Author Archives: kasmana

Sad News: Maryam Mirzakhani has died

Maryam Mirzakhani, the Stanford mathematician who was the first woman to win a Fields Medal when it was awarded to her just three years ago at ICM 2014, has died of cancer.  This is a tragedy for the world of mathematics as well as for her family and friends.  For more information, see this news story.

Kudos 2017!

Congratulations to the following CofC Math students, alumni and faculty:


Each year, a student who recently took calculus at CofC is awarded a $100 prize in the Harrison Randolph Calculus Contest.  This year, it was Bach Nguyen who won the prize based on his answers to the test that was administered on April 14th.

The prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship covers the cost of tuition, fees, room and board and books up to $7,500. The College was one of just a handful of schools around the country with three or more honorees, one of whom was math major John Cobb.

Congratulations to Katelynn Honeycutt and Spencer Wilder whose research poster “Validity of Nonlinear Beam Models for Axial Flow” won an award of merit at the SSM Poster Session.

The recipients of the 2017 Outstanding Student award from the math department are Arianna Tolerton, Christopher Johnson, Elyana Crowder, Emanuel Valencia, Emma CollinsIsabel Johnston, Katelynn Huneycutt, Kaya Tollas, Na Duong, Payden Shaw, Sonia Kopel, and Spencer Wilder.

Isabel Johnston and Emanuel Valencia are the recipients of the 2017 Susan Prazak Endowed Award for Future Teachers of Mathematics.

Sonia Kopel won this year’s Ewa Wojcicka Mathematics Award.

Christopher Johnson was the recipient of the A. Scott Ward Award (yes, it really is the “A Ward Award…) for Excellence in the Mathematical Sciences.


Tyler Perini (’16) who worked with Amy Langville when he was an applied math major here at CofC is now a PhD student at Georgia Tech studying operations research.  We are proud to congratulate Tyler on his NSF Graduate Research Fellowship of $34K in stipend and $12K in cost-of-education allowance for five years.

Hau Chan (’10) will be joining the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Fall of 2018. Before joining UNL, he will hold postdoctoral positions at the USC Center for Artificial Intelligence and the Harvard Innovation Science Laboratory.


Martin Jones received the 2017 Norine Noonan Award from the School of Sciences and Mathematics for his contributions to the school and community as a teacher, scholar and activist.

Stephane Lafortune was awarded a Collaboration Grant from the Simons Foundation.  These grants funded by mathematician (and Wall Street wizard) Jim Simons aim to foster research by increasing collaborative contacts between mathematicians.

You’ve Got to Read this Inspirational Interview with Mathematician Sylvia Serfaty

Check out this fantastic interview with Sylvia Serfaty that recently appeared in Wired Magazine.  It has great quotes like these:

We do a disservice to the profession by giving this image of little geniuses and prodigies. These Hollywood movies about scientists can be somewhat counterproductive, too. They are telling children that there are geniuses out there that do really cool stuff, and kids may think, “Oh, that’s not me.” Maybe 5 percent of the profession fits that stereotype, but 95 percent doesn’t. You don’t have to be among the 5 percent to do interesting math…

 The fun is in the struggle with a problem that resists. It’s the same kind of pleasure as with hiking: You hike uphill and it’s tough and you sweat, and at the end of the day the reward is the beautiful view. Solving a math problem is a bit like that, but you don’t always know where the path is and how far you are from the top. You have to be able to accept frustration, failure, your own limitations….

It’s really beautiful to observe, as you progress in your mathematical maturity, how everything is somehow connected. There are so many things that are related, and you keep building connections in your intellectual landscape. With experience you develop a point of view that is pretty much unique to yourself—somebody else would come at it from a different angle. That’s what’s fruitful, and that’s how you can solve problems that maybe somebody smarter than you wouldn’t solve just because they don’t have the necessary perspective….

US team (featuring a South Carolinian) wins International Mathematical Olympiad

For the first time since 1994, the team from the United States earned the most medals in the prestigious (and notoriously hard) International Mathematical Olympiad.  The team included David Stoner from Aiken SC who also competed (and unsurprisingly also did very well) at the College of Charleston Math Meet in recent years.

