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Undergraduate Projects Recognized at National Math Meeting

Feb. 19, 2013

A record number of Cal State Fullerton mathematics majors won awards at the recent joint meeting of the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America.

Fourteen undergraduates presented nine poster research projects at the San Diego conference, said Angel R. Pineda, assistant professor of mathematics who mentored two of the students. Four CSUF projects received Outstanding Presentation Awards.

The students presented research ranging from using mathematical models to diagnose multiple sclerosis and exploring how to use mathematics to improve magnetic resonance imaging to advanced geometry problems.

The conference is the largest yearly mathematics meeting in the world and was attended by more than 6,700 math faculty, students and researchers. The undergraduate student poster session showcased the work of more than 500 students in approximately 300 poster presentations. The top 15 percent of posters, judged by mathematicians at the conference, received the Outstanding Presentation Award.

"What struck me most was the fact that our students were much better prepared than their counterparts and more knowledgeable than the vast majority of the other presenters, even those from Ivy League schools and research institutions," said Stephen W. Goode, chair and professor of mathematics who attended the poster presentation session.

Cal State Fullerton students competed against peers from universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UCLA and Harvey Mudd College.

"To put the four poster awards in context, Cal State Fullerton received the second most awards in the nation, after UCLA, which had one more award, while other strong programs in undergraduate mathematics research had fewer," said Pineda.

Math professor Mortaza (Mori) Jamshidian, whose students presented research, added that the conference gave the young mathematicians an insight into research their peers are doing and the work it takes to advance in the field. "It's really important for students to attend these conferences because they get excited and energized, and receiving an award confirms that there is value in their projects."

Mentoring Strengthens Results

In addition to Jamshidian and Pineda, three other mathematics faculty members have been working closely with the presenting students: Scott Annin, Sam Behseta and Bogdan Suceavă, all professors of mathematics. Suceavă also participated as a poster session judge, and Pineda served as a judging coordinator and as a member of the Mathematical Association of America national subcommittee on research by undergraduates.

Robert A. Koch, acting dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, explained that the guidance mathematics faculty members offer to students is critical to their academic success.

"This success reflects what we have been finding in other settings where our undergraduates present their research. These meetings also are a good way to let other institutions with graduate programs — where we want our students to go — know how well prepared our students are," said Koch.

"It also empowers students, letting them know that they are ready to compete at the graduate level, if that is their plan," Koch continued. "Tackling a research project and carrying it through to the final presentation stage gives students experience with critical thinking, project management, communication and, in some cases, teamwork, which are skills they can take into graduate school and the workplace."

Mathematics majors who received the Outstanding Presentation Award and their project titles are:

  • Daniel Lenders of Torrance and Danny Orton of Placentia, "New Probability-Based Characteristic in Finite Group Theory"
  • Reina Galvez of Riverside, Antouneo Kassab of Anaheim and Duy Ngo of Santa Ana, "A Multivariate Statistical Inference for the Analysis of Neuronal Spiking Rates"
  • Brayan Ortiz of Anaheim, "Predicting the Presence of Multiple Sclerosis Using Semantic Categories and Logistic Regression"
  • Cody Gruebele of Brea, "Comparison of Two Models for Fat/Water Separation in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)"

Additionally, two research projects focusing on differential geometry, conducted by four students who presented posters at the conference, were accepted for publication later this year in the Taiwanese Journal of Mathematics, a peer-reviewed journal. Charles Conley, Rebecca Etnyre, Brady Gardener and Lucy Odom co-authored the articles with Bogdan Suceavă

By: Debra Cano Ramos, 657-278-4027

Tags:  Academics & ResearchTitan Pride