University of Evansville

Math Alumni E-Newsletter

July 2013

In this edition

Alumni Succeeding as Academics
Written by Chelsea Modglin

UE prides itself on attracting, educating, and training some of the most promising scholars in the nation and around the world. As a university, our job is to teach students how to transform their academic skills into real-life applications for developing solutions to the problems of everyday life. The UE Department of Mathematics exemplifies this. Over the years, the math department has taught a sterling group of scholars, many of which have become professors themselves.

"I started off wanting to major in civil engineering and had Dr. Dwyer for my Calculus I class during the first semester of my freshmen year," Rebekah Robinson (class of 2006) said. "It was during that semester that I started thinking that I would really love to have the kind of career that he had. I decided that I wanted to be a college math professor."

"Thank you for having interest and faith...when I was an undergraduate at UE," wrote J. B. Brown, Class of 2003. J.B. earned his PhD in biochemo-informatics at Kyoto University, where he is now a researcher.

Another among an impressive group of UE math majors who have gone on to teach math at the college level is Julia Sharp, class of 1998. Julia is an assistant professor (soon to be associate professor) of applied statistics at Clemson University. In 2014 the ranks of UE math alumni in the professoriate will swell when Sarah Bockting-Conrad, class of 2007, earns her PhD. She is currently is a graduate student and teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Like Dr. Robinson, many of these scholars started their undergraduate careers thinking they wanted to work in some other field, but eventually fell in love with a career in mathematics. Some, like Steven Broad, (class of 1996, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science at St. Mary's College of South Bend, Indiana) started in physics, and others began with engineering, as Dr. Robinson did. There were also students, like Ellen (Miles) Ziliak, who knew only one thing about their future career: they loved math. Dr. Ziliak (class of 2004) is now an assistant professor of mathematics at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois.

"I always loved math growing up," Dr. Ziliak said. "When I started college I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to be, but I thought I would do something with math; possibly teach at the high school level. I never thought I was smart enough to do mathematics at [the college] level. But I soon found out that you don't have to be brilliant to be a mathematician. You just need to work hard and love math!"

There was plenty of hard work to do for all these graduates. Michael Lachance (class of 1975) spent a summer programming code related to tri-lobed bearings for an engineering professor in BASIC. Dr. Lachance currently serves as Professor and Chair of the Mathematics and Statistics Department at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

"Each of the faculty members in mathematics at the time—Professors Coleman, Knott, Bailey, Kimberling, and Bennett—I can picture as crisply as any photograph you could produce," Dr. Lachance said. "Each was so different, so personally invested in me—I can hear their voices still."

Drs. Bockting-Conrad, Ziliak, and Broad also conducted research while at UE, and Ziliak and Broad each presented their work at conferences. Dr. Broad's undergraduate research was published, an impressive feat for any undergraduate student, and he also interned at the NASA John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH.

All the former students worked hard during their time at UE, but they certainly didn't pass up a chance to have a little fun every now and then.

"I have so many fond memories of my time at UE," Dr. Bockting-Conrad said. "I think my favorite times though were the late-night work sessions in Koch. It was usually me and a few other math and physics students staying up all hours of the night. Even though we were working, this usually led to all kinds of hilarity. In particular, one night we made a whole bunch of origami and covered Dave Dwyer's door with it."

These former students now bring this same sense of fun and enthusiasm to their own students. Remembering such cherished moments both in and out of the UE classrooms, they effectively guide their students in their pursuit of higher education, perhaps even preparing the next generation of collegiate mathematics professors.

"We take breathing for granted, unaware of it until it is pointed out to us," Dr. Lachance said. "So it is with mathematics. Mathematics has always been the language of the physical sciences, and increasingly of the social sciences. It is extraordinarily beautiful and useful."

Rebekah Robinson

J. B. Brown

Julia Sharp

Steven Broad

Ellen Ziliak

Michael Lachance

Class of 2013

It's only been a few months since graduation, but we already have some news to share about their new lives. Congratulations to all of our graduates!

