Feb 19, 2023
Photo 1: High school students participated in the 10th annual Cal Poly Math Academy.
By Nick Wilson
Several Mathematics Department faculty members issued talks across the United States and beyond over the past year. The faculty who presented are the following:
- The 12th IMACS International Conference on Nonlinear Evolution Equations and Wave Phenomena: Computation and Theory, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, March 30 - April 1, 2022. “Recent advances in single and multi-component NLS systems”
- Conference on “Nonlinear waves and networks,” Institut National des Sciences Appliquées
- (INSA) de Rouen Normandie, France, July 4 - July 5, 2022. “Recent Advances on Localized Solutions in NLS systems: Theory and Computation”
- SIAM Conference on Nonlinear Waves and Coherent Structures, Bremen, Germany, August 30 - September 2, 2022. “Novel coherent structures to single- and multi-component NLS systems: Theory and Computation”
- AMS Fall Eastern Sectional Meeting, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, October 1 - 2, 2022. “Recent advances on Rogue waves in continuous and discrete models”
- Colloquium, Mathematics Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, November 19, 2022. “Recent advances on extreme events to discrete and continuum models''
- Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS), Workshop on Multiscale Modeling of Plant Growth, Pattern Formation and Actuation (hybrid conference), “PlantSimLab - a modeling and simulation web tool for plant biologists,” Oaxaca, Mexico.
- 12th European Conference on Mathematical and Theoretical Biology (a joint event of the European Society for Mathematical and Theoretical Biology (ESMTB) and the Society for Mathematical Biology (SMB)), “Revealing the canalizing structure of Boolean functions – algorithms and applications,” University of Heidelberg, Germany.
- International Conference on Generalized Functions GF2022, Vienna, Austria, September 19-23, 2022: "Non-Standard Version of Egorov’s Algebra of Generalized Functions”
- A colloquium-seminar on theoretical physics in the Institute for Nuclear Research and Nuclear Energy, Sofia, Bulgaria, November 24, 2022: “Infinitesimals in the Field of Complex Numbers”
California State University Joint Math Meeting, November 2022, Northridge, California. “Conduction Reserve Theory in Cardiac Tissue With Reduced Gap Junctional Coupling.”
The 11th International Conference on Teaching Statistics (ICOTS 11), September 2022, Rosario, Argentina. “Stochastics Content Knowledge of Pre-service Chilean Mathematics Teachers”
The Annual Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators Meeting, Henderson, Nevada. Feb. 2022. “Lessons from the pandemic; Leveraging unique teaching experiences to inform mathematics secondary clinical practice”
Elsa Medina and Amelie Schinck-Mikel ran the Cal Poly Math Academy this past summer. The 10th annual Cal Poly Math Academy, directed by Elsa Medina and Amélie Schinck-Mikel, welcomed more than 25 Hispanic students from local high schools to campus this summer. For one week, students solved challenging mathematics problems through hands-on activities.
Students also had the opportunity to explore the campus, heard from inspirational guest speakers in STEM fields, and toured the agricultural and mechanical engineering facilities. The academy, which is in partnership with the Migrant Education Program for the region, aims to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and to recognize and enjoy the beauty of mathematics.
Photo 2: The 10th annual Cal Poly Math Academy, directed by Elsa Medina and Amélie Schinck-Mikel, welcomed more than 25 Hispanic students from local high schools to campus this summer.
Feb 19, 2023
Photo caption: Dr. Joyce Lin (right) was among the faculty who received grant awards. Lin is pictured here with student Sarah Ellwein at the Cal Poly Math Symposium.
Brussel E. (2022) Hasse invariant for the tame Brauer group of a higher local field. Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, Series B, 9, 258–287.
Dimitrova E.S., Stigler B., Kadelka C., Murrugarra D. (2022) Revealing the canalizing structure of Boolean functions: Algorithms and applications. Automatica, 146, 110630.
Dimitrova, E.S., Hu, J., Liang, Q., Stigler, B., Zhang, A. (2022) Algebraic model selection and experimental design in biological data science. Advances in Applied Mathematics, 133, 102282.
