Kudos!!! OU students at NCUWM

NCUWM: Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics

Every year, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln hosts a conference for undergraduate women in mathematics. The conference is open to all and women interested in mathematics are encouraged to attend and give talks on their research. This year the conference was held January 31st to February 2nd.


The OU Math Department send a contingent of our majors/minors to Nebraska every year accompanied by a faculty member; this year the following OU folks made it NCUWM:

Students: Jacquelyn Porter, Ashley Young, Laura Kincaide, Emily Scheele, Sarah Coulson, Terea Ratashak. They were accompanied by one of our graduate students, Tetyana Malysheva and a faculty member, Dr. Ralf Schmidt. Here are two pictures from their trip up North.

Trip to Nebraska by OU students

Trip to Nebraska by OU students


Trip to Nebraska by OU students


In a first for OU students, two of our undergraduate women presented at the conference. Sarah Coulson presented a poster titled, “Signature Authentication using Wavelet and Fourier Analysis” based on an REU she did at Texas A&M. Teresa Ratashak gave a well received 15 minute talk on, “Ranking Math Departments using the Google Page Rank Algorithm“, based on her undergraduate research project with our own Dr. Jon Kujawa.

Please join me in congratulating our students on a very successful trip!


Texas Undergraduate Topology and Geometry conference.

This is an announcement for a conference for undergraduate students interested in mathematics. It will be held in the lovely town of Austin, Texas, February 21st to 23rd, 2014. See the announcement below:

“You are cordially invited to join us in the second annual Texas Undergraduate Topology and Geometry Conference.  TeXTaG (with apologies to the toll roads folks) is intended to give undergraduate researchers working in topology and geometry a chance to present their work, and to give undergraduates from Texas and neighboring states a chance to network, learn some math, and think about next steps.

Loosely modeled after the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics, this conference will feature two outside speakers:

Rob Kusner (University of Massachusetts), and
Erica Flapan (Pomona College)

The remainder of the schedule will depend on how many students sign up to speak. The emphasis is on undergraduates talking to undergraduates, but we’re likely to have panel discussions on subjects such as graduate school and teaching.  The conference will begin with a reception on Friday evening, and end around noon on Sunday.

For more information and to register, see the conference webpage:
math.utexas.edu/conferences/textag<http://math.utexas.edu/conferences/textag> . We anticipate being able to provide accommodations and travel funding to a majority of participants from Texas and adjacent states. Students from farther away are welcome to attend, but will need to make their own travel arrangements.

Lorenzo Sadun sadun@math.utexas.edu<mailto:sadun@math.utexas.edu>
Michael Lock mlock@math.utexas.edu<mailto:mlock@math.utexas.edu>
Michelle Chu mchu@math.utexas.edu<mailto:mchu@math.utexas.edu>
Lisa Piccirillo lpiccirillo@math.utexas.edu<mailto:lpiccirillo@math.utexas.edu>”

Visiting the TORUS

We told you in January about the fantastic TORUS math conference (note: the O in TORUS stands for Oklahoma!).  Jeffery Dittenber, an OU math major who went with Dr. Hall to TORUS, volunteered to tell about his many adventures.  We asked him the same questions we asked the ladies who went to Nebraska. It sounds like TORUS should also become an annual event for OU students!

Unfortunately, TORUS is not held in the Stanford Torus.

Unfortunately, TORUS is not held in the Stanford Torus.

Here’s what Jeffery had to say about TORUS:

0.  Why did you decide to go to TORUS?

I decided to go because I love math and learning about math in a no pressure atmosphere. I was interested in seeing what a math conference would be like. Also, I was interested in finding out about student presentation material for next semester.

1. What happens at this conference? What did you do there?

The conference has two key speakers, who were math professors (PhDs) and they were separated by several student presentations. The student presentations were very broad in subject matter and all understandable to a math major. There was a panel comprised of people who work in mathematics careers. They answered questions from the audience. There was lunch included and served as well as snacks and beverages. At the end, there was a friendly “Math Jeopardy” competition that was a lot of fun.

2. Give 5 words that describe the TORUS conference.

Fun. Friendly. Inspiring.  Interesting. Worthwhile. Repeatable.

3. What was your expectation for the conference? What did it actually turn out to be like?

I thought I would hear talks on higher level geometries that were very specialized and I would just sort of listen and nod and try to make sense of what I was hearing. On the contrary, it was all very understandable, and I look very forward to presenting my own talk next year. I might do a talk on the Buckingham Pi Theorem. I just learned about it today from a colleague.

4. What was the coolest math thing you heard?

The coolest thing I heard was that there were engineers turning to mathematicians to find formulas and equations for their projects. I was very happy to hear this!

