Author Archives: kasmana

Some Summer 2018 Student Research Projects

CofC professors are not just teachers but also practitioners of their fields.  Our students learn history from historians, psychology from psychologists, math from mathematicians, and so on.  Not only does this guarantee that the instructors are experts with practical knowledge of their discipline, it also means that undergraduates here have a rare opportunity to work on real research with their professors.  Here are just two of the research projects being conducted in the math department this summer:

In a project with medical applications, undergraduate Michael Lanier is working with Professor Mukesh Kumar to mathematically analyze wireless capsule endoscopy (WCE) images to identify cancerous polyps automatically.  Utilizing deep learning and neural networks,
the team hopes to help doctors combat the third most common cancer in the US through early detection.  Lanier and Kumar explain their research this way: “In this project, we will develop an
automated system for polyp detection in WCE images based on deep learning which is an improvement to the neural networks that contain more computational layers that allow for higher levels of abstraction and prediction in the data.”


Undergraduates Monique Sparkman and John Cobb along with graduate student Albert Serna and Professor Alex Kasman are studying the particle-like waves called “solitons”,
but instead of the usual real-valued functions, the solitons they are studying are described by quaternions, abstract numbers that do not satisfy the familiar commutative property.  Since waves and non-commutativity are both fundamental to quantum physics, studying this combination could someday have practical value, but for now this team is happy to simply have made some surprising discoveries about how these two ideas fit together mathematically.




Congratulations to 2018 Departmental Undergraduate Award Recipients

The following undergraduate students received special honors from the CofC Math Department at the SSM Awards Ceremony in 2018:

Outstanding Student Award: Tristan J. Aft, Katherine H. Balcewicz, Gloria R. Burke, Blaine T. Billings, Joseph G. Casagranda, Emma L. Collins, Elyana R. Crowder, Na T. Duong, Katelynn H. Huneycutt, Isabel K. Johnston, Choral P. Linhart, Tea T. Luu, Mahwish M. Rana, Orel R. Robino, Payden L. Shaw, Elaine Todd, Emanuel O. Valencia, and Spencer B. Wilder.

Susan Prazak Endowed Award for Future Teachers:  Joseph G. Casagranda, Emanuel O. Valencia, and Zachariah J. Wirszyla.

The Ewa Wojcicka Mathematics Award: Blaine T. Billings

The Scott Ward Award for Excellence in Mathematics: John D. Cobb

Best Undergraduate Research Poster: Grier M. Jones and Daniel A. Rich

Congratulations to all the awardees!


Hidden Figures at CofC

“Hidden Figures” is a wonderful movie about the African-American women who worked as mathematicians for the US space program in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  You can see it for free on campus on Friday February 23rd at 6PM in the auditorium of the School of Sciences and Mathematics Building.

Show up early at 4:30 for a panel discussion featuring CofC faculty and guests from NASA addressing various aspects of the film.

Snacks will be served between the panel discussion and the showing of the movie.  It is all free and open to the public  Please join us!

Click to see poster:


Upcoming Math Club Events!

The College of Charleston Math Club and the Department of Mathematics are hosting several events in the next few months:

Mathematics Department Colloquium

Most Fridays

Tea at 2:45 in RSS 346 (math department lounge)

Presentation from 3:00 to 4:00, usually RSS 251 but watch for signs

An hour with a guest speaker about all kinds of mathematical stuff!

This Friday, September 29, our guest speaker will be J. B. Nation from the University of Hawaii. He’ll talk about statistical analysis of gene expression data from cancers. For more details, see the Mathematics Colloquium Page.

Guest speakers from MUSC on biostatistics

Wednesday, October 18, 3pm, Maybank 223

Come hear about biostatistics! What is it? What kinds of careers can you pursue in the field? What does MUSC have to offer? And we’ll have snacks.