Futer, D., Hamilton, E., Hoffman, N. (2022) Infinitely many virtual geometric triangulations. Journal of Topology, 15(4), 2352-2388.
Zhu, W., Khademi, W., Charalampidis, E.G., Kevrekidis, P.G. (2022) Neural networks enforcing physical symmetries in nonlinear dynamical lattices: The case example of the Ablowitz-Ladik model. Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, 434, 133264.
Mithun, T., Carretero-González R., Charalampidis, E.G., Hall, D.S., Kevrekidis P.G. (2022)
Existence, stability and dynamics of monopole and Alice ring solutions in antiferromagnetic spinor condensates. Physical Review A, 105, 053303.
Jon Chapman, S., Kavousanakis, M., Charalampidis, E.G., Kevrekidis, I.G., Kevrekidis, P.G.
(2022) A spectral analysis of the nonlinear Schrödinger equation in the co-exploding frame.
Physica D, 439, 133396.
Stathis Charalampidis received the National Science Foundation Collaborative Research Grant: Collapse, Rogue Waves and their Applications: From Theory to Computation and Beyond”, amount: $142,798, September 1, 2022 - August 31, 2025
Elena Dimitrova, Joyce Lin, and Paul Anderson (Cal Poly Computer Science Department) received the Data Science Strategic Research Initiative Incubation grant, funded by Cal poly. Amount: $19,603.50, January-June 2022.
Joyce Lin and Elena Dimitrova received a Frost Teacher-Scholar Postdoctoral Fellow Award for 2022-2024.
Elsa Medina, along with Roy, S., Chance, B., and McGaughey, K. received an NSF grant: “Integrating the statistical investigation process, data visualization, and simulation into high school statistics” Amount: ($449,984). June 2022.
Feb 19, 2023
The Mathematics Department introduced the following faculty and staff members in the 2022-23 academic year, each of whom brings a wealth of experience and educational background. The new members of the team are coming from around the globe.
Sabrina Thomas received her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from USC, where she assisted with research on the Drosophila life span and worked as a student worker in Payroll. Thomas moved home to Victorville, Calif., after graduating to work as a scribe in the ER at her local community hospital. After 3 years, she moved back to Los Angeles, Calif. to attend Cal State LA where she received her MBA. While working towards her MBA, Thomas worked at an organ procurement organization where she was responsible for auditing organ and tissue donor case files in accordance with organizations’ policies and Federal Regulations. She recently moved to the SLO area and has enjoyed working in the Math Department and the lack of LA traffic.
Sean Gasiorek (re)joined the mathematics faculty in Fall 2022. After receiving his B.S. and M.S. from Cal Poly in 2009 and 2011, respectively, he served as a Lecturer in the department until 2013. In 2019, he earned his Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz studying the intersection of dynamical systems and geometry under Richard Montgomery. He also spent the Fall 2018 semester at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, CA as part of the Hamiltonian systems, from topology to applications through analysis program.
Sean’s research then took him to a three-year postdoctoral position at the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia, where he studied integrable systems and billiards within confocal quadrics with Milena Radnović. His research interests lie in understanding the dynamical properties of mathematical billiards in various physical and geometric settings, particularly its interplay with integrable systems, electricity and magnetism, and its connections to celestial mechanics.
Outside of math, he enjoys running, mountain biking, doing yoga, and playing basketball, and looks forward to re-integrating into the Cal Poly and greater SLO community.
Patrick grew up in Winchester near the south coast of England. He got his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Cambridge, then received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He has held postdoctoral positions at: Durham (UK), University Quebec, Boston College, ETH Zurich and the Max Planck Institute in Bonn (Germany). These were a mixture of research and teaching positions. Patrick’s research area is Geometry/Topology, specialising in the geometric topology of 4-dimensional shapes, and Knot Theory. Patrick is excited to join the Cal Poly community and settle down in the beautiful Central Coast.