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

The best piece of information I learned my way of learning and studying math (by making videos and tutoring) is a real and researched way to learn math. I thought I was the only person who had to be able to explain how to do a problem to be able to understand it. I learned a lot that vindicated a lot of ideas I had about learning and teaching math.

6. What would you say to someone thinking about going to next year’s conference?

I say definitely do it. Even present a talk. I think it is a great experience and probably a good “trial run” for doing mathematics professionally.

On the Road with The Schmidt

Like last year, our stalwart Dr. Ralf Schmidt (with invaluable assistance from Lynn Greenleaf and Sophia Morren) led a merry band of OU undergraduate women to the 15th annual Nebraska Conference for Women in Mathematics.

This year’s speakers were Dr. Cathy O’Neil (aka Mathbabe) and Dr. Rekha R. Thomas (aka Professor of Mathematics at the University of Washington, Seattle). 

NCUWM.Web logo

Everyone who goes has a great time.  Indeed, this year the OU contingent was full (with a wait list!) even before we had a chance to announce it!  If you’re interested in going next year, be sure to email Dr. Schmidt early!

But don’t take our word for it.  Three of this year’s participants were Lena Erickson (LE), Sarah Coulson (SC), and Allie Kallmann (AK).  Here’s what they had to say about the trip:

Why did you decide to go to NCUWM?

LE:  I hoped to learn about career options and graduate school and see other undergraduates present their research.

SC:  I wanted to meet and get to know some of my fellow math majors and learn about some of the math programs in the rest of the country. I thought that NCUWM would be a great opportunity to do both of those things.

AK:  I’d had several friends recommend that I go in previous years but was never able to make it work with my schedule, so when I had the opportunity this year, I jumped at the chance! I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, so I thought it would be helpful to find out what other women in mathematics were doing with theirs and see if I could learn from their examples.

What happens at this conference? What did you do there?

LE:  A few main speakers address what they think is relevant for an undergraduate woman in math to know, especially information or advice they wished they had been given as undergrads. Much of the time is spent attending short talks by undergraduate women about research they have done at REUs or with professors at their home universities. Each conference attendee goes to two break-out sessions where there is an opportunity to ask questions to the speakers who know the most about certain topics, like choosing a graduate school. There was also a panel on careers using mathematics, with representatives from the NSA, the US Coast Guard Academy, XBOX Live, and various universities.

SC:  The conference involved a lot of presentations of undergraduate research, as well as panel discussions on topics such as choosing a grad school, finding a career in mathematics, and summer research opportunities. We were pretty much in presentations and at discussions all day, but seeing all of the research that students just a year or so ahead of me have been doing piqued my own interest in research.

AK:  We spent a lot of our time listening to presentations from other undergraduates about their research, as well as getting to know a number of professional women mathematicians. This ranged from the plenary speeches to the panel discussions to one-on-one conversations with, for example, a Program Manager from Xbox Live.

Give 5 words that describe the NCUWM conference.

Screen shot 2013-02-24 at 2.02.29 PM

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

LE:  I expected it to be formal in tone and purely informational. However, meeting new people was a huge focus of the conference, as well as hearing about older women and their experiences. There was less advice on how specifically to engage in math and more advice about how to navigate the systems of academia and industry, both socially and professionally. The speakers wanted all the undergraduate women in the conference to succeed in math and at life in general, and they did not want students to drop out of math due to lack of social and systemic direction. The undergraduate research presentations gave a good idea of what sort of research is possible at the undergraduate level and how to initiate a research experience.

SC:   I was expecting fewer undergraduate talks and more recruiting from grad school and research programs. The majority of both Saturday and Sunday were actually undergraduate presentations, and I only ran into one recruiter.

AK:  I wasn’t expecting to have near as much fun as I did, honestly. I thought there would be a lot of boring speeches (not true), a lot of mathematics that was over my head (pretty true), and unsociable people forced into awkward situations (kind of true, but we were all in the same boat, so everyone was really cool!). I came home on a SUPER feminist kick because of all of the empowering professionals and successful women there. I also had a blast getting to know the other girls from OU and exploring Lincoln, which is a shockingly neat town.

What was the coolest math thing you heard?

LE:  There was a presentation about Magic Cayley Sudoku Tables, a game/construction like Sudoku that uses Abstract Algebra, so it is more complicated and hence more fun. The undergrad who was creating the game was obviously delighted to be using math to create puzzles.

SC:  I really enjoyed one of the undergraduate presentations on Magic Cayley-Sudoku Tables. Although it didn’t really have any real-world applications, I thought it was pretty neat.

AK:  We spent about 20 minutes on the car ride home talking about the concept of fair division – you know, like with the arguments that you’d have with your siblings over the “bigger half,” which is an exact mathematical measure and an oxymoron. The concept of measuring people’s perceptions with mathematics was really cool for me.

