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(l-r) Yonatan Naamad, Joseph Gibney, and Emily Meissen won the SIAM Award at the 26th annual Mathematical Contest in Modeling.

Math Students Earn SIAM Award
Elisa Gallaro
Freelance Writer

A team of Rensselaer mathematics students has earned one of the most distinguished awards for applied mathematics.

Mathematics majors Joseph Gibney, Emily Meissen, and Yonatan Naamad won the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Award for their team performance during the 26th annual Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM). Their team also was named “an outstanding winner.”

A total of 2,254 teams from 14 countries participated in the competition in February. Nine earned the “outstanding” designation. Two teams—one from Rensselaer and one from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China—were chosen for the SIAM Award, one of the MCM’s most prestigious honors.

Over the years, four Rensselaer teams have been named outstanding winners. In 2005, an “outstanding” Rensselaer team also received the SIAM Award.

“Less than 1 percent of teams earn a place in that highest echelon,” said Professor Donald Drew, who heads the Department of Mathematical Sciences. “To accomplish that four times is pretty amazing. It’s a credit not just to the team members but to the graduate students who help prepare them and to Professor Peter Kramer, their faculty adviser.”

The MCM challenges students to use a mathematical approach to tackle their choice of two real-world problems. The Rensselaer team’s paper, “Following the Trail of Data,” won the SIAM Award for the discrete MCM problem. It required students to develop a method to generate a criminal profile to help investigate serial offenders.

Both teams will present their winning solutions at the SIAM annual meeting in July. Their papers, and those of the other outstanding winners, will be published in The UMAP Journal, which focuses on undergraduate mathematics and its applications.

Kramer, associate professor of mathematical sciences, attributes Rensselaer’s success in the MCM, in part, to a Department of Mathematical Sciences mentoring program involving faculty, postdoctoral, graduate, and undergraduate students. Funded by a National Science Foundation Research Training Grant, the program is structured to give group members opportunities to learn from interacting both with more senior and with more junior participants.

“The practices for this competition are one example of this systematic mentoring structure,” Kramer said. “Graduate students Lisa Rogers, Ben Coate, Kajetan Sikorski, and Katherine Newhall worked with me, as coaches, to develop their own leadership capacities as well as to unlock the creativity and confidence of the undergraduate contestants.

“Rensselaer’s repeated success in this competition reflects the unique combination of the talent and dedication of the undergraduates, the applied mathematical training opportunities available, and our dynamic mentoring approach.”

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 8, April 30, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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