Warren Roche is the new Frost Postdoctoral Research Scholar at Cal Poly in the Mathematics Department working with Elena Dimitrova and Joyce Lin, and is originally from Waterford, Ireland. Warren has worked as a mathematics and statistics lecturer previously at the South East Technological University in Ireland, and also has extensive statistical experience in clinical trial research and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Warren joined the Mathematics Department in Fall 2022. He originally earned his BSc in Mathematics from Trinity College Dublin in 2012. After spending several years teaching high school and college-level mathematics and physics, he attended University College Dublin to earn a MSc in Mathematical Science in 2016. In 2022, Warren earned his doctorate in Mathematics from the South East Technological University in Waterford, Ireland, where he was a PhD Scholar. Warren's doctoral work explored differential equations and modelling preferential finger flow through a porous media using hysteresis operators and operator splitting techniques. In July 2022, Warren was presented with the Howard Medal at the Brain and Ocular Nutrition Conference at University of Cambridge for his presentation on the importance of effect sizes for clinical trial experiments.
Currently, Warren’s research is in mathematical biology, where he explores the use of agent-based modelling as a tool to develop a deeper understanding of how electrical activity propagates through cardiac tissue.
Feb 19, 2023
Alumni and friends of the Mathematics Department,
There have been a number of changes around here over the last year (quite apart from the upcoming change to semesters, which drives most of our recent faculty meetings). First our Administrative Coordinator Kara Hahlbeck was promoted to personnel analyst which involved a move across the building to the Dean’s office. If you swing by the office now, you’ll meet our new Administrative Coordinator Sabrina Thomas. Sabrina, who graduated from USC with a Bachelor’s degree in biology and Cal State LA with her MBA, comes to us by way of the ONELEGACY company in Los Angeles where she served as donor information coordinator. Together with Melissa Sunata, Sabrina is doing a great job keeping the office running.
Among the faculty we had three professors retire after Spring 2022: Matthew White, Linda Patton, and Marian Robbins all decided to hang up the chalk and are currently enjoying the freedom to pursue other interests. Additionally, Professor Stan Yoshinobu was offered a job at the University of Toronto and elected to make the move official. But don’t worry that our ranks our being depleted. Anticipating these departures, we were able to hire two new faculty members, Sean Gasiorek and Patrick Orson, who started this past Fall are currently in the midst of a search for another math ed specialist to join us in Fall 2023, and expect to pursue an additional hire next academic year. Watch this space for introductions.
The department is also hosting a post-doctorate for the first time ever. Professors Joyce Lin and Elena Dimitrova wrote a successful proposal to the Frost fund to support a two-year position, and invited Warren Roche to join the department in Fall 2022 right after finishing his PhD at the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland. Finally, we also hired one new full-time lecturer, Marvin McClendon, by way of a long career starting with a Ph.D. from Princeton, including a full professorship at Savannah College of Art and Design, stops in China and Dubai, and most recently the University of North Georgia.
All these new staff and faculty are helping us maintain the mathematical life and educational mission of the department. As well as active individual research programs, we provide rich coursework, supervise successful student research, and support both faculty and student travel to math conferences. So many of these activities are made possible by the generous donations to the department. These allow us to fund important initiatives that take place outside the classroom. We are incredibly grateful for the flexibility and opportunity provided by your generous gifts.
Please keep in touch and let us know what you’ve been up to. We'd love to see you at the department office if you're ever on campus.
Feb 19, 2023
Photo 1: Cal Poly students Madison Lytle, Trevor Loe and Callan Whitney (from left to right) excelled at the international 2022 Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) competition.
By Nick Wilson
After four days of intense focus that students compared to the feverish energy of a hackathon, a Cal Poly team of three undergraduates emerged from a renowned international math competition as the top U.S. team and honored among the best in the world.
The team of two math majors — Madison Lytle (double majoring in aerospace engineering) and Trevor Loe (double majoring in physics) — and Callan Whitney (aerospace engineering) competed in the February 2022 Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) competition among thousands to tackle the question: “What is the best way for a cyclist to exert their energy over the course of a race?”
