Volume 8: Fall 2016

Chair’s Message – Prof. Joanna Ellis-Monaghan

2015-2016 was another exciting and eventful year for both faculty and students in the math department.  The big news was At the end of another exciting year, we celebrate a strong class of nine graduating mathematics majors.Chair’s Message – Prof. Joanna Ellis-Monaghan 


Our graduates are embarking on a variety of postgraduate plans, ranging from continuing education in fields such as teaching, geological sciences, and biostatistics to working at Pricewaterhouse Coopers in Transfer Pricing. Long-term goals include working in academia and secondary education, data and statistical analysis, and environmental research.

Please visit our alumni spotlights for more information about what our graduates are up to. Also, check out our departmental webpage

In This Issue:

Upcoming Events – (Alumni are always welcome!)s for further details about our Department and programs.

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Our 2016 Graduates and their Majors and Honors:

Katelyn Bania – Mathematics

Logan David – Mathematics Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges

Mackenzie Edmondson  – Mathematics President of Vermont Alpha chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, Phi Beta Kappa,  Delta Epsilon Sigma, Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges

Brianna Healy – Mathematics/Economics Pi Mu Epsilon, Phi Beta Kappa, Delta Epsilon Sigma, Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges

Nathan Hodge  – Mathematics/Economics Pi Mu Epsilon, Phi Beta Kappa, Delta Epsilon Sigma, Omicron Delta Epsilon, Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, Outstanding Graduate for the Saint Michael’s Mathematics Department 

Celsey Lumbra – Mathematics Pi Mu Epsilon, Phi Beta Kappa, Delta Epsilon Sigma, Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges

Kristen McCarthy – Mathematics/Environmental Studies, Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges

Logan Tracy –  Mathematics/Elementary Education

Melissa Westland  – Mathematics Pi Mu Epsilon, Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges

Mathematics Department Colloquium Series

Our 2015-2016 Departmental Colloquium Series again spanned a wide range of topics shared by various experts. The talks included:

  • In September 2015, several undergraduates presented results from their summer undergraduate research work, including:
    • Mackenzie Edmondson ’16, “Pathway Analysis and iMRMs: A Summer Research Experience in Statistical Genetics”
    • Brianna Healy ’16 and Melissa Westland ’16, “Using the Matching Algorithm to Improve DNA Nano-structure Design Strategies”
    • Alexandra Brown ’17, “Mathematical Blueprints for DNA Nanostructures”
    • Kristen McCarthy ’16, “Using Rhodamine dye to Quantify Incoming Solar Radiation Along Streams with Heterogeneous Canopy Cover”
    • Celsey Lumbra ’16 and Nathan Hodge ’16, “From Boston to Orlando: The Transfer Pricing Internship Experience at PwC”
    • In October 2015, SMC’s Mathematics Department’s Craig Jensen gave the colloquium talk “Battle of the Dice”
  • In November 2015, Prof. George Ashline from Saint Michael’s presented our annual Pi Mu Epsilon Lecture “Exploring the Famous Problems from Antiquity: Angle Trisection, Cube Duplication, and Squaring the Circle”
  • In January 2016, Eric Hernandez from UVM gave the Math-Engineering Colloquium Talk “Mathematical Modeling of Smart Structural Systems”
  • In March 2016, Samuel Scarpino from UVM gave the talk “Modeling Infectious Disease Outbreaks on Social Networks”
  • In January-March 2016, we also had three presentations from Statistics candidates, including:
    • Brooke Alhanti, “Bivariate Quantile-Based Calibration of Numberical Model Outputs with Application to Climate Projections”
    • Junshu Bao, “Bayesian Nonparametric Multivariate Ordinal Regression”

Brian Powers, “An Analysis of Multivariate Final-Offer Arbitration”

Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Conference (HRUMC XXIII)

On Saturday, April 2, the Saint Michael’s College Mathematics Department hosted the 23rd annual Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Conference (HRUMC XXIII), with an estimated 300 students and faculty from 34 colleges and universities in New York and New England in attendance. HRUMC provides a venue for undergraduates to present the results of their research projects to their peers, and this year’s conference featured 110 talks from a wide variety of areas of mathematics.

