Mathematics & Computer Science


Mathematics & CS News

'14 Fall Semester

On October 25, two Muhlenberg College mathematics majors gave presentations at the Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware (EPaDel) Section of the Mathematical Association of America meeting held at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Benjamin Nassau: The Local to Global Principle of Apollonian Circle Packings: What It Is and How to Show It. "Integral Apollonian packings nested fractals of tangent circles display interesting properties, especially when considering the curvatures of the circles in a packing. We are interested in the arithmetic properties of the set of curvatures in an integral packing. We know that no matter how far we "zoom in" on a packing, we will only achieve curvatures equivalent to certain values modulo 24. It has been conjectured that while these local obstructions exist, only finitely many curvatures that satisfy these equivalence classes do not show up in the entire packing. While some headway has been made experimentally to prove this conjecture and to determine at what integer these curvatures begin appearing consistently, no definite answer has been found. We will discuss a computational approach to determining at what integer these curvatures begin appearing consistently."

Myles Dworkin: Pythagorean Theorem in Spherical Geometry. "The Pythagorean Theorem is one of the most well-known and widespread theorems in mathematics. Its existence in Euclidean Geometry is a corner stone of the model and marks one of the first major differences between it and neutral geometry. Its beauty lies in its simplicity as it relates geometric objects to one another. Although we typically focus on the relationship between squares, the same relationship holds for all regularly constructed figures including circles. As we explore these relationships in non-Euclidean geometries we must first reevaluate our idea of a right triangle before investigating the connection between various geometric figures. Work by Paolo Maraner in 2010 explores how to generalize these concepts in spherical geometry. In this talk I will explain his work and suggest further areas of study. Emphasis will be given to the relationship between equilateral, equiangular quadrilaterals constructed on the sides of triangles."

EPaDel attendees and presenters.

(Photo Front row: Benjamin Nassau, Myles Dworkin; Rear row: Dr. Elyn Rykken, Dr. Linda McGuire, Dr. Margaret Dodson, Dr. Daniel File)

In attendance were department faculty members: Dr. Margaret Dodson, Dr. Daniel File, Dr. Linda McGuire and Dr. Elyn Rykken.

On October 24, Math/CS Colloquium with Dr. Lindsey Nagy, Assistant Professor of Economics of Muhlenberg College, presenting: How Price Discounts Can Thwart Sniping on eBay. "This talk will discuss a commonly used late bidding strategy on eBay called sniping. We will explore why some bidders use it, why it hurts sellers' profits, and a way in which we can mitigate it. I will present a theoretical model of an eBay-like auction and show that sniping, under some conditions, can emerge as a symmetric equilibrium strategy. To incentivize bidders to deviate from this behavior, I propose a credit mechanism, which awards an early bidder with a price discount. Relative to the surplus generated by the sniping equilibrium, implementing the credit increases seller surplus and improves welfare. If time permits, I will also present results from a controlled experiment that was designed to test the effectiveness of the credit mechanism at thwarting sniping."

On October 21, Dr. Yusra Naqvi, presented a colloquium talk at Swarthmore College on: Coexter Groups, Tessellations, and Buildings. "Coexeter groups arise as symmetries of regular polytopes and as reflections in kaleidoscopic arrangements of mirrors. This gives us a way to understand these groups visually, in terms of tessellations of planes, spheres and hyperbolic disks. In this talk, we will take a look at these connections between the algebra and the geometry of Coxeter groups. We will also discuss how to extend the geometric realization of these groups to construct objects called buildings, which can then be used to visualize more complicated algebraic structures."

On October 17, Math/CS Colloquium with Dr. Steven Dougherty, Professor of Mathematics at The University of Scranton, presenting: Electronic Communication: Football Pools and Hat Color Games. "We shall describe the foundations of the theory of algebraic coding theory and show how this applies to a football pool and a recent question about determining hat color."

On October 8, Math/CS Colloquium with Tim Clarke, Head of Library Systems and Information Transfer Services of Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College, presenting: Index Power, or why liberal arts are relevant for search technologies: "Is indexing and searching through a library database or Google a repressive or liberating act? When we create systems to classify data, do we exercise a dangerous authority? This colloquium will explore how academic indexing, natural language processing, and topic classification may perpetuate bias, discrimination, or marginalization."