Working on little sleep on the Cal Poly campus in the Statistics Department Conference Room in Building 25 — grabbing food and showers when they could between Feb. 16 and Feb. 20, 2022 — they finished among the best in the world in the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP) contest.
The result of their 25-page entry titled “Applying Optimal Control with SQP to Cycling Performance Represented by Constituent Course Elements” was the top U.S. result in their competition category and they finished as a team finalist, earning an Outstanding Award in their problem category, among thousands of international competitors.
“This is the best result for a Cal Poly team in over 20 years,” said Dr. Charles D. Camp, Cal Poly professor of Mathematics and MCM advisor.
This year, the student trio received an award from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) for their outstanding submission, ranking in the Top 29 of approximately 15,000 teams that participated in the competition overall.
The Cal Poly team competed in a real-world modeling challenge among MAA college-level peers from across the U.S. and a host of other countries (the other top-ranking teams in their category were from China).
The Cal Poly math competition team displays their poster at the Fall Math Symposium.
Not only was the Cal Poly group’s submission a finalist, a level only 2% of submissions achieved, but their report was chosen by the MAA as the best submission for their problem.
“Their work demonstrated creativity and a deep understanding of the modeling process via their formulation, implementation and analysis of a mathematical model that addressed the given contest question.”
Camp noted that in the year 2000 when a Cal Poly team won an award for an outstanding entry, the competition had 496 teams overall, signifying the elevated competitiveness of the event now.
To determine the optimal energy output of a professional cyclist, the Cal Poly student team considered several variables such as human biology (anaerobic biology), uphill versus downhill grades, drag, and race-track conditions such as curvature and course topography.
Modern power monitoring systems can be mounted on a bike allow riders to track their power output during the race and make informed adjustments about improving pacing.
The group’s analysis laid out formulas, models and conclusions about optimal cycling power output to accomplish the fastest possible results in professional races.
“Madison and I are both are into a lot of applied math work going on at Cal Poly,” said Loe, a double major in physics. “We were able to get a sense of what using the math that we’ve learned feels like.”
Because of variables such as a cyclist’s biological makeup and ability to store energy, along with course conditions such as hills and headwinds, they used sequential quadratic programming (SQP), a mathematical method used to solve a sequence of optimization subproblems, to generate numerical solutions.
They proposed a method of optimizing cycling power output over subsections of tracks, called course elements, that may be concatenated (linked in a chain or series) into complex tracks.
“Whatever parameters you use to represent the rider’s specific biology, there are certain interactions that are nonlinear,” said Lytle, a double major in aerospace engineering. “And that basically just makes them a lot more difficult to optimize and deal with numerically.”
The study involved assessments of three tracks — the Tokyo Olympic Time Trial course, the UCI World Championships in Belgium and a constructed square course consisting of four rises and falls with a mathematically imposed radius of curvature of 10 meters around each bend.
“The objective was not necessarily the model output, but the fact that the model is going to work,” Lytle said. “That’s so we can take into account these anaerobic effects because we can implement them in the model.”
Among their conclusions:
- the optimal strategy involves operating close to max power above one’s critical power (or highest average power you can sustain) during steep inclines, and dropping power output down as much as possible during downhills to recover
- for courses with more variation in grade, model outputs recommend operating more reactively to the course features; alternatively, a flatter course prompts a pace which stays close to critical power at all times
- due consideration should be taken into the environmental “perturbations” of the course, chiefly a strong headwind and the locations of sharp turns. If a headwind is greater than 15 meters per second, model outputs indicate that changing power output reactively to the wind, rather than staying consistent, will lower track times.
The students were not allowed any faculty guidance during the competition.
“Surprisingly, some of my physics classes were really helpful for some of the math, specifically optimization, which some physics classes, especially like classical mechanics, use,” Loe said.
Lytle echoed her teammates assessment that skill sets in multiple disciplines helped.
“Trevor and I are both double majors and Callan is an aerospace engineering major,” Lytle said. “We’ve learned a lot about drag in aerospace engineering classes.”
