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2012 - 2013 Academic Year

Abstracts & Biographies

Date:6 September (Thursday)

Speaker: Dr. Michael Dorff
Professor of Mathematics
Brigham Young University

Title: Shortest paths, soap films, and mathematics

Abstract: In high school geometry we learn that the shortest path between two points is a line. In this talk we explore this idea in several different settings. First, we apply this idea to finding the shortest path connecting four points. Then we move this idea up a dimension and look at a few equivalent ideas in terms of surfaces in 3-dimensional space. Surprisingly, these first two settings are connected through soap films that result when a wire frame is dipped into soap solution. We use a hands-on approach to look at the geometry of some specific soap films or "minimal surfaces."

Bio: Michael Dorff is a professor of mathematics at Brigham Young Univeristy in Utah.  During the fall 2012 he is on sabbatical at the Mathematical Association of America in Washington DC.  His mathematical interests revolve around complex analysis, minimal surfaces, undergraduate research and careers that use math.


Date: 25 September (Tuesday)

Speaker: Kim (Bowman) Bradbury '07
Business Meteorologist
Planalytics, Inc.

Title: Weather and Retailing

Abstract: When you think about weather events, you probably think more of the extreme weather events in recent history such as Hurricane Katrina, the Joplin Tornado, or the drought of Summer 2012. All of these events also had a large impact on businesses, from shipping supplies to rebuilding homes, increases in oil prices, and the loss of crops. In my discussion I will talk about how Planalytics helps companies prepare for these extreme events as well as the impact of smaller scale weather events using basic statistics and modelling.

Bio:Kim (Bowman) Bradbury is a Business Meteorologist with Planalytics, Inc. in Philadelphia, PA. She received her B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Longwood University in 2007 and her B.S. in Applied Meteorology from Florida State University in 2009. While at Longwood University she helped initiate Math Club and served as the Secretary. She took her leadership skills to Florida State University where she served as the President of the North Florida Local Chapter of the American Meteorology Society.

Most of her mathematics interests involve statistics and modelling techniques. Her weather interests began at an early age when her father introduced the first computer with radar capabilities to the Chesterfield County 911 center. From then on she knew that understanding the weather had a large impact on everyday life.


Date: 15 November (Thursday)

Speaker: Carter Dewey '10
Software Engineer
Horizon Performance, LLC

Title: How does that user interface make you feel?

Abstract: Chances are that a software developer has never asked you that, but perhaps they should. In this discussion we'll explore both the real-world ways that psychological studies are aided by software tools and the influences that the human psyche can have on the software development process. In particular, we'll examine how the platform and form-factor targeted by an application (e.g. web, desktop, and mobile) can create unique psychometric challenges and considerations.

Bio: Carter Dewey received his B.S. in Computer Science from Longwood University in 2010. After a relatively brief stint working in the television broadcasting industry, he began his current work at Horizon Performance, where he is the lead developer of their mobile software offerings for Android and iOS devices.


Date: 31 January (Thursday)

Speaker: Dr. Laura Taalman
Professor of Mathematics
James Madison University

Title: Patterns, Proofs, and Purity

Abstract: What is known and what is not?  How much of what is not known is known, and how can we find out?  Can we use computers to investigate what isn’t known?  Is it okay to use computers to prove what isn’t known?  With the rise of undergraduate research in mathematics comes a need for elementary unsolved problems that students can pursue.  Modern technology can help fill this need and support exploratory, investigative mathematics, even for those of us that are old-school mathematical purists at heart.  In this talk we’ll stumble through some of what is known and not known about cellular automata, primes, Tetris, Sudoku, and knots.

Bio: Laura Taalman is a Professor of Mathematics at James Madison University. She received her Ph.D in mathematics from Duke University and her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. Her research includes singular algebraic geometry, knot theory, and the mathematics of puzzles. She is Co-Director of the annual Shenandoah Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics (SUMS) Conference at James Madison University, and a recipient of both the Trevor Evans award and the Alder Award from the Mathematical Association of America.  She is also the author of a book on the mathematics of Sudoku, four books of Sudoku variation puzzles, and a new three-semester Calculus book that came out earlier this year.


Date: 19 February (Tuesday)

Speaker: Dr. Nathan Axvig
Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Virginia Military Institute

Title: Routing Meals on Wheels Drivers in the Shenandoah Valley:  A Genetic Algorithm Approach

Abstract: The Valley Program for Aging Services (VPAS) delivers hot meals to homebound seniors in Southwest Virginia.  They  depend on a few hired employees but mostly volunteers who show up on a day-to-day basis.  The four branches of  Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro, Lexington-Buena Vista-Rockbridge, Bath-Highland, and Harrisonburg-Rockingham deliver over 400 meals a day.  Due to clients being away for miscellaneous reasons and daily variation in the volunteer pool, it is virtually impossible to have set delivery routes.  In this talk, I highlight work done by Cadet Alex Falcetti of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), who was contracted by VPAS to build a dynamic tool capable of providing efficient daily delivery routes.  This project was co-advised by myself and Dr. John David, both of the Applied Mathematics Department at VMI.

Bio: Nathan Axvig received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of North Dakota in 2005, and he earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2010.  Since that time, he has served as an Assistant Professor of Applied Mathematics at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.  While his formal training is in coding theory, he has recently become interested in operations research and industrial mathematics.  When he is not doing mathematics, Nathan enjoys spending time running, hiking, and doing maintenance work on the Appalachian Trail.


Date: 14 March (Thursday)

Speaker: Dr. M. Leigh Lunsford
Associate Professor of Mathematics
Longwood University

Title: π = 4

Abstract: In this talk we will discuss the meaning of π.   Using that meaning and some elementary logic we will prove that π = 4.  Naturally we will need to discuss this "proof" and its implications.  Along the way we will learn about measuring distances and lengths of curves as well as some historical and fun facts about the number π.   This talk will be accessible to first year calculus students as well those who are just interested in π.

Bio: Leigh Lunsford is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Longwood University.  She obtained her Bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University in Mathematics and Computer Science in 1985 and earned her PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Alabama System (Huntsville) in 1995.  Since that time she has come to love and appreciate statistics, serving for several years as an AP Statistics Reader and refereeing and publishing in venues such as the Journal of Statistics Education.   She has worked in industry and at several institutions of higher learning (including Alabama A&M University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville) before settling down at Longwood University, where she received the Junior Faculty Award in 2008.  An amateur actress, Leigh has appeared in numerous productions with the Waterworks Players, Farmville’s community theater, as well as on the stage for both Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College.  A highlight of her acting "career" was appearing with the MAA Players in their production of MAA: The Musical^2, at Mathfest, 2012.  In her free time she enjoys cooking and relaxing at home with her mathematician husband, Marcus Pendergrass, and their three cats.


Date: 16 April (Tuesday)

Speaker:  Dr. Camillia Smith Barnes
Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Sweet Briar College

Title: The Evolution of Euler Characteristic (& Why There Are Five Platonic Solids!)

Abstract:  This talk introduces the subject of polyhedra and discusses Euler's famous formula and how Euler Characteristic was discovered.  At the end of the talk, we use Euler's formula to prove that there are exactly 5 Platonic Solids.

Bio:   Camillia Smith Barnes teaches at Sweet Briar College.  She grew up in Michigan and attended Michigan State University for her undergraduate work.  She did her graduate work at Cambridge University and Harvard University.  Camillia is interested in enumerative combinatorics.  She also enjoys reading, cooking, running, beading, and knitting.  She has four beautiful cats, all named after mathematicians.