junior High School where they both played in the orchestra. Don and Helen were married by 1952 in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple.
Don pursued his doctorate in mathematics from the Case Institute of Technology, Ohio. His studies were almost interrupted, as he was drafted into the army. However, he was discharged due to eyesight problems. Don graduated from the Case Institute of Technology and then went on to teach at various institutions. He eventually came to Brigham Young University, and was only the second professor with a PhD to join the Math Department faculty. Dr. Robinson remained at BYU for 43 years. His area of research was linear algebra dealing with the matrix theory.
Don enjoyed his teaching career and was a dedicated faculty member, receiving many awards for his outstanding contributions to the Math Department. He served as Chair of the Math Department three times, and many of the programs enjoyed by students today are due to his contributions and dedicated service.
You may also see Marcellus Burton’s name, along with the name of his wife, on a plaque in the Talmage.
Shirley and Marcellus Burton also had a passion for learning and education. Growing up, Marcellus would often be found at the kitchen table working calculus problems. A child of the Great Depression, he observed that his civil engineer uncle always had a good job, and, not wanting to be poor, Marcellus decided early on he wanted to follow the same path.
Upon the beginning of the second World War, Marc anticipated service in the army and shifted his studies to meteorology so he could be immediately inducted. In 1944, as a newly minted 2nd Lieutenant, his first duty assignment was Marana Army Air Base. It was here that he met his future wife, Shirley Etheredge.
Shirley was born in Norfolk, Virginia, where she attended school and became a teacher. She always encouraged a healthy curiosity and emphasized its strong connection with books. Not satisfied to teach only Monday through Friday, she also taught Sunday school throughout her life. Her love of young people and of teaching inspired the Shirley and Marcellus Burton Scholarship.
Shirley and Marc married in 1945 and spent 26 years of service in the Air Force. During this time they raised five children and traveled with them all over the world as Marcellus completed 18 duty assignments. The couple retired from the Air Force in 1970, and Marcellus returned to San Jose State, where he had attended in his youth, and taught meteorology there for the next 14 years. To this day, Marcellus considers himself to have a profound love of numbers.
To date, six students have benefited from these generous scholarship donors. To learn more about how to donate to the Math Department, contact Dr. Robin Roundy at email@example.com or call 801-422-1747.
—Curtis Penfold, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences
In 1998, The Pew Charitable Trusts designed the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to get a more accurate and meaningful picture of quality to communicate to the public. The NSSE project provides colleges and universities with valuable information about students’ views of their college experience by annually administering a specifically aimed survey.
The NSSE survey, designed by experts, asks students about their college experiences-how they spend their time, what they feel they have gained from their classes, their assessment of the quality of their interactions with faculty and friends, and other important indicators.
BYU has participated in these surveys for the last eleven years. By doing so, it has provided valuable insight to how the university compares on a national scale. During the 2012 administration, all graduating seniors were asked to participate in the survey. By surveying all eligible students, BYU Institutional Assessment and Analysis was able to create reports at the program level for many of the programs across campus.
In Winter Semester of 2012, the survey was sent out electronically to all graduating seniors, totaling to be 7,762 seniors. This report focuses on the senior responses. BYU received responses from 3,364 of the seniors, resulting in a response rate of 43% compared to 23% among BYU’s corresponding Carnegie Classification benchmark group of universities. Carnegie’s Classification for BYU is Research University because of BYU’s high research activity.
BYU’s Mathematics Department and BYU overall received high scores in many of the survey’s different categories.
The following are graphs which relate to various categories within the survey.
The Brigham Young University Mathematics Department is proud to welcome Dr. Michael Barrus, a visiting mathematics professor with a knack for research.
Dr. Barrus grew up in Utah and received his undergraduate and master’s degres in Mathematics from Brigham Young University. During his time at BYU, Dr. Barrus was enrolled in a class with Dr. David Wright. It was through a small study group for this class that Dr. Barrus met his future wife, Michelle Kitchen.
“I was afraid to ask her out right away; I thought it might make our study sessions awkward,” Barrus said. “So instead I waited until the end of the semester to take her on a date.” From there, the rest was history.
The couple eventually moved to Illinois so Dr. Barrus could continue his education with a PhD in math as well as a master’s degree in math teaching from the University of Illinois. He then taught for three years at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, where he and a colleague started Math Circle for local elementary school students.
Dr. Barrus was drawn to BYU because of the plethora of research opportunities offered by the math department. During his time here, he has already become involved in working with seventh graders through Math Circle.
In his free time, Dr. Barrus enjoys reading novels (such as Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables) and practicing the piano.
-Michelle Drennan, Mathematics Department