Loe added: “With this competition, one of the hardest parts is deciding basically infinite things that you could account for and what to include and what to ignore. It was fun and a great experience to use math to solve a real-world problem.”
Feb 19, 2023
Math Stars Excel
Learn about how three Cal Poly students earned the best result out of any United States team in their problem category at an international math competition.
Letter from the Chair
Chair Ben Richert shares updates on new staff members in the department and thanks donors for generous support of programs."
Meet the New Team
Meet new math team members Sabrina Thomas, Warren Roche, Patrick Orson and Sean Gasiorek."
Making their Mark with Grants and Publications
Check out the list of new math grants and publications.
Bringing Cal Poly Math to World
Cal Poly faculty offered workshops on campus and tripped globally for talks, making for an eventful year.
Apr 6, 2022
Scholarly activity in the Mathematics Department kept going strong whether remote or in-person. Students and faculty achieved a great deal during the past year.
Frost Summer Undergraduate Research Program
Ryan Tully-Doyle conducted research with Jackie Driscoll and Justin Hexem on the iteration of complex functions on matrices.
Linda Patton worked with Mav Lara and Brooke Randell on "Characterizing the Numerical Range of Block Toeplitz Operators." They described the numerical ranges of some block Toeplitz operators with symbols of the form F(z)=A+Bz, where A and B are two by two matrices. This required analyzing the convex hull of an infinite collection of ellipses. Their poster was accepted to present at the Joint Mathematics Meeting, which was postponed but will be held virtually in April.
Linda Patton also worked with Kelsey Lowrey, Tim Royston, and Karl Zieber studying "Flat Portions on Numerical Ranges of Nilpotent Matrices." They worked to generalize a conjecture about the maximum number of such flat portions to bigger matrices.
Joyce Lin worked with Aidan Chandrasekaran and Srirag Vuppala on simulating a mean-field equation for the electrical activity in cardiac tissue, as well as with Brady Berg and Joseph Mcguire (jointly supervised with Elena Dimitrova) on creating an agent-based model for cardiac tissue.
Stathis Charalampidis worked with Cal Poly ugraduates: Andy Chiv, Riley Prendergast, and Alexis Saucerman on the project titled "Computation of matter waves in atomic physics."
Elena Dimitrova worked on Topological Data Analysis for Comparison of Simulated and Experimental Images with students Laura Bialozynski, Jaxon Green, Vanessa Newsome-Slade, and Stephen Wessel; in collaboration with Paul Anderson from CS.
Professors Elsa Medina and Amélie Schinck-Mikel offered the annual Cal Poly Math Academy in summer 2021. Because of the pandemic, the academy met virtually. Backpacks were sent to each participant's house filled with math manipulatives and fun goodies, providing a hands-on experience even in the remote environment. Every summer the academy employs two Cal Poly undergraduate students who are studying to become secondary mathematics teachers to assist in creating activities and running the sessions.
Medina and Schinck-Mikel plan to bring the Math Academy back in-person for summer 2022. The academy is offered in partnership with the Migrant Education Program for the region.
E.G. Charalampidis, F. Cooper, J. Dawson, A. Khare and A. Saxena. “Behavior of solitary waves of coupled nonlinear Schrodinger equations subjected to complex external periodic potentials with odd-PT symmetry.” J. Phys. A: Math. and Theor. 54, 145701 (2021)
E.G. Charalampidis, F. Cooper, A. Khare, J. Dawson and A. Saxena. “Stability of trapped solutions of a nonlinear Schrodinger equation with a nonlocal nonlinear self-interaction potential.” J. Phys. A: Math. and Theor. 55, 015703 (2021)
E.G. Charalampidis and V.M. Hur. “Numerical bifurcation and stability for the capillary-gravity Whitham equation.” Wave Motion. 106, 102793 (2021)
C. Chong, Y. Wang, D. Marechal, E.G. Charalampidis, M. Moleron, A.J. Martinez, M.A. Porter, P.G. Kevrekidis and C. Daraio. “Nonlinear Localized Modes in Two-Dimensional Hexagonally-Packed Magnetic Lattices.” New J. Phys. 23, 043008 (2021)
M. Cox, W. Grewe, G. Hochrien, L. Patton, and I. Spitkovsky. “Nonparallel flat portions on the boundaries of numerical ranges of 4-by-4 nilpotent matrices.” Electronic Journal of Linear Algebra. 37 (2021), 504-523
E. Dimitrova, J. Hu, Q. Liang, B. Stigler, A. Zhang. “Algebraic Model Selection and Experimental Design in Biological Data Science.” Advances in Applied Mathematics. 133, 102282 (2022)
T.A. Grundmeier, D. Retsek, A. Berg, S. Mann, A. Hamlin-Prieto. “Assumption and Defintion Use in an Inquiry-Based Introduction to Proof Course.” PRIMUS. 32(1) (2022) 1-13.