  • Kathryn Buckner, BS in math education
    Katie has accepted an analyst position at Alliance Data located in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Will Davis, BS in math education
  • Sandra Dunn, BA
    Sandra has been accepted to the Domican Sisters of St. Celila located in Nashville, Tennessee, with ambitions of teaching mathematics in the US and Australia.
  • Wolfe Greene, BS in physics and applied mathematics
    Wolfe will pursue a PhD in Physics at Purdue University.
  • Matthew Harris, BS in predoctoral mathematics
    Matt has been accepted to a master's program in mathematics at the University of Alaska where he will continue research in the modeling of tsunamis that he began as an undergraduate.
  • Logan Herwehe, BS in applied mathematics
  • Karlan Levy, BS in math education
    Karlan has accepted a position at Southwood Jr-Sr. High School. She will teach 8th grade mathematics in the fall of 2013.
  • Nicole Loehr, BS in math education
    Nicole has accepted a position at Forrest Park High School where she will be teaching Algebra II, Advanced Algebra II, and Pre-calculus.
  • Samantha Pitt, BS in applied mathematics
    Samantha has been accepted to the MBA program at Belmont University.
  • Drew Reisinger, BS in predoctoral mathematics
    Drew has been accepted into John's Hopkins University's PhD program for cognitive science
  • Amber Thomas, BS is math education
    Amber has accepted a position at Tell City Jr.-Sr. High School. She will teach Algebra I and II there this fall.
  • Alana Whieldon, BS in applied mathematics and accounting
  • Samantha Whitcomb, BS in applied mathematics
  • Meghan Young, BS in applied mathematics
    Meghan has accepted a position with Epic, makers of integrated healthcare software, in Technical Services.

Awards and Honors

Outstanding High School Math Students
Each year, the Department of Mathematics hosts a banquet for outstanding high school juniors who excel in mathematics. This year, there were a total of 129 guests in attendance at the event, which was held on April 10. Of that group, 42 area students received scholarship offers and certificates of achievement from the University of Evansville.

KME Inductees
On April 15, the department welcomed 18 new members into Kappa Mu Epsilon with a banquet and ceremony in Ridgway University Center. Elected officers for the 2013-14 year were Allison Gray, president; Dakota Roberts, vice president; and Coty Baker, secretary.

Outstanding Freshman
Also recognized at the KME banquet was Elizabeth Kunz. She was named the Outstanding Freshman for 2013.

Bennett-Knott Outstanding Senior Award
Drew Reisinger was named as the 2013 Outstanding Senior at the senior dinner at the Acropolis restaurant. Drew will pursue a PhD in cognitive science at Johns Hopkins University.

Faculty Profile: Mohammad K. Azarian
Written by Chelsea Modglin

Mohammad K. Azarian

Dr. Mohammad K. Azarian, Professor of mathematics, has been teaching at the University of Evansville since the fall of 1985. Dr. Azarian teaches combinatorics, abstract algebra, discrete mathematics, and linear algebra, among various other courses.

Professor Azarian's main goal during his sabbatical semester was to write an English account of Risāla al-watar wa'l-jaib ("The Treatise on the Chord and Sine"), handwritten in Arabic around 1427 AD, by the Persian mathematician Jamshīd Kāshānī (al- Kāshī). To accomplish this, first he traveled to Iran to acquire a copy of the most authentic version of Risāla al-watar wa'l-jaib from the National Malek Library in Tehran, Iran, and to interview the staff. Kāshānī was one of the most renowned mathematicians in Persian history, and one of the most fascinating medieval mathematicians in the world. The three greatest mathematical achievements of Kāshānī are: "The Treatise on the Circumference," "The Key of Arithmetic," or "The Calculators' Key," and "The Treatise on the Chord and Sine." Dr. Azarian has written an English account of the first two treatises, which have been published in well-respected, refereed mathematics journals. Both papers have been reviewed and abstracted by various mathematics data bases as well. Dr. Azarian received $1,000 from the John H. Schroeder Faculty Development Grants Committee, and $1,000 from the senior vice president for academic affairs for his travel expenses.

