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2010 News Releases

Longwood student chosen for NSF-funded math program

April 9, 2010

Crystal Peoples Crystal Peoples

Longwood University sophomore Crystal Peoples is one of 18 undergraduates from across the country selected for an intensive summer mathematics program funded by the National Science Foundation.

Peoples will participate in the Carleton College Summer Mathematics Program (SMP), which will be held June 20 to July 18 at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. More than 100 students applied to the program, which encourages talented undergraduate women to pursue advanced degrees in the mathematical sciences.

The program, which began in 1995, is for students finishing their first or second year. They must have completed a three-course calculus sequence and linear algebra, have two teacher recommendations, and write an essay about their interest in mathematics. Peoples was told of the program by her adviser, Dr. David Shoenthal, associate professor of mathematics, and learned she'd been accepted March 15, the first day of classes after spring break.

The SMP offers courses in two areas not normally covered in an undergraduate curriculum. Peoples will take a seminar in Topology and Knot theory and another seminar in Lie (pronounced "Lee") theory.

"I know nothing about Lie theory, so I'm especially looking forward to learning more about it," said Peoples, from Chesapeake, who is majoring in mathematics and double-minoring in criminal justice and sociology. "However, I am taking a course this semester in topology under Dr. Shoenthal, so it will be interesting to learn more about it and see different approaches to the subject. Topology is an abstract form of math nicknamed 'rubber sheet' geometry. In topology, if you think of surfaces and shapes as rubber sheets, you can deform them and push and pull the sheets in different directions, as long as the properties of the surface stay the same. For example, a coffee cup has a single hole, the handle, which is similar to a doughnut hole, if you shape the rest of the cup around the handle."

Peoples, who has a 4.0 grade-point average, is president of math honor society Pi Mu Epsilon, secretary/treasurer of the Math Club, and a member of the Cormier Honors College for Citizen Scholars and the College of Arts and Sciences Student Advisory Board. She is the current recipient of the Katherine Maugans Honors Scholarship, which carries a stipend of $5,000 a year and the designation as a Maugans Scholar. She plans to earn a doctorate and teach on the university level. She is a graduate of Deep Creek High School and is the daughter of Art and Debbie Peoples.

Students selected for the program receive a $1,600 stipend, campus room and board, and a travel allowance. Among the SMP's official aims are to "excite these young women about mathematics, to provide them with the tools they will need to succeed in higher-level mathematics, and to connect them with a network of fellow female mathematicians."

The program's main organizers, Dr. Deanna Haunsperger and Dr. Stephen Kennedy, members of Carleton College's math faculty, described the SMP's benefits in a 2007 article in Math Horizons, published by the Mathematical Association of America.

"The students take two classes taught by dedicated and inspiring instructors," they wrote. "They attend panel discussions on making the most of their undergraduate career; applying, surviving, and succeeding at graduate school; careers using mathematics; and being a woman in mathematics. They also attend colloquia on a variety of mathematical topics. Woven around and through all of these activities are picnics and long walks and canoeing and movies and retro-clothing parties. The mathematics may be at the core of the summer program, but what makes it work is the relationships that build between these women."