On October 8, Dr. Linda McGuire attended “A Public Dialogue Between bell hooks and Cornel West,” and “Man Enough: Theory and Practice In and Outside of the Classroom,” a dialogue with bell hooks, Oman Frame, Darnell Moore, Ron Scapp, and Kurt Voss, at The New School in NYC. "For more than three decades, bell hooks (née Gloria Watkins) has been recognized internationally as a scholar, poet, author, and radical thinker. The dozens of books and articles she has published span several genres, including cultural and political analyses and critiques, personal memoirs, poetry collections, and children's books. Her writings cover topics of gender, race, class, spirituality, teaching, and the significance of media in contemporary culture. According to Dr. hooks, these topics must be understood as interconnected in the production of systems of oppression and class domination. Dr. hooks has appeared in documentary films. She has been celebrated as one of our nation's leading public intellectuals by The Atlantic Monthly and listed as one of Utne Reader's "100 Visionaries Who Could Change Your Life." She is a charismatic speaker who divides her time between teaching, writing, and lecturing around the world.

On October 1, Dr. Mike Allocca, assistant professor of mathematics, delivered a research talk entitled "Genomic Rearrangements and Circular Inversions" at the University of Scranton.

On September 25 & 26, Colloquium Series presentation by Dr. Frank Grasso of Brooklyn College on "Invertebrate BioMimetic Robotics: Experimental Tools for Exploring Natural Cognition" on September 25, and "Getting a Grip on the Unexpected Abilities of the Octopus" on September 26. Sponsored by the Ann Louise Bodnyk '69 Fund for Physics, the Biology, Math & Computer Science, and Neuroscience programs, and Muhlenberg’s Lectures & Forums committee.

On September 12, Colloquium Series presentation by Dr. Mike Allocca of Muhlenberg College on Circular Permutaion and Baterial Genomes: "In the modern era of genome sequencing, rearrangements have become an important tool used in molecular biology in order to better understand the evolution process. Mathematics plays a significant role in modeling rearrangement sequences between similar genomes. Chromosomes may be linear or circular, the latter most commonly found in bacteria. In this talk, we will discuss how permutations model the rearrangement process in circular chromosomes and the subsequent importance of efficient transposition algorithms."

On September 4, Math Club Annual Ice Cream Social! Trumbower 143 (Math/CS/Physics Lounge) at 3:30pm.

In August, Mike Huber and Rachel Hamelers, (dean of academic life & science librarian/ reference services manager, respectively) had "June 26, 1944: The Tri-Cornered War Bond Baseball Game" published as part of the Society of American Baseball Research Games Project. Read More

In August, Linda McGuire, professor of mathematics, attended the summer meetings of the Mathematical Association of America (MathFest) in Portland, Oregon. She organized a panel discussion on Open Access Publishing in Mathematics and served as a panelist in a session on Chairing the Academic Department.

In August, Will Gryc ,assistant professor of mathematics, attended the summer meetings of the Mathematical Association of America (MathFest) in Portland, Oregon. He presented a paper entitled "Exploring Auction Theory in Undergraduate Research."

'14 Spring Semester

In May, Clif Kussmaul, associate professor of computer science, attended the POGIL National Meeting and the POGIL Steering Committee Meeting, both at Washington University in St Louis. He presented posters on his CS-POGIL project and his experiences with POGIL in India.

In May, Byungchul Cha, associate professor of mathematics, gave a talk titled "Mobius Disjointness in function fields" at the 28th Automorphic Forms Workshop in Moab, Utah.

On April 26, Abigail Stryker, Benjamin Nassau, Jarrett Felix and Emily Nguyen presented talks at the spring meeting of MAA's Eastern Pennsylvania/Delaware Section at the University of Scranton.

On April 22, Pi Mu Epsilon reception at Hoffman House for this year's inductees to the honor society.