The main part of Kāshāni's work in "Treatise on the Chord and Sine" involves the creation of and solutions of a cubic equation for approximation of sin 1° via trigonometric identity sin (3x) = 3sin x - 4sin (3 x). By using an iterative method, today known as the fixed-point method, Kāshāni found that sin 1° = .0174524064372835103712 which is correct to 22 decimal places (and is equivalent to sin 1° = 1;2,49,43,11,14,44,16,26,17, correct to ten sexagesimal places). This was the first approximation method in the history of mathematics, and the most significant achievement in medieval algebra. Before this work, the best known approximation was found in the tenth century AD by Abu'l-Wafā and Ibn Yūnus, but they were correct to only four sexagesimal places.

Dr. Azarian is very active in his community at both the local and the national level as well. He is a frequent coordinator for the Religion Forum Series and the Interfaith Worship Services on campus, and has appeared numerous times in Crescent Magazine and the Evansville Courier & Press, as well as on various affiliate channels for FOX, ABC, PBS, and NBC.

In the picture above, Dr. Azarian is standing in front of the National Malek Library located in Tehran, Iran. This library is where he obtained a copy of the Risāla al-watar wa'l-jaib and interviewed staff members.

To learn more about Dr. Azarian's scholarly activities you may visit his web page at faculty.evansville.edu/ma3.

New Faculty Profiles: Mary Therese Padberg and R. Taylor McNeill
Written by Chelsea Modglin

Mary Therese Padberg

This fall, the UE Department of Mathematics will welcome Mary Therese Padberg to campus as assistant professor of mathematics. She will be coming from the University of Iowa, where she taught college algebra as a primary instructor and teaching assistant. Her research focuses on DNA modeling, and she is very interested in finding ways to combine mathematic and biological disciplines. "My goal for my students is that they realize their potential as scholars and develop their talents, whatever they may be," she said. "College is such a unique experience where you get to soak up all the knowledge around you, ask insightful questions, and discover your passions. I hope to become a strong mentor and advisor to my students." In addition to teaching calculus and general studies courses, Padberg plans to continue her research in mathematical biology and to involve undergraduate students." I was blown away at my campus interview with the department and institution as a whole," she said. "I was introduced to several faculty members and administrators who love their jobs and love being at UE. The environment was so positive, it was contagious!"

Mary Therese Padberg

Taylor R. McNeill

UE will also be welcoming Taylor R. McNeill as assistant professor of mathematics. McNeill is finishing her PhD at Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she co-founded the Rice University Student Chapter of the Association for Mathematics and performed research on low dimensional topology. While at UE, McNeill will be teaching introductory level courses as well as more advanced courses in pure or abstract mathematics. Luckily for her students, she doesn't plan to stop there. "I see my task as a more general one," she said. "I hope to spark an interest in learning and to teach resourcefulness. Mathematics is an intricately interwoven collection of ideas, and there is a lot to be gained from making connections among them, rather than focusing on things piece by piece." Although she strives to ensure that her students benefit from her teaching, McNeill also believes that she will benefit from her opportunity to teach at UE. "I could not have found a better home," she said. "I have an unusual teaching style that emphasizes interaction and inquiry. After visiting UE, I felt that my teaching style was not only accepted but praised. I look forward to learning from the other faculty who so visibly share my enthusiasm. It is clear to me that UE is the best place to continue my growth as a teacher."

Taylor R. McNeill

UE Math Professors Awarded $600,000 National Science Foundation Grant

Professor Dave Dwyer and Mark Gruenwald, were awarded a three-year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The grant is one of 30 awarded out of over 400 proposals submitted to the NSF's TUES program (Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) for extending and broadening the work of successful pilot projects related to undergraduate STEM education. It is one of only two such grants awarded for projects related to mathematics.

