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Madison Scholar

SUMS Conference Attracts Nearly 40 Undergraduate Mathematicians

By Tim O’Keefe (’10)
JMU Public Affairs


Robin Wilson, who teaches mathematics at Cal Poly Pomona (Calif.), discusses knot theory and its connections to 3-manifold topology during the Oct. 18 conference in Miller Hall. Wilson was one of two invited speakers.

Nearly 40 students from JMU and around the country presented talks and posters at this year’s Shenandoah Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics (SUMS) Conference at JMU.

Now in its fourth year, the conference attracted participants from as far away as Texas. One of the invited keynote speakers, Robin Wilson, came from California.

“The SUMS Conference is now known as one of the premier undergraduate mathematical research conferences in the country. It is one of the many indicators of the importance JMU places on undergraduate research,” said Elizabeth Theta Brown, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics at JMU and a co-director of SUMS with Laura Taalman, associate professor of mathematics and statistics.

Wilson, who teaches mathematics at Cal Poly Pomona, spoke about knot theory and its connections to 3-manifold topology. Also invited to speak at the conference was Michael Mossinghoff, a math and computer science professor at Davidson College and a visiting math professor at the University of South Carolina. Mossinghoff discussed research questions surrounding finite red and blue points on a plane.

“Math students at JMU benefit from SUMS in that each year, more of them are inspired to pursue their own mathematical research projects,” Taalman said. “SUMS is a yearly reminder that mathematical research can be accessible to undergraduates.”

One of the main goals of the conference is to provide students who have completed undergraduate mathematical research a venue for communicating their results, Taalman said.

The conference is supported by a National Science Foundation grant through the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Regional Undergraduate Mathematics Conferences. The fifth annual JMU SUMS conference will be held in mid-October 2009.

This year’s student presenters were:

This year’s poster presenters were: