Monday, April 13, 2009

Hudson River Undergraduate Math Conference to be held at Union College Saturday April 18




This coming Saturday, April 18, students and faculty from colleges and universities all over upstate New York and western New England will be coming to Union College in Schenectady to present a dazzling smorgasbord of talks about a variety of mathematical topics at the sixteenth annual Hudson River Undergraduate Math Conference (HRUMC).

Students from Albany Area Math Circle who have attended a previous HRUMC have found many of the talks fascinating and very understandable. Most of the presenters are undergraduate math majors, and all the level 1 talks are generally very accessible to advanced high school students who enjoy challenging mathematics of the sort we do in our math circle. In fact, if you have an idea for giving such a talk yourself, you might be inspired to submit a proposal to next year's HRUMC. The organizers have accepted some such proposals, and I can recall at least one year in which a high school student's presentation was extremely well-attended and well-received by the faculty and students in the audience. If you think you might like to present at this conference in a later year, you should definitely attend this year.

Most of the talks are quite short, so you have the opportunity to sample lots of different math topics in the one-day, both pure and applied. About 20% of the talks are by faculty and 80% by students. Here's just a selection of a few of the topics that struck my fancy.

The keynote speaker is Professor Erica Flapan from Pomona College, who will give a talk called "When Topology Meets Chemistry," about the connections between knot theory and molecular chemistry. (If this subject interests you, you might enjoy Martin Gardner's fascinating book on related topics, The New Ambidextrous Universe, which provides a highly engaging introduction to some of the key concepts.)

Russell Sage senior Sybil Wojcio looks at Lewis Carroll's mathematical recreation puzzles and guessing games. (Yes, THAT Lewis Carroll! The author of the Alice books was a mathematical logician at Oxford University. If you want to know more, read Martin Gardner's Annotated Alice and/or Gardner's edited collection of Lewis Carroll's mathematical recreations, The Universe in a Handkerchief.)

Westfield State juniors Jamie Cocomazzi and Sarah Grella will talk about their work using ChordGeometry software to investigate the mathematics of music, explaining why the space of triads looks like a triangular prism while the space of 2-chords is a Moebius strip. Prof. Larry Knop from Hamilton College will talk about some of the mathematics underlying Google's page-rank algorithm. Williams College junior Christophe Dorsey-Guillaumin will give a talk for advanced undergraduates about the Riemann Hypothesis and quantum mechanics. Union College Prof. Bill Zwicker and senior math major Andy Mackenzie will present a two-part session on applications of game theory to the design of voting machines. Prof. Zwicker is a noted expert on the mathematics of voting theory as well as a great teacher. He was also one of the original founders of HRUMC, along with Prof. Colin Adams of Williams College, Prof. Emelie Kenney of Siena, and Prof. David Vella of Skidmore. HRUMC has been an enormously successful program which has inspired the launching of a number of other similar conferences around the country.

The talks listed above are just the tip of the iceberg--there's much more to choose from. The complete list of talks, presenters, and downloadable abstracts for each talk is available here. Note that each presentation has a "Topic Level" rating of 1 or 2. Albany Area Math Circle students who attended HRUMC in previous years have found all the material in level 1 sessions very accessible and well within their mathematical comfort level. Those AAMC students who had already done advanced college-level work in abstract algebra, number theory, analysis, and/or topology also found level 2 sessions quite accessible as well.

Albany Area Math Circle members who would like to attend should email Advisor Mary O'Keeffe ASAP.

1 comment:

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