"This grant is not just a tremendous honor for Dr. Dwyer, Dr. Gruenwald, and the Department of Mathematics, but it is also a wonderful example of the quality of the faculty at the University of Evansville," said UE president Thomas A. Kazee. "Their project has the potential to revolutionize the way calculus is taught across the nation. By funding this grant, the National Science Foundation affirms the remarkable commitment Professor Dwyer and Professor Gruenwald have made to scholarship and teaching."

The grant supports the second phase of Dwyer and Gruenwald's Resequencing Calculus project, which builds on work that was funded by a $150,000 NSF grant awarded in 2009. Under the first grant, Dwyer and Gruenwald revised the standard three-semester calculus sequence to better meet the emerging needs of students in a variety of STEM disciplines, wrote a 700-page textbook to support the first two semesters of this sequence, piloted the sequence at UE, and identified supporters of the redesigned sequence at other institutions.

Phase 2 of the project entails completing the three-semester textbook, testing and assessing the textbook and the sequence at four other universities (Valparaiso University, Millikin University, the University of Central Missouri, and the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota), and campaigning for broad and sustained adoption of the revised sequence.

"A close look at the order and choice of topics in the mainstream calculus sequence is long overdue, especially in light of the ever-increasing role of mathematical and statistical modeling in fields such as chemistry, biology, and economics. For too many students and at too many institutions, mainstream calculus sequences as they exist now are a poor fit," Dwyer said. According to biochemist Dr. Kristy Miller, chair of UE's Department of Chemistry, "Students in chemistry and the life sciences would benefit from exposure to certain topics that are usually not covered until the third semester of calculus, but most of these students do not have room in their schedules for a full three-semester sequence."

"One of the goals of the Resequencing Calculus project is to rearrange the ordering and choice of topics in the mainstream calculus sequence to better fit the needs of today's students," Gruenwald added. "Our approach more closely connects calculus instruction with its application in STEM fields, and it facilitates deeper and earlier exposure to both upper-level math courses and upper-level courses in STEM disciplines where calculus is applied."

A number of UE faculty members will serve in an advisory capacity to the project, including Mohammad Azarian, Erin Davis, Clark Kimberling, and Adam Salminen in the Department of Mathematics; Jeff Braun in the Department of Physics; and David Unger in the Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering. Brian Ernsting, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will serve as an internal assessment advisor. Teams of undergraduate math majors at UE will contribute to the development of the text and related materials.

Dwyer and Gruenwald will also be assisted by faculty and students at each of the pilot institutions, an external professional assessment team, and an advisory board consisting of national leaders in various STEM professional organizations.

To learn more about this project, please visit www.resequencingcalculus.com.

Departmental News

  • Dr. Mohammad K. Azarian's articles "On Bernoulli's Differential Equations" and "On Exact Differential Equations of First Order with Two Variables" were published in the journal Applied Mathematical Sciences.

  • Senior mathematics and cognitive science double major Drew Reisinger presented "An Abstract Encoding of Surfaces Tiled by Parallelograms" at the Meeting of the Indiana Section of the Mathematical Association of America at Butler University in October.

  • Dr. Clark Kimberling, professor of mathematics, together with English Geometer Peter Moses, have a research article entitled "Bishop Curves and Orthogonal Trajectories" featured in the current issue of Elemente der Mathematik. Published in Switzerland by the European Mathematical Society, the article presents families of spherical curves first discovered four years ago. You can see some of these curves - animated - at the UE-based website, "Gallery of Bishop Curves" faculty.evansville.edu/ck6/GalleryTwo/Introduction2.html.

The Math Discretionary Fund

The Department of Mathematics is seeking to raise funds for the Math Discretionary Fund. The fund provides financial support for student travels to conferences and undergraduate research and offsets expenses such as exam fees for actuarial students who pass exams and those incurred by professors in their professional practice.

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