On April 12, Abigail Stryker '14 and Erica Wenzel '14 presented "A Monte Carlo Simulation Approach to Determine the Greatest Post-Season Players" at the Carolina Sports Analytics Meeting at Furman University. This work is part of their mathematics CUE with Dr. Huber.

On April 12, Jarrett Felix '14 finished among the top third of participants in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition. The competition is open to undergraduates in the United States and Canada and consists 12 questions, which participants have six hours to complete. It is considered the hardest math exam in the world.

On April 11, Colloquium Series presentation by Dr. Yusra Naqvi of Rutgers University on Reflections and Symmetries. "In this talk, we will look at some geometric tools for visualizing algebraic objects.
We will focus on reflection groups, which can be described both in terms of algebraic rules and in terms of geometric configurations of mirrors. These configurations lead to interesting tessellations of planes, spheres and hyperbolic disks. These geometric methods can be extended to study more general algebraic structures."

On April 1, Three exceptional Learning Assistants, Kelly Cann '15, Rebecca Golden '14, and Rachel Halpern '14 (Math Major), presented "Reconsiderations for Success in Gateway Classes" at the PA/NJ College of Reading and Learning Association Conference on Friday, March 28th, 2014.  In partnership with Jenna Azar, Senior Year Experience and Learning Assistant Manager, and Monica Cocca, Tutorial Coordinator, the team presented compelling data about the Learning Assistant Program at Muhlenberg and encouraged dialogue about how and why peers can be effective agents of change in gateway courses. 

On March 29, Several Muhlenberg students and faculty attended the Lehigh Valley Computer Science Celebration at Moravian College. Bill Dolan '14 presented a poster "Library Research Security," based on a project with Tim Clarke, Head of Library Systems. Lewis Gilzeane 14 presented a poster "20 Steps to Heaven."

On March 20, Colloquium Series presentation by Dr. Gabriel Feinberg of Haverford College: Pythagorean Triples and Geometry."A Pythagorean triple is a triple of positive integers a, b, and c such that a2+b2 = c2. Some well-known examples include (3,4,5), (5,12, 13), and (8,15,17), but there are infinitely many more. In this talk, we will see two methods for describing all Pythagorean triples, and the geometry behind them. The first method will be classical, relying on Euclidean geometry, while the second will appeal to ideas from non-Euclidean geometry."

On March 5, (At Temple University) Presentation by Daniel File, visiting assistant professor of mathematics. This is part two of a two-part lecture at the Temple University Number Theory Seminar. His talk is titled "Test Vectors and Central L-values for GL(2) II."

On February 26, Colloquium Series presentation by Dr. Robert Vallin of Slippery Rock University on Mathematical Card Magic. "A rising swell of research is being devoted to topics such as juggling, the game of SET, Sudoku & KenKen Puzzles, and more. What unites these topics is that they fall under the umbrella term Recreational Math. This talk will look at the recreational topic of playing card tricks that are based on mathematical ideas. We will show some tricks, explore the mathematics behind them, and see how they can lead to something new under the sun."

On February 26, (At Temple University) Presentation by Daniel File, visiting assistant professor of mathematics. This is part one of a two-part lecture at the Temple University Number Theory Seminar. His talk is titled "Test Vectors and Central L-values for GL(2) I." He will give two lectures describing recent work with Kimball Martin and Ameya Pitale in which they compute the central value of the base change L-function for a cuspidal automorphic representation of GL(2).

On February 21, Colloquium Series presentation by Dr. Patrick Williams of Muhlenberg College: Mathematics On Your Mind. "Wondering what those math courses are preparing you for? A career in neuroscience, of course! In this talk, I'll introduce a few of the many ways in which interesting mathematical challenges—and mathematicians—permeate the field of neurophysiology. We'll focus on one critical issue, dimensionality reduction, and look at how it factors into the creation of a brain-controlled neuroprosthetic limb."

On February 7, Colloquium Series presentation by Allison Davidson of Purdue University: What Makes a Pólya Urn Scheme Tenable and Why Is That Important? "Pólya urns are statistical models that use colored balls to simulate a growth or decay process. Pólya urns that can be repeated indefinitely, regardless of the events that take place, are known as tenable urns. In identifying the specific conditions required for tenability, one can assess the tenability of any Pólya urn scheme, and thus the sustainability of the specific growth or decay model it represents."

