Prestigious math conference attracts high numbers to Clemson
CLEMSON, South Carolina – The 97th annual meeting of the Southeastern Section of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) created quite the buzz during its recent appearance on the campus of Clemson University, attracting 542 attendees from 115 colleges and universities throughout its five-state region.
The conference was hosted by the College of Science’s department of mathematical sciences and took place Friday (March 23) and Saturday (March 24) at Tillman, Martin and Brackett halls. It included two prominent speakers, a math treasure hunt, a graduate school fair and a Math Jeopardy competition – the latter of which was won by a team from Clemson University.
“The rich and diverse program spanned the entire mathematical sciences spectrum,” said Mark Cawood, a senior lecturer in the department of mathematical sciences. “It was fabulous!”
Appalachian State professor Sarah Greenwald was the presenter at a Saturday morning session titled “Popular Culture and Mathematics: Gender, Race, and More.” On Friday afternoon, Brigham Young professor Michael Dorff presented “How Mathematics is Making Hollywood Movies Better.” Both events drew large audiences.
During his talk in the Tillman Auditorium, Dorff emphasized that employment opportunities for math grads are almost limitless.
“Last May, I took a group of students from my university to Europe, and we visited 11 companies that are hiring math students, including Google in London and Nike in Amsterdam,” Dorff said. “The same thing happens here in the United States. There are lots and lots of lucrative options.”
One of Dorff’s introductory speakers was Calvin Williams, associate dean for undergraduate excellence and community engagement in the College of Science. Williams echoed Dorff’s sentiments.
“Your work should be transdisciplinary,” Williams said. “You need to think about solving problems that are on the boundary of our disciplines. I challenge you to do that.”
There were two awards presented at Friday’s session at Tillman: Winthrop’s Zach Abernathy was given the “Distinguished Teaching Award for Beginning Faculty”; and Georgia Southern’s Pat Humphrey earned the “Distinguished Service Award.”
Twenty-six different colleges and universities fielding 29 squads competed in the Math Jeopardy contest. Clemson University’s team – represented by Trevor Squires, Luna Bozeman, Joey Bonitati and Biraj Dahal – finished first. Methodist University, Berry College and Kennesaw State University came in second, third and fourth, respectively.
“Math Jeopardy was a fun experience with creative math-related questions,” said Bozeman, a 22-year-old senior in mathematical sciences who hails from Summerville. “I’m so excited that the Clemson team won this year.”
The Southeastern Section of the MAA advances mathematical sciences in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee – with a special emphasis on the collegiate level. However, some standout high school students were also in attendance.
“The event was wonderful. The talks were great and covered a variety of topics,” said 17-year-old Isaac Colyer-Pena, a senior at Lakeside High in Evans, Georgia, who also attends classes at Augusta (Ga.) University. “The Clemson campus was big and had a lot of facilities. Plus, the food at the local restaurants was delicious. It was definitely an experience to remember.”
The conference’s co-organizers were Cawood and Meredith Burr, also a senior lecturer in the mathematical sciences department at Clemson. Others who assisted included Clemson staffer Lynn Callahan; faculty members Ellen Breazel, Vince Ervin, Wayne Goddard and Williams; and graduate and undergraduate students Bozeman, John Chan, Amy Grady, Alexander Joyce, Catherine Kenyon, Huixi Li, Aidan Murphy, Andrew Pangia, Kristen Savary, Blake Splitter, Trevor Squires, Kara Stasikelis, Anna Marie Vagnozzi, Tiantian Yang and Camille Zerfas.
Many of the officers for the MAA Southeastern Section were also involved in organizing the conference, including program vice chair Hope McIlwain from Mercer University, webmaster Jim Gleason from the University of Alabama, and section chair Jeff Clark from Elon University.
The corporate sponsors were Cengage, Hawkes Learning, Macmillan Learning, Maplesoft, McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson Education.