Carolina students in the 2013 Putnam Competition

The results from the latest annual William Lowell Putnam Competition, held this past December include strong performances from a number of Carolina undergraduates.

Four of our students ranked in the top 10% of this year’s 4113 contestants. Michael Greenberg scored 40 points (out of a maximum of 120 in what is famously and always a difficult test), ranking him 136th. Joining him on our official school team, Eugene (Xiaoyin) Lu scored 30 (ranked 266th) and Marshall Lochbaum scored 29 (ranked 333rd). Also performing exceptionally, first-year David Spencer scored 31 (ranked 208.5th).

Also scoring on the exam were Tyler Blanton, Justin Price, and Otis Skipper. As usual, over half of the entrants scored 0, so anyone with a positive score is to be congratulated!

Overall, our Carolina team was ranked 13.5th, one of our strongest showings. Importantly, none of these students are seniors, so we look forward to another great performance next year.

Congratulations to all of these students for a job well done. Thank you to Justin Sawon for serving as the faculty mentor to the team.

Carolina Math Club

A student-led undergraduate math club was recently started by freshmen Anya Katsevich (President), David Spencer (Vice President), and several other students. So far the club has hosted mathematical talks by both Prof Karl Petersen and by undergraduate David Yavenditti. The club has also organized a panel discussion on summer opportunities for math majors, including REU programs, summer research with a professor, study abroad, and summer internships with companies. Current and former undergraduates shared their experiences of these different opportunities, and a representative from the Study Abroad Office was on hand to answer questions.

The club is planning more activities for the spring semester. For more information, see the club on Facebook and Student Life.

Thanks to Justin Sawon for serving as the faculty advisor, with additional help from Linda Green.

Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest

Gathering up a missed, unreported Department news item from the Fall, it is nevertheless with enthusiasm that we congratulate the sixteen Carolina undergraduate students who competed in the 35th annual Virgina Tech Regional Mathematics Contest on October 26th, 2013. Contestants at each participating school took a two-and-a-half hour exam on their own campus under the supervision of one of their own faculty members. Overall, 107 colleges participated with 726 entrants and five students scored the maximum number of points.

The top scorers from Carolina were:

  • Michael Greenberg, 16th
  • Marshall Lochbaum, 39th
  • Tyler Blanton, 65th
  • Xiaoyin (Eugene) Liu, 89th
  • Craig Gambegi, 141st

Congratulations to all and a special thank you to Professor Justin Sawon for administering the event here at Carolina.

Undergraduate awards and competitions

In addition to the department awards recognized at graduation and the recent announcement of a Goldwater Scholarship to Patrick Short, the end of the academic year brings news of other awards and honors garnered by undergraduates affiliated with Carolina Mathematics.

Graham Hawkes was the sole Mathematics major graduating with departmental honors this May. One of the requirements for departmental honors is a project conducted in association with a faculty member and a final report including both a written description, filed in the library, and an oral presentation before a faculty committee. Graham’s honors thesis was entitled “Simple surface singularities, their resolutions, and construction of some K3 surfaces”, supervised by Professor Justin Sawon, who described Graham’s project: “By taking the quotient of a torus by a finite group and resolving the singularities, he described the construction of some algebraic surfaces which generalize the classical Kummer K3 surfaces.”

Graham Hawkes was also inducted into the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society at a reception on April 10th at the Carolina Inn, as pictured above with Professor Sawon (right) and the Department Honors Advisor, Professor Prakash Belkale (left). Sigma Xi was founded in 1886 as an honors society for science and engineering. Its mission is to promote the health of the scientific enterprise and honor scientific achievement. The Society is headquartered in the Research Triangle and has over 50,000 members worldwide. Membership is by invitation only.

The Office of Undergraduate Research has offered Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) to two students working in the department: Shreyas Tikare and Eli Bingham.

Shreyas Tikare will work this summer with Professor Jason Metcalfe on a research project about local decay for the Maxwell field exterior to higher dimensional Schwarzschild black holes. Shreyas describes his project by saying, “Roughly speaking, does a small perturbation of a known solution to the Einstein field equations remain close to the original solution?” He continues with, “Maxwell’s equations describe the dynamics of electromagnetic radiation in a vacuum spacetime, the study of which is motivated by a desire to understand the Einstein field equations with respect to an electromagnetic field source. If black holes are understood to be stable, then an electromagnetic perturbation should be radiated away by the underlying black hole geometry, and by formulating a decay estimate for the Maxwell field, we roughly measure the rate at which this happens.”

Eli Bingham’s project with Professor Peter Mucha and postdoctoral associate Dr. Nishant Malik involves improved network representations for studying correlations in global climate data. Though offered a SURF award to continue this work in Summer 2013, Eli also received offers to attend multiple scientific summer schools and has opted to embrace those opportunities, with plans to continue on his climate networks project when he returns to Chapel Hill in the Fall.