On February 3, Colloquium Series presentation by Dr. Thomas LoFaro, Clifford M. Swanson Professor of Mathematics at Gustavus Adolphus College: Finding Hubs & Authorities from Network Connectivity. "Jon Kleinberg's HITS (Hypertext Induced Topic Search) algorithm was originally designed to rank web pages in a manner similar to the PageRank algorithm used by Google. HITS assigns a pair of weights to each page that measures both the quality of the information on the page (the authority weight) and the access to information that it provides (the hub weight). This feature makes HITS applicable to the analysis of social networks and other non-internet specific networks. In this talk I will describe the HITS algorithm, discuss network structures where HITS fails to converge to a meaningful result, and propose a modification to the algorithm that addresses this shortcoming."

On January 27, Colloquium Series presentation by Dr. Robert Bosch, Robert and Eleanor Biggs Professor of Science at Oberlin University: Opt Art. "Optimization is concerned with optimal performance—finding the best way to complete a task. It has been put to good use in a great number of diverse disciplines: advertising, agriculture, biology, business, economics, engineering, manufacturing, medicine, telecommunications, and transportation (to name but a few). In this lecture, we will showcase its amazing utility by demonstrating its applicability in the area of visual art, which at first glance would seem to have no use for it whatsoever! We will begin by describing how to use integer programming to construct a portrait out of complete sets of double nine dominoes. We will then describe how high quality solutions to certain large-scale traveling salesman problems can lead to beautiful continuous line drawings. We will conclude by presenting other examples of Opt Art—art constructed with the assistance of optimization techniques."

'13 Fall Semester

On November 16-17, Andrew Tullo '14, Chris Zumberge '14, Sam Tolkin '14, Holly Bertolet '15, Mike Filippone '15 and David Reinert '16 participated in the 2nd Annual Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend at Ben Franklin Techventures at Lehigh University.

On November 13, Dr. WIlliam Dunham, Koehler Professor of Mathematics at Muhlenberg College, closed out the fall colloquium series with, "Lunchtime with Euler." Dr. Dunham notes that, "Among history’s greatest mathematicians is Leonhard Euler (1707-1783), the Swiss genius who produced an astonishing 25,000 pages of pure and applied mathematics of the very highest quality. In this talk, we sketch Euler’s life and describe a few of his contributions to number theory, algebra, and other branches of mathematics."

On November 3, Dr. Elyn Rykken, Dr. Dan File, and three Mathematics Majors: Jarrett Felix '14, Bryan McComb '14, and Benjamin Nassau '15, of Muhlenberg College, attended the 23rd Annual Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC) Mathematics Competition held this year at Lafayette College. The contest consists of a three-hour test where students need to work together as a team to solve the problems. It is open to students from Cedar Crest College, DeSales University, Lafayette, Lehigh University, Moravian, and Muhlenberg College.

On October 23, Dr. Florence Appel or Saint Xavier University presented a colloquium on "Teaching Computer Ethics Issues" to the campus. She noted that, "Society's widespread use of and reliance on digital technology has brought a number of interesting and challenging ethical issues to the attention of computer science educators and their students. From practices that threaten personal privacy and security, to thorny issues surrounding the protection of intellectual property, issues abound and pose a minefield for students who are future professionals in a number of fields that involve regular implementation of computers and digital communication technology. Educators have a responsibility to prepare students for this reality. We will explore several serious computer ethics issues, identify resources and try our hand at various pedagogies that may encourage our students to address these issues critically and creatively."

On October 8, Dr. Elizabeth McMahon of Lafayette College presented a Colloquium on "Mathematics and the Game of SET." The card game of SET is played with a deck of 81 cards, and quite a lot of mathematics can be explored using the game. The presentation covered questions in combinatorics, probability, linear algebra, and especially geometry using the Game of SET. As Dr. McMahon notes, "The deck is an excellent model for the finite affine geometry, and provides an entry to surprisingly beautiful structure theorems for that geometry."