This year’s keynote speaker was Scott Aaronson (MIT and U T Austin), who discussed the status of the Millennial Problem P vs. NP and its implications in computing and beyond. Dr. Aaronson’s talk was both entertaining and enlightening for all who attended, explaining why many experts think that P!= NP is true and but why it is necessarily difficult to prove.

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We had 13 Saint Michael’s students and faculty members give talks at HRUMC:

  • George Ashline, Mathematics: “The Pythagorean Theorem: Some History, Derivations, and Extensions”
  • Katelyn Bania ’16: “Generating Spirographs and the Mathematical Rose”
  • Marcella Daley ’17:  “Non-Orientable Surfaces”
  • Rachel Field ’17: “Gyroid Surface”
  • Brianna Healy ’16: “Fractal Landscape Generation”
  • Nate Hodge and Logan David ’16: “Spinning Tops: Physics That Will Make You Dizzy”
  • Zsusanna Kadas, Mathematics: “Population Models and the Logistic Equation: The Importance of Being Discrete”
  • Boris Li ’17: “Fibonacci Pineapples”
  • Celsey Lumbra ’16, Mackenzie Edmondson ’16: “Archimedean Solids”
  • Kristen McCarthy ’16: “Stereographic Projections of Loxodromes on a Sphere”
  • Bethany Ramrath ’16: “Hyperbolic Crocheting”
  • Samantha Tremblay and Conor Disher ’17: “The Prison Epidemic: Using Graph Theory to Model Contagion”
  • John Trono, Computer Science: “Predicting the NCAA Men’s Postseason Basketball Poll More Accurately”

Melissa Westland ’16: “Using Weierstrass Elliptic Functions to Look at Motion in an Asymmetric Double Well Potential” and “Topics in Knot Theory”

New Faculty mnews7

In the Fall of 2015 Dr. Craig Jensen joined the Math Department. Dr. Jensen graduated with a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Cornell University in 1998 under Karen Vogtmann.  He spent three years as a Zassenhaus Assistant Professor at the Ohio State University.  Following this, he was first an Assistant Professor and then an Associate Professor at the University of New Orleans from 2001 until 2015.  In the fall of 2015 for family reasons, he moved to Vermont and became an instructor in the mathematics department at St. Michael’s College.

His research areas and interests include algebra, mathematics education, and topology.  Copies of his papers can be downloaded from his web page at:


Craig is excited to be at St. Michael’s College.  His teaching strategy is to pursue a launch-explore-summarize framework.  Classes begin with a “launch”, which is a fun—often applied—topic which grabs the interest of the students.  Students then explore this topic and related topics for most of the class, and things are concluded with a summary of what was learned.

Calculus I topics this past year included a trip to a stream to measure stream flow using Google Earth to estimate the area of Lake Champlain, using lasers and mirrors to find the speed of light in different substances, growing duckweed in different environments and plotting the growth of it, and studying consumer and producer surplus.

mnews8Prof. George Ashline – Northeastern Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching

We are pleased to announce that SMC’s own George Ashline is the 2016 winner of the Northeastern Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching! Professor Ashline’s work in teaching has extended far beyond the classroom, inspiring students at St. Mike’s and in the greater Vermont area. A reception formally announcing George’s award will take place at the NES/MAA Meeting at University of New England on June 3-4, 2016.

Professor Ashline is pictured below with his former professor, Patti Frazer Lock (St. Lawrence University), who coincidentally was the 2016 winner of the Seaway Section Award for Distinguished Teaching.

