Focus in Math

Have you ever been in a math class and asked yourself in a blurt of frustration, “When will I ever use this!?!” If so, your answer is here! BYU Department of Mathematics is excited to announce its “Focus-In-Math” speakers for Winter Semester 2017. Professional lecturers with careers in mathematics from across the country will be visiting our school throughout the semester to teach us how they use math. Our three guest speakers this semester are Dr. Gwen Spencer, Dr. Nick Trefethen, and Dr. Robert Bradshaw. This is an extremely beneficial opportunity for anyone going into careers involving math.

Our first speaker, Dr. Gwen Spencer, graduated from Harvey Mudd College with her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and went on to attain a PhD in Operations Research, as well as Postdoctoral Fellowships in Environmental Studies, Computer Science, and Economics. She is a successful mathematician and specializes in Approximation Algorithms, Stochastic Optimization, and Graph Theory. With her unique background and experience, Dr. Spencer can help us see math from an innovative viewpoint.

Dr. Nick Trefethen is a renowned mathematician with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard, his master’s from Stanford, and a Ph.D. on “Wave Propagation and Stability for finite Difference Schemes.” He has experience working at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Cornell University. He is now an appointed chair at the University of Oxford, and a Fellowship of Balliol College, Oxford. Dr. Trefethen brings with him an extraordinary understanding of mathematics, and we are extremely excited to learn from such a prominent mathematician.

Dr. Robert Bradshaw is one of our very own BYU Alumni! After graduating BYU with double degrees in mathematics and linguistics he went on to get his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in mathematics from the University of Washington. He has worked the past seven years as a Software Engineer for Google, and after meeting students last year as they toured Google’s Offices in Seattle, BYU invited him to share with students who share the same cougar pride.

Anticipate a powerful lineup of speakers and lectures this semester. Do not forget to mark your calendars:

  • Thursday, February 23 – Dr. Gwen Spencer
  • Thursday, March 23 – Dr. Nick Trefethen
  • Thursday, April 13 – Dr. Robert Bradshaw

Join us for “Focus in Math Lectures” in room 1170 TMCB at 4 PM on the listed dates. See math from a new perspective – Learn the real answers to why and to what depth we use math.

BYU Math Students Rank Top Ten in the Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest

Earlier this year, students from all across the nation gathered in an intense mathematical competition—the Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest. The stakes were high and the chances for success were intimidating. Despite staggering odds, and up against over 670 other students from 28 states, BYU students Grant Molnar and Joseph Ward made the top ten! Such high rankings by our very own students is a major accomplishment, especially considering how many of the participants have spent much of their lives competing in math contests. To put their achievement in scope, many of the schools in attendance are renowned mathematical powerhouses like Harvard, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, and Duke.

The test on which our two students did so well was not an easy feat. Each student competing received an exam with seven complex questions, and each question was worth 10 points—adding up to a staggering total of 70 points. The test was so difficult that the first-place score was only a 42/70, and over 80 percent of competitors scored 0/70. Despite the test’s extreme difficulty, BYU’s Grant Molnar tied for third place with a score of 32, and Joseph Ward took tenth place with a score of 27.  They accredit their success to active participation in BYU’s Problem Solving Club, the Putnam class, and undergraduate research work.

“This is an excellent accomplishment,” stated Professor Nielsen, commenting on the students’ success.  We applaud both students for their mathematical talent and commend them for this impressive accomplishment.