On September 27, student researcher(s) present and discuss their summer research experiences during the Summer Research Poster Session.

On September 19, William Dunham, Koehler Professor of Mathematics, spoke at the Mathematics Colloquium at West Chester University. His title was "An Afternoon with Euler."

On September 18, How I Spent My Summer Vacation… Summer Research Done by Math and Computer Science Students with Macauley Breault '15, Jarrett Felix '14, Bryan McComb '14 and Erica Wenzel '14.

On September 10, Dr. Kimball Martin of the University of Oklahoma opened the fall colloquium series with "How often should you clean your room?" Or how to mathematically quantify the notion of how often you should clean your room, which means how to optimally balance the time you spend searching for things and the time you spend putting things back.

'13 Spring Semester

On April 13, Courtney Hunsberger '15 and Melanie Panosian '13 gave talks entitled "Loss Aversion and Baseball" and "Penny Auctions and Prospect Theory," respectively, at the Garden State Undergraduate Mathematics Conference at Felician College in Lodi, NJ. For more information about their projects click here.

On April 11, Bryan McComb presented the paper "Traveling on the O.R Express: An Excursion in Commuter Rail Design" at the 2013 National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. This paper stems from two semesters of independent research with Dr. Linda McGuire. For more information about this project click here.

On April 6, Andrew Tullo '14 and Mike Borowsky '16 won first place in the programming contest at the Lehigh Valley Computer Science Celebration. Lindsay Coburn '14 and Tim Gee '14 also attended and competed.

On Feb 22, Muhlenberg College Department of Mathematics and Computer Science hosted the 2013 Annual High School Mathematics Competition. The winner of the Competition was Parkland High School, and runner up was Moravain Academy. For information and pictures about the Competition click here.

On January 25-27, Erica Wenzel and Abigail Stryker attended the 2013 Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

On January 9-12, Nicole Fiorentino and Melanie Panosian presented posters of their REU projects to the 2013 Joint Mathematics Meetings at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. For more information about their REUs click here. For pictures of event click here.


'12 Fall Semester

On Nov 15, Dr. Byungchul Cha, presented "It's Easy as ABC," a guided tour for some interesting number theory problems, easy to understand, but hard to solve.

On Nov 3, Scott Goldstein '13, Sam Tolkin '14 and Macauley Breault '15 were "Tournament Finalists" in the VEX Robotics competition held at the College of Southern Maryland. They received a trophy for their efforts.

On Oct 2, Dr. Kevin Hartshore, Professor of Mathematics at Moravian College, presented "Game, Set, Math!" The elegance of the game Set is found in the connection between simple game play and deep mathematical ideas. He explored some of the interesting properties of the game and shared the results of his study. This explored topics in discrete mathematics, linear algebra, geometry, and group theory.

On Sept 20, Katie Casty '14, Nicole Fiorentino '13, and Melanie Panosian '13 presented "A Summer of Mathematics." Each speaker gave a brief description of the REU they completed over the summer and answered questions about their experiences.

On Aug 14, Clif Kussmaul, Associate Professor of Computer Science, led a workshop on Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) at "Reboot, Renew, Retreat", a conference for K-12 computing teachershosted at Villanova University.

From July 4-5, William Dunham, Koehler Professor of Mathematics, presented "Meet Uncle Isaac," a pair of lectures on the mathematics of Isaac Newton, presented for the students of MathPath, Mount Holyoke College (MA).

On June 1, Associate Professor Clif Kussmaul and students Tim Gee '14, Mike Walsh '14, and Laurainne Ojo-Ohikuare '14 organized a 1-day workshop at Muhlenberg on Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), which was attended by faculty, staff, and students from a range of disciplines and institutions. The workshop was supported by a NSF TUES grant.


'12 Spring Semester

On April 28, members of the Muhlenberg Percussion Ensemble performed composed by Jacob Abrams for instrument designed and built by Abby Stryker '14, Erica Wenzel '14, and Ryan Gross '15, and supervised by Clif Kussmaul.

