Duke Math News - Sat May 2 20:58:27 1998
Math Department Celebration
On Tuesday, April 28, the mathematics department will honor all
math majors and, in particular, our various prize-winners at a
party in the math department lounge. The events will begin in
room 113 at 4:30 with a short presentation by Garrett Mitchener,
Jeff Mermin and John Thacker of their award-winning paper on grade
inflation. At 5:00, with the assistance of Dean Robert Thompson,
scholarship recipients, participants in the Virginia Tech, Putnam
and Mathematical Modeling competitions will be recognized and the
Julia Dale and the Menger awards and checks will be conferred.
This will be followed by plenty of food for all.
All math majors, graduate students and faculty are encouraged to
attend this event. For some students, this may be the last
opportunity to meet and talk informally with math faculty and
A good calculator does not need
--Lao Tze, from the Tao Te
Outstanding Modeling Team
This year's team for the Mathematical Contest in Modeling spent
from Friday morning until Monday afternoon in early February
locked away in the depths of the Physics Building, working on the
Grade Inflation Problem. The team, consisting of Jeff Mermin '00,
John Thacker '01, and Garrett Mitchener '99, earned a ranking
of Outstanding, the highest possible award. Only seven teams
world wide earned such a high ranking. The team has been invited
to present their paper at a math conference in Toronto, expenses
The two problems for this year were to render oblique cross
sections of MRI scans, and to find a way to select the top ten
percent of students in a college where the average grade is an A-.
Unlike the problems in most math competitions, these problems have
no single right answer. Solution papers are judged based on
creativity, clarity, and completeness.
Duke Takes Second Place in the
The team of Nathan Curtis '01, Andrew Dittmer '99 and
Noam Shazeer '98 took second place in the 58th William Lowell
Putnam Mathematics Competition. On December 6, 1997, a record
2510 undergraduate contestants from 419 institutions in the United
States and Canada struggled for 6 hours on 12 very challenging
Over half of the contestants nation wide, most of whom are among
the top math students at their colleges, scored only 0 or 1 points
out of a maximum of 120 on this competition. All 15 Duke
participants recorded a score of at least 10, placing them each in
the top third. Curtis and Dittmer ranked among the top 14 of these
2510 contestants and Shazeer ranked 20th. With rankings very
similar to these, Duke captured first place last year, winning for
the second time in four years. A Duke team took second place in
the 1990 Putnam competition. This year, Harvard regained its
title. The other teams in the top five were Princeton, MIT, and
Two Duke freshmen received great scores. Carl Miller '01
received Honorable Mention for his rank of 40, John Clyde '01
placed in the top 90. Clyde, Curtis, Dittmer, Miller and Shazeer
had each won medals at the International Mathematical Olympiads
before coming to Duke.
Other Duke participants, Nathan Bronson '99, Jeff
Mermin '00, and Garrett Mitchener '99, ranked in the top
8% nationally while Christopher Beasley '99, Michael
Colsher '01, Sarah Dean '00, John Hyde '99, and
Daniel Neill '01 each scored among the upper 20%.
For their exceptional performance, the Putnam Competition will
award Dittmer and Curtis $1800 while Shazeer picks up $1050. The
team members also collect the Karl Menger Award of $250 for the
best performance among Duke students on the Putnam competition.
The prize money for the winners will be distributed during the
math awards day on April 28.
In addition to the individual cash award, the Putnam Competition
will grant the Duke math department $20,000 for its second place
finish. This money will be used for Duke University Math Union
activities, the undergraduate math lecture series, travel by
undergraduates to national math society meetings, and to support
other aspects of the undergraduate program in mathematics.
For more information, see
http://www.math.duke.edu/ and http://www.scu.edu/SCU/Departments/Math/putnam.
Wear the Putnam!
