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08-31-2010

Two Clarkson University Students Receive National Math Awards

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/mathfest2010.jpg]
 

Two Clarkson University students received awards for their research presentations at the annual Mathematical Association of America’s Mathfest, held in Pittsburgh this month.mathfest2010

Mark Minick, a junior chemical engineering major from Mechanicville, N.Y., won the SIGMAA EM award, which recognizes exceptional presentations that involve work on problems arising from environmental sources.

Brian Leventhal, a senior mathematics major from Hauppauge, N.Y., received an Outstanding Presentation Award for his talk on "Understanding How the Brain Detects Threats."

Mathfest, one of the largest undergraduate research math conferences with an overall attendance of about 1,500 people, featured roughly 185 undergraduate student speakers, with nine undergraduate presenters from Clarkson.

Minick spoke about his summer research project, which focused on the water consumption of berry farmers in the Parajo Valley of California. This was joint work with Mathematics Professor Katie R. Fowler and mathematics senior Xiaojing Fu of Hunan, China.

The project’s objective is to build a mathematical model that accounts for different crop rotation scenarios to minimize water usage while maximizing profit. The work is motivated by the fact that aquifer resources are quickly depleting in that area and over-pumping has even resulted in seawater intrusion from the coast.

Minick’s progress was facilitated by the American Institute of Mathematics and conference calls with sustainability experts and berry farmers from Driscoll Berries. He will continue the research effort over the next year and travel to California to meet with collaborators.

Leventhal’s talk was based on research conducted as part of an interdisciplinary team, working jointly with psychology junior Kylie Drouin of South Burlington, Vt. mentored by Fowler and Psychology Professor Robert Dowman. The team enhanced a computational toolkit to fit experimental data and gain understanding of the architecture in the brain. Their work used a mix of psychology, mathematical modeling, computer programming, and statistics to try to predict reaction times to threatening scenarios.

Leventhal’s research was part of a National Science Foundation-funded Undergraduate Biology-Mathematics (UBM) program designed to help students learn how to work as part of an interdisciplinary team to conduct research that might not be accessible from a single field. The program teams students from biology and mathematics on a project with a goal of leveraging the combined expertise to advance the research.

In its first year at Clarkson, the UBM program supported three teams of students, with all teams presenting at Mathfest.

Biology juniors Marie Rogers of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Brianna Brianna Christopherson of Camillus, N.Y., conducted a joint presentation titled "Mathematically Modeling Risk Based Decision Making in Jays and College Students," describing research performed with biology senior Joshua Felch of South Berwick, Me., and psychology junior Michael Rolleston of Queensbury, N.Y., supervised by Biology Professor Tom A. Langen and Mathematics & Computer Science Professor Joseph D. Skufca.

Applied mathematics & statistics senior Chris Lemon of Sanford, Me., presented joint research with biology senior Valerie Bethka of Scotia, N.Y., supervised by Biology Professor James A. Schulte and Mathematics & Computer Science Professor Aaron B. Luttman, with a talk titled "Segmentation Image Analysis: A Novel Approach to Identifying Cryptic Species."

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Two Clarkson University students received awards for their research presentations at the annual Mathematical Association of America’s Mathfest. Mark Minick (left) won the SIGMAA EM award, which recognizes exceptional presentations that involve work on problems arising from environmental sources. Brian Leventhal received an Outstanding Presentation Award for his talk on "Understanding How the Brain Detects Threats."


[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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