Off on a Tangent
A Fortnightly Electronic Newsletter from the Hope College Department of Mathematics
 September 11, 2017 Vol. 16, No. 1

The first colloquium of the year will  take a look at how Google became so popular

Title: Google's $25 Billion Eigenvector
Speaker:  Dr. Paul Pearson
Time:  Thursday, September 14 at 11:00 am
Place:  VanderWerf 102

Abstract: Why is Google the most popular search engine?  It uses an algorithm that delivers the most important and relevant results at the top of the list.  What criteria should determine the importance of a web page?  How can these criteria be quantified so that web pages can be ranked by importance?  We will discuss the Google PageRank algorithm, the linear algebra used in its construction, and the reasons why it is so successful.

Hope students earn outstanding speaker awards

The tradition of Hope students winning awards at MathFest continues. Russell Houpt and Sarah Seckler each earned recognition for outstanding research presentations during MathFest, the annual national conference of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), which was held on this past summer Chicago, Illinois.  Russell garnered the Janet L. Andersen Award for the outstanding presentation in mathematical biology for “Name that Bird! Using Neural Networks to Identify Bird Songs.”  Sarah received a Pi Mu Epsilon Outstanding Speaker Award for her discussion of “What Bird Was That? Feature Extraction of Recorded Bird Songs for Neural Networks.”

The students conducted their research earlier in the summer with mathematics faculty members Dr. Mark Pearson and Dr. Darin Stephenson.  Their work was part of an ongoing effort to help computers learn to identify bird species based on audio recordings of bird songs. The motivation for the project comes from environmental science studies in which researchers use audio recordings to track bird locations and populations. A key step in the process is identifying bird species from the recordings, which can be time-consuming if an individual has to listen to every recording. The hope is to speed the process by teaching computers to do the analysis.

Hope students earn awards for their statistics projects

Statistics research projects conducted by two teams of Hope College students have earned first place and honorable mention in a national competition. Both have been honored in the 2016-17 Undergraduate Statistics Project Competition. William Lake and Matthew Grit won first place for “Can You Tell the Difference? A Study on the Preference of Bottled Water.” Their paper examined whether or not believing that one was drinking bottled water or tap water affected perception of its taste. 

Anna DeCamp, Kiersten Meyerhuber, and Mikayla Takas of Grand Haven received honorable mention for “A Study on Word Memorization, Brain Lateralization and Field of Study.” They explored whether or not the ability to memorize a list of words was affected by being left-brained or right-brained and also whether one’s field was the arts and humanities, natural and applied sciences, or social sciences.
Both teams pursued the projects in the spring 2017 introductory statistics class taught by Todd Swanson.  A student team in Swanson’s fall 2016 class placed second in the competition’s fall phase earlier in the year.

Ice Cream and Fun

Please join the mathematics faculty and fellow math students for the Ice Cream and Fun event on Friday, September 15 from 3:14 to 4:14 p.m. (that's pi time to pi+1 time)  We will set up in the Van Andel Plaza located in front of the Schaap Science Center. (We will use the Science Center Atrium in case of rain). Come and enjoy delicious ice cream, some fun games, and get to know your fellow math students and faculty.

Hope to see you there!

Actuarial Career Opportunity Day

Auto-Owners invites you to their annual Information Technology & Actuarial Career Opportunity Day! The event is on Friday, October 20, 2017 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. IT/Actuarial Day shows students how their degree can be used in the insurance industry.
Sophomores, juniors, seniors, and recent graduates with majors in Mathematics and Computer Science are invited. Faculty is also welcome! Each faculty member who wishes to attend should fill out a registration to ensure we adequately prepare for the correct number of attendees.

More information and registration should be available soon and will hopefully be in the next newsletter.



Biostatistics Prospective Student Information Day

The Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan will hold a Prospective Student Information Day on Saturday, September 30, 2017. The purpose of this event is to provide information to students who may be interested in graduate study in biostatistics. They expect attendees to be undergraduate and masters students who have identified biostatistics as their interest area, as well as students who are completing an undergraduate degree in math, statistics, biology, or some related discipline, and have not yet decided on their future plans.

At the event, presentations by students and faculty will focus on what biostatistics is and what biostatisticians do, on the job opportunities in biostatistics, and on the admissions and financial support opportunities at the University.

For more information, please visit their website (where you can also register).

Problem of the Fortnight

Suppose that A = (a,a2) and B = (b,b2) are two points on the graph of the parabola y = x2 such that the tangent lines to the parabola through A and B are perpendicular.  Let C be the point where the tangent lines meet at a right angle.  Find the x- and y-coordinates of the point C in terms of a.

Write your solution (showing all relevant work) on a paraboloid
 drop it in the Problem of the Fortnight slot outside Professor Mark Pearson's office (VWF 212) by 3:00 p.m. on Friday, September 15. As always, be sure to include your name and the name(s) of your math professor(s) -- e.g. Jen Tan, Professor Pare A. Bola --- on your solution.

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

John Wooden

Off on a Tangent