For more details, see the Facebook event


The annual Virginia Tech Regional Math Contest

Saturday, October 21, 8:30 am to 11:00 am

Problem solving contest for undergraduates! Each participant writes up solutions to challenging problems. The faculty at Virginia Tech grade them and award prizes. The Math Club can provide breakfast and lunch! RSVP by replying to this e-mail or to the Facebook event

Friday, November 3

Keynote Speaker: Michael Berry

Special seminar at 11:00 at Harborwalk: The Historical Development of Computation: Inventions for the Future

Tea at 2:45 in RSS 346, Colloquium from 3:00 to 4:00: Toward Unsupervised Learning for Social Media Using Linear Algebra

This semester, our keynote speaker Dr. Berry will give two presentations, one in the computer science department, one in the math department. Berry is an expert in data science, including the ranking and clustering of large data sets. More details

The annual Putnam Math Contest

Saturday, December 2, 10am to 1pm and 3pm to 6pm

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is the preeminent mathematics competition for undergraduate college students in the United States and Canada. The Putnam Competition takes place annually on the first Saturday of December. The competition consists of two 3-hour sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. During each session, participants work individually on 6 challenging mathematical problems. The two sessions are 10am-1pm and 3pm-6pm. If you can only make it to one, that’s okay. The Math Club can provide breakfast and lunch! RSVP by replying to this e-mail or to the Facebook event

The Mathematical Contest in Modeling

Thursday February 8 through Monday February 12, 2018

It’s not too early to start thinking about the MCM. MCM is a contest where teams of undergraduates use mathematical modeling to present their solutions to real world problems. It’s a weekend long event that takes place on campus. RSVP by replying to this e-mail or to the Facebook event

The Annual High School Math Meet

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The department is hard at work preparing to host hundreds of high school students for the annual Math Meet! This year’s theme is the Winter Olympics, which will be taking place during February 2018. Watch for a call for volunteers in the next few months. Every bit of help is much appreciated! (And you get a free tee shirt!) More details on the  Math Meet Facebook page

The College of Charleston Math Club is an informal group of faculty, students, and members of the community with a common interest in mathematics. We participate in contests, have guest speakers, play games, practice for the GRE, … anything mathematical! Join our Facebook group to find out more. There’s also a Mathematics Alumni group on Linked In.

How Svitlana Mayboroda’s Landscape Function is Improving LED Lighting

Some mathematics research can take a long time — decades if not centuries — to be used in an application.  One of the amazing thing about Svitlana Maybroroda’s recent work on the mathematics of waves is that it is already being applied to improving the efficiency of LED lighting.  Read about her work and its applications in this new article at Quanta.

Ancient Trig Tables Decoded!

Plimpton 322 is an ancient Babylonian tablet that has been only now deciphered after a great deal of effort.  It turns out, it is a remarkably accurate trigonometric table!  This breaks the record for both the oldest and the most accurate ancient table of its kind.

Some of the difficulty in deciphering the old mathematical reference comes from the fact that the ancient Babylonians counted in base 60.  (This is, in fact, the reason we use numbers like 360 and 180 to describe angles.  They are were nice round numbers to the Babylonians!)

To learn more about this fascinating discovery, check out the original paper which is available as a free download as long as you are using a computer on the CofC campus.

In Memoriam: Cathleen Morawetz

Another famous mathematician has died, but in many ways this is a less tragic story than the last death we announced on this blog.

Cathleen Morawetz, who was a president of the American Mathematical Society and professor at NYU, died this past weekend at the age of 94.  Her contributions to the mathematical study of waves and shock formation continue to be influential.  In fact, as this article in the New York Times describes, just weeks before her death she attended a conference where younger researchers were using the inequalities that she had proved.

The article also recalls an interesting anecdote about this woman who succeeded as a mathematician at a time that this ran contrary to society’s expectations:

In an interview with the journal Science in 1979, Dr. Morawetz recalled that when her children were young — a time when few women pursued professional careers — people often asked whether she worried about them while she was at work.

Her reply: “No, I’m much more likely to worry about a theorem when I’m with my children.”

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.