Wear your own 1997-98 Duke Math shirt to impress your friends and
your boss this summer. Show your support of one of the top
undergraduate programs with this distinguished dark blue shirt
featuring an impressive geometric design on front. The solution to
the Putnam problem that inspired this design is available free
with your purchase. The shirts are available in large and
extra-large for $8.50 from the department secretary in room
Awards and Scholarships
Julia Dale Prize Winners
The 1998 Julia Dale Prize for excellence in undergraduate
mathematics goes to Andrew Dittmer '99 with second prizes to
James Harrington '98 and Noam Shazeer '98.
In his first year at Duke, Dittmer wrote a research paper that he
published in the American Mathematics Monthly. After two
years of service in Italy for the Mormon Church, Dittmer returned
to his studies at Duke with considerable fluency in several
Italian dialects as well as a sophisticated math research problem
that he continues work on under the direction of Professor Richard
Hain. Dittmer played an essential part in Duke's 1993 and 1996
championship Putnam teams and finished ninth in the nation on
Duke's second place 1997 Putnam team.
Harrington's accomplishments in mathematics and physics include
the Karl Menger Award in his freshman year and independent
research in physics. Next year, he will begin work on his
doctorate in Physics, specializing in quantum computing, at
California Institute of Technology.
In his first semester at Duke, Shazeer aced two 200 level math
courses and ranked sixth in the nation on the 1994 Putnam team. He
helped lead Duke to its first and second place Putnam finishes in
1996 and 1997. After graduation, Shazeer will remain at Duke to
work for his Ph.D. in computer science.
Julia Dale was an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Duke
University who died early in her career on January 13, 1936.
Friends, relatives, and colleagues of Professor Dale established
the Julia Dale Memorial Fund in 1938. It was the first memorial
fund established in honor of a woman member of the Duke University
faculty. The fund provides income to support the Julia Dale
Karl Menger Award
The Karl Menger Award is given in recognition of superior
performance in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.
This year's awards go to the members of Duke's
Second-Prize-Winning Putnam team, Andrew Dittmer '99, Noam
Shazeer '98, and Nathan Curtis '97. The Menger Award
($250 for each student) will be given at the Math Department
Celebration in the Math Lounge on Tuesday, April 28 at
Karl Menger was a well-known twentieth century mathematician who
held academic positions in Europe and the United States and was
widely published. The Karl Menger Award was established by a gift
to Duke University from George and Eva Menger-Hammond. Karl
Menger was Eva Menger-Hammond's father.
W. Garrett Mitchener '99 and three other Duke students were
among the 316 recipients of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship
this year. The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of
academic merit from a field of 1186 mathematics, science and
engineering students nationwide. Recipients receive up to $7500
toward college expenses.
According to Dean Mary Nijhout, the Goldwater Scholarship is the
premiere undergraduate award of its type in these fields. Since
the award program began in 1989, 33 Duke students including 13
math majors have been named Goldwater Scholars.
For more information, see http://www.act.org/goldwater.
Nature laughs at the difficulties of
--Pierre-Simon de Laplace
News and Events
Undergraduate Math Lecture
On Wednesday, February 11, Professor Frank Morgan of Williams
College and Princeton University, delighted a large audience of
students and faculty with a lecture entitled The Soap Bubble
Geometry Contest, a guessing contest with demonstrations,
explanations, and prizes. Using his own soap bubble solution and
specially designed wire frames, Morgan illustrated some
fascinating properties of geometric shapes called minimal
surfaces. Morgan chatted with his undergraduate hosts at a
reception before the lecture and at dinner afterwards about
mathematical teaching and research.
As in the past two years, diplomas will be presented in a brief
ceremony to first majors in mathematics and physics after a
luncheon in the Levine Science Research Center Dining Room. The
luncheon, for first and second mathematics majors, first and
second physics majors, and their guests, will follow the 1998
University Graduation Exercises on Sunday, May 17.