DataFest mnews9

On April 8 through April 10, Saint Michael’s College and Middlebury College jointly held the first ever DataFest Vermont at Saint Michael’s College organized by mathematics professor Phil Yates and his Middlebury counterpart Albert Kim. The American Statistical Association (ASA) DataFest is a celebration of data in which teams of undergraduates work around the clock to find and share meaning in a large, rich, and complex data set. The first ever DataFest was held at UCLA in 2011. Six teams of students, five teams from Middlebury and one from Saint Michael’s College, were exposed to the joys and difficulties of working with “big data” provided by Ticketmaster. The Saint Michael’s College team was made up of three mathematics majors: junior Abigail Hotaling, sophomore Rebecca Rouleau, and first year student Jess Barlow. They presented on ways Ticketmaster can geographically optimize the advertising of events to potential customers.

Math Department Professors’ Sabbatical Work

On sabbatical in 2015-2016, George Ashline is working with the Vermont Mathematics Initiative, a three-year Master’s Degree Program at the University of Vermont, to enhance courses for K-12 teachers with Mathematics History components. This project also involves developing more advanced materials, as the program is incorporating more secondary education teachers.

George has also been reaching out to math alumni going back several decades and enhancing the Alumni Spotlights on the SMC Mathematics homepage. He published the article “Career Arcs and Advice: Voices from the Field” in the April 2016 issue of Math Horizons featuring the experiences and advice from SMC alumni Andrea Austin ’08, Claudette Foisy Fowler ’09, Andrew Gilbert ’11, Gordon Hines ’05, Michele Williams Hudson ’95, and Dan Lewis ’10.

Zsu Kadas is on sabbatical through the Fall semester. She is writing a collection of course materials focused mainly on mathematical models in Population Dynamics. These are intended for use either as a complete text for a Topics course (such as the Population Dynamics course that ran in Fall 2013) or as labs and projects to enhance courses in Calculus or Differential Equations.

Math Leadership Conference mnews10

On March 18, 2016, Saint Michael’s College hosted a Math Leadership Conference. The conference was organized by SMC’s George Ashline; Mary Fitzgerald, president of the Vermont Math Leadership Council (VMLC); and Lara White, math content specialist at the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE). The keynote, entitled “What Coaches Do: Myths and Realities”, was delivered by Patty Kelly and Christine Pereira, Springfield Supervisory District coaches and the VMLC Board Members, pictured below.

The conference provided time and space for nearly 70 Vermont math professionals to network, share successes, and problem-solve challenges. Sessions included topics on mathematical mindsets, fluid intervention models, coaching teachers, structures that sustain professional learning, performance tasks, co-planning, and proficiency in the classroom.

The conference was organized in honor of Professor Timothy Whiteford, who recently retired from his position in the Saint Michael’s College Education Department, recognizing his many years of dedicated service to the educational community in Vermont, particularly the VMLC, and beyond.

New Tutoring Model

Krisan Geary has led the implementation of a new model for peer tutoring at Saint Michael’s. In this new model, tutors are embedded in a particular section of a course and attend class alongside students at least once a week. Each week these embedded tutors offer a couple of hours each of small group and drop-in tutoring sessions. Feedback from all constituents has been overwhelmingly positive and we look forward to continuing the program next year.

In addition, Krisan has developed a new course, Mathematics for Teachers, which is designed for education majors to develop both a deep conceptual understanding of pre-K to 8+ mathematics along with the mathematical knowledge necessary to teach these topics.

Simons Institute at Berkeley

Jo Ellis-Monaghan was a Visiting Scientist in the Counting Complexity and Phase Transitions program at the Simons Institute at Berkeley during March, 2016, with particular interest in quantum analogs of classical problems.  She presented a tutorial on the quantum Ising model and met with several of the authors and reviewers of the CRC Handbook on the Tutte Polynomial and Related Topic she is editing with Iain Moffatt at Royal Hollow Univeristy of London.  She continues as Editor-in-Chief, together with Matt Boelkins at GVSU, of the journal PRIMUS: Problems Resources and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies.

