Loeb Undergraduate Lecture in Mathematics
Each spring the Department hosts a visiting mathematician to deliver a special lecture for undergraduates. This lecture is made possible by a wonderful gift from Jerry and Carol Loeb. The speaker this year is Erica Flapan, Ligurn H. Burkhead Professor of Mathematics, Pomona College. Her field of research is the area of topology known as “spatial graph theory,” which involves studying the topology of graphs embedded in three-dimensional space. Flapan has worked for more than 30 years, applying topological methods to problems in chemistry and molecular biology, including knotting of DNA and proteins, and symmetries of non-rigid molecules. While many of her publications are about the topological structure of arbitrary graphs embedded in 3-manifolds, most of her work is either motivated by or closely related to the study of the topology of non-rigid molecules. (See https://www.pomona.edu/directory/people/erica-flapan)
The talk will be at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, in Hillman Hall, Room 70, with refreshments preceding the talk at 3:45 in the Mathematics Lounge (Cupples I, Room 200).
Title: Topological and Geometric Symmetries of Molecular Structures
Abstract How does a chemist know that a molecule that he or she has synthesized has the desired form? Most non-biological molecules are too small to see in a microscope or even with the help of an electron micrograph. So chemists need to collect experimental data as evidence that a synthetic molecule has a particular form. One approach to this is to try to match the experimental data about the symmetries of the molecule to the symmetries of a physical model of the desired form. But molecules which are not completely rigid may have symmetries that are absent from the model. In such a case, topology, which is the study of deformations of objects in space, can help interpret the data. In this talk we will explore topological and geometric approaches to studying the symmetries of complex molecular structures.
All undergraduates, graduate students, faculty are invited. Mark your calendars!
Math Competitions this academic year
- Putnam Competition, Saturday, December 3, 2016. Watch for an annoucement about results, usually available in late March.
- Missouri Collegiate Mathematics Competition: Thursday March 30 and Friday March 31, 2017 on the campus of Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri. We expect to send 2 three-student teams. Please start thinking about whether you might like to participate. Participation would require leaving sometime Thursday morning and returnin to campus sometime Saturday afternoon. You can view old competition problems and solutions at the Competition Archive. For more information, please contact Blake Thornton (Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies).
Juniors: Latin Honors and Distinction in Mathematics Awards for May 2018
If you think you're interested in a Distinction in Mathematics Award, or Latin Honors, when you graduate, please check the requirements at Distinction or Latin Honors. All students who are considering writing a senior thesis (for Latin Honors, or for the "High" or "Highest" Distinction in Mathematics awards must file a request for admission to candidacy by the end junior year. The reason for the "early filing" is that a senior thesis is supposed to be a significant project that involves planning, reading, mathematical work, and write-up, and it should not be something put together in a hurry. Students planning for an August or December graduation should consult with Blake Thornton (Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies). about timing, but should plan on approximately similar "lead times" for such a project.
- Proposal for Admission to Candidacy for Latin Honors
- Proposal for Senior Theis Candidacy for High or Highest Distinction but not Latin Honors
Summer Research Programs
Undergraduate majors, especially those interested in graduate work in mathematics, should consider applying to one of the many summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Students most often participate after the junior year but, depending on your preparation, after the sophomore year might also work. Applications for the coming summer are usually due by about mid February. Explore our web page Undergraduate Study/Internship Opportunities and talk with Blake Thornton (Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies) if you might be interested.
The Department expects to be able sometime this fall to accept aplications for our own research program (ARTU). This will depend on our funding from the Office of Undergraduate Research.
Next meeting: TBA spring 2017, organizers needed (contact Professor Thornton if you want to help out)
WU Chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM)
We are in the process of organizing an Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) student chapter at WashU. AWM is a non-profit organization that encourages women and girls to study and have active careers in the mathematical sciences. Benefits of getting involved with an AWM student chapter include: free AWM membership, networking opportunities, a stronger sense of community, and more.
If you have any questions, please email Professor Rachel Roberts.
Washington University Actuarial Club (WUAC)
- If you are interested in becoming an executive member of WUAC. This is a fairly low time commitment and a great way to meet actuaries from many different lines of business.
- If you are interested in having an informational meeting about what classes to take for what exams, the exam process, general actuarial info, etc. If there is enough interest, we will put a presentation/ Q&A session together
- If you have any questions or feedback.
Join the WUAC Facebook group.
Results from mathematics competitions in 2015-2016
Results from Math Competitions 2015-2016
- William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) was held Saturday, December 5, 2015 (approximately 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.). There were 4275 student participants from 554 colleges and universities in Canada and the United States. The student participants compete as individuals on a six-hour, 12 problem competition. After grading, students are ranked based on their scores (taking ties into account). One Washington University Student, Anthony Grebe, received an "Honorable Mention" with a rank of 51.5 nationally. Three other WU students ranked between 97 - 199. Also, three students from each participating school may be designated as a school team, whose rank is determined by the average of the ranks of the individual team members: Only the top 10 ranked teams receive special mention. The WU team ranked 8th nationally and received an "Honorable Mention" designation. Team members were Zhengdao Chen, Philip Bonneville, and Anthony Grebe.
The next Putnam Competition will be held on Saturday, December 3, 2016. Watch for announcements in early fall 2016 about weekly "Putnam Preparation" sessions which are open to all students. Here's a link for old Putnam Competition problems and solutions.
- The 21st Annual Missouri Collegiate Mathematics Competition was held on April 7-8, 2016 on the campus of Missouri Western State University. Altogether 31 teams from 19 schools across Missouri participated, including two 3-person teams from WU. One WU team tied for 1st in the competition with a perfect "100" score: team members were Matt Ehren, Harry Go, and Alex Mason. The second WU team consisting of Changming Xu, Ted Meador and Stella Schindler placed 4th with an excellent 94 score.
Rear: Changming Xu, Alex Mason,
Stella Schindler, Harry Go
Front: Matt Ehren, Ted Meador
Problems, and Competition Photos are available at the competition Archive.
The 19th Annual Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics is scheduled for February 3-4, 2017, Lincoln, Nebraska. The conference, organized by the University of Nebraska (Lincoln), hosts more than 200 undergraduate women studying mathematics at more than one hundred schools all around the country.
The conference is a chance to meet with other women interested in mathematics, to learn about life in mathematics graduate school from current female graduate students, hear about summer research opportunities and careers in math. Undergraduate research presentations are also invited. There are also some excellent guest lecturers. See the conference web page for details. You can also read comments from some of the W.U. majors who have attended these conferences in past years.
We expect that there will be another conference in late January or early February 2018. The Department may be able to help with airfare for a few female majors (up to a limit of $300 each) who would like to attend. The Conference organizers cover most of the other expense like lodging and some meals. Students are personally responsible for a conference registration fee, usually about $50. Be thinking about whether you might enjoy going to this meeting. Contact Blake Thornton by September 9, 2018 if you might be interested in going.
Registration for the conference usually begins on approximately October 1 and it fills up very fast. The Conference organizers may limit the number of students allowed to attend from each school.
Not everyone will agree, but this article is worth considering.
A smaller version (the "dual" of this structure) now hangs in the Math Lounge (room 200)
A team at the University of Central Missouri, headed by Curtis Cooper has announced, via press release from the Mersenne organization, that they have found the largest prime number ever. It breaks the old record by about 5 million digits. (Prof. Cooper also is one of the organizers of the Missouri Collegiate Mathematics Competition in which our teams perticipate each year.)
Mathematical Moments from the AMS--insights into the role of mathematics in science, technology and society
Mathematics Department Annual Holiday Potluck Lunch
In celebration of the end of the semester and the coming holidays, the Math Department hosts an Holiday Potluck Lunch on the last day of the fall reading period. This lunch is for undergraduate majors, math graduiate students and mathematics faculty.
Watch for more imformation about the lunch in December 2017.
We always welcome feedback or questions from students
- Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies: BlakeThornton
- Department Chair: Professor John McCarthy