MSU math club traveling to regional conference
For many adults, memories of math class conjure anxiety-ridden heart palpitations and sweaty palms. But for students in Minot State University's Math Club, the Pi Mu Epsilon Conference in St. Cloud, Minn., is a fun way to showcase a year's worth of contemplative thought, sometimes frustration, and research about numbers.
Pi Mu Epilson is dedicated to the promotion of mathematics and recognition of students who successfully pursue mathematical understanding. At conferences, undergraduate PME members give 20-minute presentations on mathematical topics. Although some presentations may impart new results, the majority often show results of exploration of a topic beyond what is traditionally covered in an undergraduate class. April 12-13, Narayan Thapa, MSU assistant math professor, is taking eight students to St. John's University to present, observe and network.
Johannah Miller, a junior majoring in chemistry and math, will present "Schrodinger Equation in Modeling Energy Level of Hydrogen Atom." Miller chose this research because it investigates chemistry from a mathematical perspective, and she felt the preparation and hard work would give her an advantage when applying to graduate schools. Miller plans to pursue an advanced degree in material science or nuclear chemistry.
"I haven't really been exposed to math in the chemistry world, so I am excited to meet other people who like math and be exposed to the many ways you can use math."
Senior Justin Ziegler will speak on the "Finite Difference Method for the Black-Scholes Option Pricing Model." Ziegler, who is majoring in math and finance, said Black Scholes is a mathematical model modern financial instruments use to govern option prices. His research explored software applications and the understanding of how the components work. For Ziegler, this is the perfect fit for a future in corporate finance.
Breanne Hatfield came to MSU on a soccer scholarship. She originally majored in biology as a foundation for her long-range plans of attending medical school. But after taking a math class from Thapa, she was hooked.
"I took calc (calculus) two, knowing I wanted pre-med, and after that, I wanted to take every math class here," she said.
So Hatfield is double majoring in math and biology, pleasing her mother, a California math teacher. Hatfield's presentation for the PME Conference is "Parameter Estimation in Avascular Tumor Growth Model." Her work fits nicely with her intentions of becoming an immunologist with an oncology specialty.
David Yeomans is presenting "Numerical Approximation to the Heat Equation." Yeomans is a senior majoring in mathematics.
Nicholas Taylor is attending PME as an observer. Although his research involves using Markov Chains in analyzing baseball-run predictions, he has another year of work to complete before Thapa feels he is ready to present to peers. Taylor, a junior pursuing a math degree, wants to obtain a master's degree in statistics and work for a baseball statistics institution.
"A math degree is a good employment opportunity because it shows employers you can think critically and understand a system that's presented to you," Taylor said. "It opens a lot of doors."
Three other students, who conduct research with Thapa, are also attending PME: Michal Gudejko, Samuel Olson and Chloe Ondracek.
For all participants, the research is pertinent to their personal interest and career aspirations. Thapa sets the coursework, but he quickly points out it is challenging to find undergraduate students who are up to the task.
"I chose students with excellent academic records. But they also must be curious and have the time to give towards the commitment," Thapa said.
The students estimate they spend about six to 15 hours a week in their research, in addition to weekly two-hour meetings with Thapa to present and discuss progress.
"We are establishing a culture of talks so that when students go into any (work) field, they can present their ideas. We enable our students to compete with undergraduate students from small and big schools all over the country. It's a lot of work, but I am very fortunate," Thapa said. "I have some very good students who are committed."