Student Research in Self-assembling DNA Nanostructures

Prof. Ellis-Monaghan is co-PI on a $2 million dollar NSF grant in collaboration with Caltech, NYU, and City of Hope to develop origami-based DNA self-assembly processes.  The project includes Prof. Greta Pangborn in the CS department and involves SMC students in undergraduate research experiences. The research group this year included SMC students Anna Cook, lana Houlihan, David Perry, Rebecca Rouleau, and Brenna Smith.   Collaborators William Atkinson, and undergraduate from the University of Chicago), Ada Morse, a graduate student at UVM, and Margherita Ferrari, a graduate student at Politecnico di Milano, completed the group.  Further information on the project may be found at:  https://sites.google.com/site/nanoselfassembly/

Academic Symposium mnews11

In April 2016, a number of students participated in Saint Michael’s College Academic Symposium, celebrating undergraduate mathematics research. Student talks included:

  • Ahmed Albluwi ’18: “Graph Isomorphism”
  • Mariah Boudreau ’19: “Neural Networks in Autism”
  • Will Kitterman ’17: “The Traveling Salesman Problem”
  • Tyler Malone ’18: “Random Graphs”
  • Lucas Margenot ’17: “Neural Networks and Schizophrenia”
  • Tyler Tolisano ’19: “A Graph Theoretical Approach to Fingerprint Matching”
  • Samantha Tremblay ’17; Conor Disher ’17: “The Prison Epidemic: Using Graph Theory to Model Contagion”
  • Melissa Westland ’16: “An Exciting Application of the Weierstrass Elliptic Function”

There were also a number of poster presentations given by mathematics students, including:

  • Katelyn Bania ’16: “Generating Spirographs and the Mathematical Rose”
  • Marcella Daley ’17: “Non-Orientable Surfaces”
  • Rachel Field ’17: “Gyroid Surface”
  • Brianna Healy ’16: “Fractal Landscape Generation”
  • Nathan Hodge ’16; Logan David, ’16: “Spinning Tops: Physics That Will Make You dizzy”
  • Celsey Lumbra ’16; Mackenzie Edmondson, ’16: “Archimedean Solids”
  • Kristen McCarthy ’16: “Stereographic Projections of Loxodromes”
  • Bethany Ramrath ’17: “Hyperbolic Crocheting”
  • Melissa Westland ’16: “Topics in Knot Theory”

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Upcoming Events – (Alumni are always welcome!)

Mathematics Department Colloquium Series, Fall 2016-Spring 2017 (tentative schedule to date):

Friday, Sept. 9th: students will share results from their undergraduate mathematics research and other summer investigations.  We will also present Calculus Awards recognizing outstanding students from the calculus sequence.

Friday, Sept. 30:  The Pi Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honor Society Annual Lecture and Induction.  The plenary speaker this year will be David Bressoud, the DeWitt Wallace Professor of Mathematics at Macalester College and a former  president of the Mathematical Association of America, giving a talk titled Proofs and Confirmations:  The Story of the Alternating Sign Matrix Conjecture.

Saturday, Oct. 1.  David Bressoud will be giving a workshop hosted at SMC and open to all calculus instructors throughout the Northeast, on Teaching Calculus Now—Current Trends and Best Practices.

Friday, Oct. 28: Alumni Panel—Reflections on a Mathematics Liberal Arts Education: Experiences of our Graduates:

Eric Caputo ’92  Partner, Transfer Pricing PricewaterhouseCoopers

Lisa Martin Eriksson ’90      Optometrist New England Vision Correction

Ed Hakey ’11      Quality Assurance Lead National Life Group

Cody Rock ’11   Public Health Analyst State of Vermont

Ali Shappy ’13    Distribution Analyst Boston Beer Company

Rob Troy ’97      Pilot Air National Guard and United Airlines

Please submit comments or spotlight information to Jo Ellis-Monaghan or George Ashline. It’s great hearing from you!

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