For more information about the competition and the winning team, see this Ars Technica article.

Congratulations to our COMAP MCM contestants!

COMAP Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) is a  contest that attracts contestants from colleges and universities around the world.  The College of Charleston team consisting of math majors Tyler Perini, Clay Gardner and Mike Lis earned a meritorious rating in the 2014 MCM contest, placing them in the top 9% of the 6755 teams that competed.

The problem they answered was:

PROBLEM A: The Keep-Right-Except-To-Pass Rule 

In countries where driving automobiles on the right is the rule (that is, USA, China and most other countries except for Great Britain, Australia, and some former British colonies), multi-lane freeways often employ a rule that requires drivers to drive in the right-most lane unless they are passing another vehicle, in which case they move one lane to the left, pass, and return to their former travel lane.

Build and analyze a mathematical model to analyze the performance of this rule in light and heavy traffic. You may wish to examine tradeoffs between traffic flow and safety, the role of under- or over-posted speed limits (that is, speed limits that are too low or too high), and/or other factors that may not be explicitly called out in this problem statement. Is this rule effective in promoting better traffic flow? If not, suggest and analyze alternatives (to include possibly no rule of this kind at all) that might promote greater traffic flow, safety, and/or other factors that you deem important.

In countries where driving automobiles on the left is the norm, argue whether or not your solution can be carried over with a simple change of orientation, or would additional requirements be needed.

Lastly, the rule as stated above relies upon human judgment for compliance. If vehicle transportation on the same roadway was fully under the control of an intelligent system – either part of the road network or imbedded in the design of all vehicles using the roadway – to what extent would this change the results of your earlier analysis?


Congratulations to them and to all of the College of Charleston COMAP MCM contestants!

Pi Day 2014

The number Π is pretty amazing!Unknown

Of course, it what you get when you divide the circumference of any circle by its diameter.  Moreover, it useful for measuring angles in such a way that the derivative of the sine function is the cosine function.  And, yes, it is an irrational number, so that its decimal expansion is not a repeating sequence of digits.  Sure, all of these things are interesting, but not amazing.

What is amazing is that the number “e” raised to the power “Πi” is -1 and that the probability that two randomly selected positive integers are relatively prime is 6/Π^2!  I mean, what’s up with that?!?!?  What do those things have to do with circles anyway?  It seems as if the geometry of circles must somehow be hiding behind the very structure of the numbers!

Another thing that is amazing is how much people love the number Π!  How many numbers have their own holidays?  Zero and one may deserve them, but Π is the only number I know with a holiday.  Every March 14th is “Pi Day”.  And it is coming up soon.

If you want to celebrate, or just want to learn more cool stuff about this intriguing number, visit Pi Across America.  For example, you can go there to view the first 200 million digits and search for your favorite sequence.  (FYI “2014” first appears 3,133 digits in, not counting the leading 3.)

Happy Pi Day, everyone!

Math Meet 2014

numbergamesEvery year since 1978, the math department at CofC has run a contest for high school students.  This year’s Math Meet, held on February 22, 2014, brought over 600 students from three states and more than 50 schools to campus for a day of fun, creative and challenging competitions.  Teacher’s tell us that their students love our competition so much, looking forward to it all year motivates them to work harder in their math classes.  As an added bonus, visiting our beautiful campus may help to convince them to apply to the College when they graduate.

20145054The American Mathematical Society’s game show “Who Wants to be a Mathematician” joined us this year, offering large cash prizes and even more excitement than usual.  David Stoner (South Aiken High School) and Andy Xu (Columbia Math Circle) were the finalists, winning $3000 and $500 respectively.  (See photo at left.)

The Math Meet is run by the faculty of the math department with assistance from a handful of dedicated student volunteers.  Additionally, the Chemistry and Physics departments run their own events as part of the Math Meet.

For more information about the Math Meet (including photos and a list of winners), visit