“Newtonianism for the ladies”

Intrepid OU math professor Ralf Schmidt and OU grad student Lynn Greenleaf took ten OU undergrads to the University of Nebraska’s 14th annual Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics (NCUWM).

Blog HQ asked the women who went to answer a few questions about their experiences and here is some of what they had to say.

Blog HQ: Why did you decide to go to NCUWM?

Dana:  I decided to go to NCUWM because I went the previous year and enjoyed myself so much that I want to go again.

Michelle:  I decided to go to NCUWM because I attended last year and it was the single most enriching experience of my undergraduate career.  This year did not disappoint.

Wen:  I’d like to able to meet more women in math, and to see how is their life and study. I’m more interested in the graduate panel which discussed about almost every aspect of graduate study.

Katlin:  Dr. Miller told me about this conference my freshman year. I went last year and it was a great experience.

Find the Sooners! (click to make bigger)

Blog HQ:  What happens at this conference? What did you do there?

Edwina:  The conference showcases research done usually through REU’s, holds panels for graduate school and careers in mathematics, and has breakout sessions which are specialized for issues students tend to encounter during school or the application process.

Dana:  At the conference, there are so many things that happen.  There are plenary talks from respected women mathematicians; this year they were given by Dr. Ingrid Daubechies and Dr. Sara Billey.  There are several 15 minute talks about research in mathematics that undergraduate women have done, either through an REU or in coursework.  There are also panel discussions about career opportunities for people with math degrees, graduate school in math, summer research opportunities.  There’s also a banquet on Friday evening where I got to meet students from other universities as well as Juan Franco who is the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs for University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Michelle:  At the conference, you meet other undergraduate women sharing your interests and discuss your research, interests, and possible graduate opportunities you might share.  You listen to two phenomenal plenary talks from the foremost mathematicians in the field, then you go into smaller groups and discuss a predetermined topic which each participant signed up for earlier.  You have the chance to listen to presentations from other undergraduate women detailing their research, which is one of my favorite parts.  They also have a pizza party and a formal dinner where you are strongly encouraged to branch out and meet those outside of your group.  I met other analysts and we were able to discuss our research projects.

Blog HQ:  Give 5 words that describe the NCUWM conference.

Blog HQ:  What was your expectation for the conference?  What did it actually turn out to be like?

Wen:  I was expecting to hear lots of math research classes or presentation, and I thought the conference is all about math, all about the research, but it turned out to be fun and very useful. It is not only concerning about the study side, also discuss about how to balance life and math. I learned a lot about how other women deal with their problem and challenges. Especially how marriage and children affect to women in different ways. It’s very helpful to hear from different women how they deal with marriage and children.

Dana:  Since I had gone to the conference, I knew what to expect in terms of the scheduling but I didn’t expect to have even more fun going this year than I did last year.

Teresa:   I thought I would hear a lot about math at the conference and different career paths open to mathematicians.  I did all that and made lasting friendships!

Michelle:  My expectations were largely built on my experience from the 2011 conference, where I had an amazing time.  The 2012 conference was just as good and I got to explore more of UNL than I had been able to the previous year.

Blog HQ:  What was the coolest math thing you heard?

Teresa:  The coolest thing was learning that mathematics underlies recent Pixar animation.

Dana:  A student gave a talk entitled “Stem detection of strawberries utilizing the medial axis transform” and the cool part was is that, using math, she was able to create a bounding rectangle for where the stem of a strawberry would most likely be in a photo in only about 20 seconds.  The even cooler part was that this type of technology could have future applications in the spread of wildfires, dance choreography, and identification of what tree a certain leaf came from.

Edwina:  There was an interesting talk about Lenny Jones’ article ” When Does Appending the Same digit Repeatedly on the Right of a Positive Integer Generate a Sequence of Composite Integers?”

Blog HQ:  What’s the best piece of information you received at the conference?  The thing you will be sure to remember?

Edwina and Michelle:  “Math will never love you back, but that shouldn’t stop you from pouring yourself into it”

Katlin:  There are a lot of opportunities in mathematics. It is important to be prepared.

Dana:  The best piece of advice I received at the conference was from an invited guest at the conference.  She said that even though she has her Ph.D. in math, there are still days where she feels stupid so we should not get discouraged during those times when math is most frustrating.

Wen:  One lady quotes:  “Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics; I can assure you that mine are still greater.” –Einstein, which is the same quote I like the most.

Teresa:   The best piece of information I received at the conference was that any job description with the word “analyst” is a job that can be done with a math degree.  I will always remember the nine hour drive there and back.

Blog HQ:  What would you say to someone thinking about going to next year’s conference?

Katlin:  You should absolutely go. Even if you’re not interested in pursuing a career in mathematics, you should go. Last year, this conference encouraged me to start doing research and seriously consider graduate programs.

Dana:  I would definitely encourage them to go.  It definitely is a great way to make new friends within OU’s math community as well as with other women across the country.  You also see a lot of different ways to think about math and use math.  It’s also a really awesome experience to be around other women who have the same interests and the same struggles that you do, whether it comes from gender discrimination from classmates or from doing your analysis homework.  It makes me feel encouraged to know that I’m not the only one out there.

Wen:  You should definitely go the conference where you’ll meet other women interested in math, and you’ll learn about the career and graduates school whichever you interested most. And also, you’ll make new friends in the same school since there were 10 of us.

Teresa:  You should do it!

About the title:

One of us from Blog HQ was at the OU History of Science collection last week and was shown one of the best sellers of the 18th century.  It is described by Massimo Mazzotti at UC of Berkeley thusly:

Francesco Algarotti’s “Newtonianism for the ladies, or dialogues on light and colours” (1737) was an eighteenth- century best seller. It was also one of the main channels through which Newtonian ideas reached the general public in continental Europe. The book offered a description of some of Newton’s experiments on the nature of light and colours in the form of a genteel dialogue between a chevalier (cavaliere) and a marchioness (la marchesa di E***). Through an enjoyable, mundane, and apparently light-hearted conversation, past doctrines about the nature of matter and light were sketched, considered, and proved mistaken. Along the way, Algarotti gracefully disposed of contemporary anti-Newtonian philosophers as well. At the end of her initiation into the true philosophy the marchioness couldn’t but agree that Newton’s theory of light, and indeed his entire philosophical system, provided a veritable description of the functioning of the machine of the world.

This OU history of science library has a first edition.  You can even find a digital photo of the front page on their website. Here it is:

The title is in Italian, but there's no mistaking it!

And here’s the facing page:


2 thoughts on ““Newtonianism for the ladies”

  1. Pingback: Calculus au naturel | OU Math Club

  2. Pingback: On the Road with The Schmidt | OU Math Club

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