Conference in Honor of DMJ
On May 1 and 2, Duke University will host a conference honoring
the Duke Mathematical Journal and the International
Mathematics Research Notices. The speakers include
Jean-Michel Bismut (Paris), Spencer Bloch (Chicago), Richard
Borcherds (Cambridge, UK), Benedict Gross (Harvard), Helmut Hofer
(NYU), David Jerison (MIT) and Peter Sarnak (Princeton). For more
information, see http://math.duke.edu/conferences
or contact Angelika Langen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Congress of Mathematicians
Associate Professor David A. Smith will be joined by George
Andrews of Pennsylvania State University and Donald Lewis of the
National Science Foundation in a discussion and debate on calculus
reform at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Berlin
this August. Smith will argue a ``pro'' position and Andrews a
``con'' position with Lewis moderating.
Also at this quadrennial meeting, Assistant Professor Paul S.
Aspinwall will address the Congress on mathematical physics and
Scoville and Weisfeld Retire
Richard A. Scoville will retire this year after more than 35 years
of service to Duke University. Scoville received his doctorate
under the direction of Shizuo Kakutani at Yale University. While
at Duke, he worked in ergodic theory and combinatorics and
published several papers many as a co-author with Leonard Carlitz.
He looks forward to a life of nonchalance and insouciance.
Morris Weisfeld, Professor of Mathematics and longtime Managing
Editor of the Duke Mathematical Journal, will retire this
year after 31 years at Duke University. Weisfeld assumed the helm
of the Duke Math Journal in 1974. He served as Managing
Editor except for two years until 1997. In 1991 he founded a new
journal, International Mathematics Research Notices, or
IMRN for short, published by Duke University Press. He
will continue as as Managing Editor of IMRN for the
Duke Professor Wins Pólya Prize
Associate Professor Xin Zhou has won the 1998 George Pólya
Prize for his joint work with Professor Percy Deift of New York
University. The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
(SIAM) has praised Zhou and Deift for their ``pathbreaking
extension of steepest descent methods for the asymptotic analysis
of oscillatory Riemann-Hilbert problems.'' Together with
Professor Peter Sarnak of Princeton, they will receive an engraved
medal and cash award at the annual SIAM meeting. For more
information, see http://www.siam.org/prizes/polya.htm.
Several Duke math majors will study math while earning money this
summer. Jeffrey Mermin '00 will attend the Research
Experiences for Undergraduates program at the University of
Washington. Sarah Dean '00 will work at the National
Security Agency. Other Duke math majors expect offers of similar
employment soon. Please let us know your summer plans by sending
an email message to email@example.com.
Math Degree Candidates, Academic Year 1997-98
Shaeeta Kendretta Brown (AB)
Don Joseph Burbacher (BS)
Mary Elizabeth Burke (AB)
Timothy Ryan Deering (BS)
Deborah Goldfarb (BS)
James William Harrington (BS)
Brian Jeffrey Joe (BS)
Adam Patrick McInroy (BS)
Colleen Catharine Mitchell (BS)
Lucinda Lea Pitzer (AB)
Rebecca Anne Roberson (AB)
Jyoti Rajagopal (AB)
Amanda Bystrom Schott (AB)
Noam Mordechai Shazeer (BS)
Gretta Elizabeth Bartels
Robert Lawrence Daniel
Timothy Austin Lutz
Patrick Ted Martone
Douglas Robert Parrell
Samuel Martin Wolfson
Ari Daiel Berger
Scott Andrew Buschmann
Jonathan Michael Dileo
Oleg I. Grodnensky
Brandon Richard Hall
John Michael Hardy
Jeffrey Ross Mensch
Heather Raine Peebles
Mike Yen Shen
James Patrick Vere
Master of Arts
Andrew Ladislaus Barnes
Laura Anne Taalman
Charles David Fargason, Jr.
Anna Vladimorova Georgieva
Christopher Thomas Odden
Kirsten Elizabeth Travers
James Scott Rolf
The imaginary number is a fine and
wonderful recourse of the divine spirit, almost an amphibian
between being and not being.