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About the JEM Lab

The JMU Experimental Mathematics Lab is an experimental laboratory space founded in 2013 by Dr. Laura Taalman in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics at James Madison University. Originally known as the JMU Math MakerLab, the JEM Lab offers opportunities for experimental and exploratory research in mathematics to students who are early in their undergraduate careers. To this date more than 20 undergraduates and 7 faculty mentors have completed collaborative mathematical research projects in the JEM Lab.

In 2021 the JEM Lab became a member of Geometry Labs United, a consortium of technology research labs at national and international research universities. The JEM Lab is proud to be the first and only Geometry Lab at a primarily undergraduate institution.

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Computational exploration

Students who work in the JEM Lab leverage a wide variety of computational tools and resources to explore mathematics. Past projects have used software such as Mathematica, MATLAB, Knot PlotSeifert View, and the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences to conjecture and test mathematical ideas; this year's main project will use Processing. To visualize mathematical objects we use 3D design software such as OpenSCAD, Fusion 360, Meshmixer, TopMod, and Grasshopper. To share our designs we use the 3D/VR platform Sketchfab.

JEM Lab students are usually first-year or second-year undergraduates, with no previous experience with any mathematical or design software packages, and that is how we like it!  Everyone in the JEM Lab learns what they need to learn, when they need to learn it. 

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3D printing

The JMU Experimental Mathematics Lab started out as a 3D printing MakerLab. Over time our 3D modeling and printing capacity has increased significantly, though funds from the JMU College of Science & Mathematics, the JMU Department of Mathematics & Statistics, and a small equipment sponsorship from 3D printing company Ultimaker. Our equipment now includes a multi-material dual-nozzle 3D printer, a large-nozzle 3D printer, a small off-site loan printer, and a resin printer with post-processing station. Students in the JEM Lab are able to produce physical mathematical visualizations with fine detail, multiple colors, and in large size. 

Many of our student projects cultimate in the production of 3D visualizations of mathematical objects. Understanding, designing, and then actually producing such visualizations is a way for early undergradate students to pursue their own creative mathematical explorations. In addition, the resulting visualizations support outreach projects and inspire new students to ask questions and get involved with JEM Lab projects. 

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Current projects

The JEM Lab will be returning to in-person lab work in the 2021-22 academic year, with two main projects:

  • Stick Knot Conformations  (Dr. Arnold and Dr. Taalman)
    Alexis Alston, Bryce Anderson, Brevin Bugauisan, Mikiela Campbell, Eliana Diaz-Aceituno, Marvin Fuentes, Amaya Hamilton, Jada Marie Herrera, James Love, Jordan Milton, Valeria Moscote Rodriguez, Derrell Plair, Sukriti Sharma, Jayme Stevenson, Chayse Tucker, Jasmine White, and Jada White (the 2021 Haynes Scholars)

  • Intrinsically Knotted Graphs  (Dr. Lucas and Dr. Taalman)
    Seeking future students!

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Past Projects

Past student projects in the JEM Lab have covered a wide range of topics, under the mentorship of faculty mentors Laura Taalman, Steven Lucas, John Bowers, Rebecca Field, Caroline Lubert, Minah Oh, and Eva Strawbridge:

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Previous Courses and Programs

Many of the student projects in the JEM Lab take place through informal independent study. In addition to those projects, the following JMU courses and research programs have been supported by the JEM Lab: 

  • Fall 2017, Spring 2018: Ars Geometrica Seminar: 3D Graphs and Discrete Geometry
  • Fall 2017 - MATH 297: Spatial Graphs and 3D Printing
  • Spring 2017 - Ars Geometrica Seminar: Pushing 3D Printing Boundaries
  • Spring 2017 - MATH 297: Homotopy and 3D Printing
  • Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015 - Honors Thesis: Spiral Knots
  • Spring 2014 - MATH 297: Knot Theory and 3D Printing
  • Fall 2013, Spring 2014 - Star Student Program: Multimaterial 3D Printing
  • Summer 2013 - Internal Math/Stat REU: 3D Printing Laboratory
  • Spring 2013 - MATH 167: Mathematical 3D Fabrication
  • Summer 2012 - Internal Math/Stat REU: Knot Determinant Patterns

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Related links

 

Photo Credits
Black and white graph photo from Rebecca Horne Photography

Stick knot images from knotplot.com

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