Even in the midst of the uncertain times caused by COVID-19, Centre College’s mathematics program remains committed to providing its students with meaningful summer experiences. The department is offering a myriad of opportunities this summer, including virtual research groups and alumni talks.
Associate Professor of Mathematics Ellen Swanson and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Michael Lamar are leading a virtual research group of 15 current Centre students. Their effort is focused on mathematically modeling the spread of COVID-19 and gaining a deeper understanding of the mathematics behind the different models and predictions on the news. Students are seeing how the mathematical techniques they learn in their classes are not only utilized but depended upon in the real world, in addition to gaining essential research skills, such as asking questions, reading research papers and interpreting solutions.
Swanson explained how research is always important, because it encourages a “higher level of thinking,” which is one of the reasons it is a pillar of the Centre Commitment. However, it is particularly crucial for Centre’s math program to offer research opportunities this summer due to so many students’ plans being canceled as a result of the very pandemic they are now researching.
Associate Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the Mathematics Program Lesley Wiglesworth and Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics Lucas Hoots are also hosting a virtual research group for math students interested in combinatorics and graph theory. Students are able to choose their own problems to research based on their interests. Combinatorics can be used, for example, to study combinatorial games, such as Lights Out.
This summer, Associate Professor of Mathematics Jeffrey Heath is continuing research with a team of three students he has been working with since last summer. The team is developing a sports rating system specifically tailored for Kentucky high school sports. This particular project is, according to Heath, “highly computational” and “a great experience for the students in learning how important data management is to a project of this scale.”
Swanson, along with other math faculty members, have been recruiting Centre alumni to talk to current students about what opportunities their math degrees have led them to pursue. The series features a wide variety of speakers, some of whom are working at a national lab, in industry or currently in graduate school.
“These talks will encourage students to actively think about what they may want to do after college,” Swanson said.
Incoming students have also been invited to attend these talks so that they can begin thinking about what they can accomplish with a math major at Centre, even before they arrive on campus.
View the full schedule of talks here.
by Injee Hong ’21
June 19, 2020