The results from the Mathematical Association of America’s annual William Lowell Putnam Competition have been released. Twelve students from UNC entered the competition. Famously always difficult, over half of this year’s 4277 entrants across the USA and Canada scored 0 (out of a maximum of 120 points) so anyone with a positive score is to be congratulated! Among this group from Carolina, sophomore Marshall Lochbaum scored 39 (ranked 146.5th), sophomore Michael Greenberg scored 27 (ranked 481st), with sophomores Eugene Xiaoyin Liu, Yash Agrawal, and first-year Tyler Blanton also joining the ranks of participants who scored points. Doing so well so early in their undergraduate careers, we of course encourage all of these students to continue to enter the competition in their remaining chances before they graduate.

The results are also in for the 2013 Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (ICM), held in conjunction with the Mathematical Contest in Modeling. Internationally, 957 teams participated, with 22 teams from the USA. The 20-page modeling report submitted by the Carolina team (profiled earlier) was awarded the designation “Honorable Mention” (meaning their report was considered somewhere among the top 14-54% of entrants). With the team consisting of a junior and two sophomores, we likewise encourage these students to continue to enter in the competition.

Hearty congratulations to all of the students involved in these honors and activities.

Graduation 2013

Carolina Mathematics students from the Class of 2013

May 12th, 2013 was the perfect Chapel Hill day for a Carolina graduation and for our annual Department ceremony and reception in honor of our Carolina Mathematics graduates. At the event, held on the lawn in front of Phillips Hall, we recognized the accomplishments of 14 Ph.D. recipients, 4 Master of Science students, and 103 Bachelor’s degrees, along with additional department prizes and honors. As per our tradition, the ceremony included remarks from a member of the graduating class of undergraduates, delivered this year by Leah Rose Downey.


Undergraduate student services manager Susan Stedman and Director of Undergraduate Studies Professor Karl Petersen


Nathan Michael Vos and Shreyas Samir Tikare were each honored with the Archibald Henderson Mathematics Medal, given to the undergraduates judged by the Department to have demonstrated both a high degree of mathematical ability and the greatest promise of originality in the field.


Students receive their degrees and shake hands with assembled faculty


Marshall Ward Lochbaum was named as the recipient of the Alfred T. Brauer Prize, given to the undergraduate who is judged by the Department to have demonstrated the greatest ability and shown the greatest promise for achievement in the fields of algebra or number theory.


Graduate student degree recipients


Harold Reed Ogrosky and Andrea Nicholle Overbay were each awarded the J. Burton Linker Teaching Assistant Award, given by the Department to the graduate students who have shown the greatest effectiveness as a teacher of undergraduate mathematics courses.


Ned Linker (left), son of J. Burton Linker and co-benefactor of the Department’s J. Burton Linker Fund, with the J. Burton Linker Fellow and Professor Justin Sawon (right)



Ph.D. recipients at Saturday’s Hooding Ceremony at the Smith Center, with Professors Prakash Belkale, Jim Damon, Jane Hawkins, Justin Sawon and Shrawan Kumar


Undergraduate mathematics competitions

A group of Carolina undergraduates participated in the Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest on October 27th. In total, 663 students participated from 112 schools in 27 different states. Ten students from UNC participated. The contest results were very encouraging, with sophomores Marshall Lochbaum and Yash Agrawal leading the UNC participants, each finishing in the top 60 in the contest, and many other promising results from UNC students.

A similar group of students is currently in their last preparations for the annual Putnam Competition, held each year on the first Saturday in December. Last year’s Carolina team finished 14th in the Putnam, with William Schlieper ’12 earning an individual Honorable Mention in the competition. We have high hopes for this year as well, and wish the best of luck to all participating students.

Special recognition goes to Profs. Justin Sawon and Joseph Cima for mentoring this year’s math competition problem solving seminar, and to Prof. Richard Rimanyi for leading these efforts last year. Thank you also to graduate student Rebecca Glover, who proctored the VT contest exam here this year.


2011-12 Recap: New research grants awarded to Mathematics faculty

Following up on the good news in last week’s post about the NSF MRI award to the Fluids Lab, we are overdue to celebrate the variety of new federal research grants awarded to faculty in the Department of Mathematics over the past year.

This list represents only new awards led out of the Department in the one-year period ending June 30, 2012. Importantly, as many such awards are for multiple years, it does not include the many continuing research grants in the Department that were initially awarded in previous years. The list also likely misses some interdisciplinary activities in the Department that are in collaboration with faculty in other departments where the proposal was sent through the other department. Even without these caveats, it is an impressive list for the year.

Where available, hyperlinks to more information about the specific award are provided.

National Science Foundation:

Air Force Office of Scientific Research:

  • Greg Forest & Peter Mucha, Multiscale Mathematics of Nano-Particle-Endowed Active Membranes and Films

Army Research Office:

  • Jim Damon, Comparing Mathematical Models and Experimental Data for Intake Capacity Distributions for Plant Root Structures

National Institute of General Medical Sciences:

Office of Naval Research:

  • Roberto Camassa & Rich McLaughlin, A Desalinization Facility for Stratified Fluid Dynamics Research at the UNC Joint Fluids Laboratory
  • Chris Jones, Data Assimilation and Control in Oceanography

Congratulations to all involved!