From Apr 27-28, Clif Kussmaul, Associate Professor of Computer Science, and Tim Gee '14 attended the Consortium for Computing Sciences Northeastern Meeting at Quinnipiac University. Clif lead a workshop on "Learning FOSS collaboration tools & techniques through guided inquiry activities" and Tim presented a poster on "POGIL activities for Arduino".

On Apr 24, teams competed in the 2012 Muhlenberg Innovation Challenge. First place went to bacCheck: A Smartphone Sobriety Test, developed and presented by Matthew Horn '14 , Averill Morash '14 and Timothy McClung '12. Third place went to Solar Cell Case: A solar powered cell phone charger,developed and presented by Trevor Cardo '15 , Mike Filippone '15 , Ben Burwell '15 , and Cora Wallace '15.

On April 14, William Dunham, Koehler Professor of Mathematics, presented "Two (More) Morsels from Euler," an address before the Spring Meeting of the MAA's Seaway Section, Hamilton College (NY).

On April 14, computer science students & faculty attended an LVAIC CS meeting at Moravian College. Tim Gee '14 and Colin Zelin '15 presented posters on current CS projects. Matt Horn '14 and Andrew Trautman '15 placed first in the team programming contest by being the only team to solve all 6 problems.

On April 6, William Dunham, Koehler Professor of Mathematics, presented "A Celebration of Euler," an invited lecture recognizing the retirement of Professor William Priestley of the University of the South, Sewanee, TN.

On March 4, Byungchul Cha, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, presented a lecture at the Algebra and Representation Theory Seminar at the University of Oklahoma. The title of his talk was “Prime number races in function fields”

In Feburary, Clif Kussmaul, Associate Professor of Computer Science, attended the ACM SIGCSE Conference in Raleigh, NC. His CS-POGIL grant project was highlighted in the NSF Project Showcase. He presented a paper and co-organized a special session on POGIL in CS, and he co-presented a poster on ways students and faculty can contribute to free & open source software.

On Feburary 25, The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science hosted the 34th annual high school math competition. Schools competing included Parkland,Moravian Academy, Freedom, Southern Lehigh, Wetherley, Northampton, Emmaus, Whitehall and Liberty.

On January 5, Penny Dunham, Professor of Mathematics, attended the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston, where she presented a paper titled “Food for (Mathematical) Thought” and participated in a mini-course, “Identifying and Addressing Difficult Concepts for Students in the Introductory Statistics Course”

On January 4, William Dunham, Koehler Professor of Mathematics, delivered the 2012 Keynote Address “Heron, Newton, Euler, and Barney” before the Special Interest Group on the History of Mathematics as part of the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston.

'11 Fall Semester

On November 18, 2011, Muhlenberg Students Scott Goldstein '13, Tim Gee '14, Jon-Frederick Landrigan '13, Jeremey Borut '14, Alex Isinhue '13, and Kyle Houston '13 competed in the VEX Robotics competition held at California University of PA.

From April 15 - 16, 2011, Ben Heilman '11 and Clif Kussmaul attended the Consortium for Computing Sciences in College Northeastern Meeting (CCSCNE) at Western New England College. Ben presented a poster on "Representative polling module for Drupal framework" based on his semester project in CSI 210: Software Engineering. Clif gave a tutorial on "Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) in Computer Science".

On Apr 9, 2011, Clif Kussmaul gave the keynote presentation on "Free & Open Source Software in CS & SE Education" at the 26th Annual Spring Conference of the Pennsylvania Computer and Information Science Educators (PACISE) at Shippensburg University.

On April 2, 2011 Lauren Spirko '11 presented "Strategies for Penny Auctions" at the Garden State Undergraduate Mathematics Conference at Essex County College.

On Mar 19, 2011, a group from Muhlenberg attended a workshop at Drew University on Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), including students Nicole Cronin '14 and Averill Morash '14, alumnus Chelsea Lobdell '09, and faculty Sharon Albert, Jane Flood, Joe Keane, Mark Sciutto, and Clif Kussmaul.

On January 7, 2011, Michael Huber presented "Modeling Malaria in Central America" at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in New Orleans, LA.