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

LE:  Cathy O’Neil emphasized that when choosing a career, it’s essential that one’s values align with one’s type of work and place of employment. This should be common sense, but most people consider responsibilities, salary, benefits, and location most when choosing a job. It’s rarer and harder to consider whether there will be sufficient feedback, whether one’s incentives will be aligned with one’s coworkers’ and with the goals of the institution, and whether the work is good for the world in general. When thinking about my future, I will likely remember to ask those questions.

SC:   I will definitely remember Cathy O’Neil’s talk about her transition out of academia, the different jobs she has held as a math PhD, and how to find a job in mathematics that makes you happy. I think I’m definitely going to start reading her blog, because she was funny and inspiring.

AK:   I think the biggest thing I came away with was the concept that we shouldn’t let other people’s measurements define our successes, which is something you hear fairly often but really resonated with me over this weekend.

What would you say to someone thinking about going to next year’s conference?
LE:  The conference is immensely valuable to any young woman who wants more direction and who wants to see what sort of research other undergrads are doing.

SC:  I would say that you should be prepared to be exhausted by the end of it, but that you will definitely learn a lot about what being a math major means to you and what implications that has for your future. NCUWM got me started thinking about research, something I hadn’t really considered yet, which has started me on the whirlwind process of applying for REUs. I’m super busy with it, but really excited to get started actually doing something in math outside of my classes. I highly recommend the conference.

AK:  DO IT. Whatever reservations you have, they’re not worth missing out on the opportunity that this presents.  Also, you should present your research. I wish we had had someone doing that.

A talk at this year’s conference:

There's not too many math conferences where the male/female ratio is 1/100! (photo from NCUWM website)

(photo from NCUWM website)

TORUS (Texas Oklahoma Research Undergrad Symposium)


Dr. Hall has let us know of a fantastic opportunity for OU undergrads.  The TORUS (Texas Oklahoma Research Undergraduate Symposium) is a conference for undergrads to present (or hear about) research in math.  This year it is February 23rd and will be held at at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, TX.

If you are interested in presenting, you can register at their website:

Undergraduate students are invited to give talks on topics related to mathematics. The topics can be from any area of mathematics including pure mathematics, applied mathematics, history of mathematics, mathematics education, probability or statistics. Talks will be 12-15 minutes long with time allowed for questions. For a list of student abstracts from the 2011 TORUS conference go here.

— from the TORUS website

If you are interested in going to the TORUS conference, contact Dr. Hall in the OU Math department office (her email is on the department website).  She tells us there are already 4 students planning to go, so it should be fun!

Math Day 2012 Wrap-up

We’re a little late, but we wanted to tell you what happened at Math Day this fall.  Remember, Math Day is our annual event for High School students.  This year was a blockbuster!

We had a record annihilating 310 students from 14 schools from all over the state!  Everyone had a great time, and Dr. Morgan’s talk about the mathematics of soap bubbles was a big hit.

Of course it was only possible thanks to the many people who volunteered.  An extra thanks goes to the undergrads who helped.  Thanks go to:
Julia Traughber
Teresa Ratashak
Jesse Doan
Eric Leung

Here’s a few photos of the event.

During the Fun Session

During the Fun Session on Flexagons


During the individual exams.

During Dr. Morgan's talk on the Math of Soap Bubbles

During Dr. Morgan’s talk on the Math of Soap Bubbles

During the Sooner Math Bowl

During the Sooner Math Bowl

OU Supercomputer Symposium

If you’re interested in hearing about the state of the art in supercomputing, OU is having their annual Supercomputer Symposium.  It’s free to attend and will have plenty of interesting things to check out.

From Henry Neeman at OSCER:


Wed Oct 3 8:00am-5:00pm (registration and breakfast 7:30am)
FREE Reception/poster session Tue Oct 2 5:30-7:00pm
University of Oklahoma Norman campus

Are you interested in the FREE Oklahoma Supercomputing Symposium 2012
on Wed Oct 3 on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus?


Our keynote speaker will be:

Thom Dunning, Director, National Center for Supercomputing Applications

The 2011 Symposium had 239 attendees, from 34 academic institutions
in 7 states, 29 private companies, 10 government agencies and
5 non-governmental organizations.

Over the past decade, we’ve had participation from over 2000 people
at 98 academic institutions from 27 US states and territories,
107 private companies, 33 government agencies (federal, state,
municipal, foreign) and 16 non-governmental organizations.


FREE Oklahoma Supercomputing Symposium 2012 Wed Oct 3
@ University of Oklahoma, Norman campus, 8:00am-5:00pm.

FREE reception/poster session Tue Oct 2 5:00-7:00pm.

FREE registration is open!