G. Kato and K. Nishimura. “Time and Mnemonic Morphism.” Constructive Destruction to Destructive Construction, edited by K. Nishimura, M. Murase, and K. Yoshimura. Springer, October, 2021.
D. R. King, M. Entz 2nd, G. A. Blair, I. Crandell, A. L. Hanlon, J. Lin, G. S. Hoeker, and S. Poelzing. “The conduction velocity-potassium relationship in the heart is modulated by sodium and calcium.” Pflugers Arch. Mar; 473(3) (2021): 557-571. doi: 10.1007/s00424- 021-02537-y. Epub 2021 Mar 4. PMID: 33660028; PMCID: PMC7940307.
S. Koshy-Chenthittayil, E. Dimitrova, E. W. Jenkins, and B. C. Dean. “A Computational Framework for Finding Parameter Sets Associated with Chaotic Dynamics.” In Silico Biology. 14 (1-2) (2021) 41-51
D. Murrugarra and E. Dimitrova. “Quantifying the total effect of edge interventions in discrete multistate networks.” Automatica. 125, 109453 (2021)
F. Ruz, B. Chance, E. Medina, and J. Contreras. “Content Knowledge and Attitudes Towards Stochastics and Its Teaching in Pre-service Chilean Mathematics Teachers.” Statistics Education Research Journal. 20(1) (2021)
A.S. Von der Heydt, P. Ashwin, C.D. Camp, M. Crucifix, H.A. Dijkstra, P. Ditlevsen, and T.M. Lenton. “Quantification and interpretation of the climate variability record.” Global and Planetary Change 197, 103399 (2021)
W. Wang, L.-C. Zhao, E.G. Charalampidis and P.G. Kevrekidis. “Dark-dark soliton breathing patterns in multi-component Bose-Einstein condensates.” J. Phys. B: At. Mol. Opt. Phys. 54, 055301 (2021)
H. Yasuda, E.G. Charalampidis, P.K. Purohit, P.G. Kevrekidis and J.R. Raney. “Wave manipulation using a bistable chain with reversible impurities.” Phys. Rev. E 104, 054209 (2021)
T.D. Todorov, “Infinite-Dimensional Linear Algebra and Solvability of Partial Differential Equations,” Journal of Logic & Analysis (ISSN:1759-9008), 13:5 (2021), p.1-34, (http://arxiv.org/abs/2106.04039), DOI: https://doi.org/10.4115/jla.2021.13.5.
Elena Dimitrova gave conference talks at:
SIAM Conference on Applied Algebraic Geometry, invited talk, “Algebraic design of experiments for regulatory network identification.” Virtual. August 2021.
Society for Mathematical Biology Annual Meeting, invited talk, “Revealing the canalizing structure of Boolean functions – algorithms and applications.” Virtual. June 2021.
Ryan Tully-Doyle gave conference talks at:
International Workshop in Operator Theory and its Applications at Chapman University, August 2021.
International Workshop in Operator Theory and its Applications at Lancaster University (virtual), August 2021.
Focus Program in Noncommutative Function Theory, Fields Institute, November 2021.
Elsa Medina gave conference talks:
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Fall Virtual Conference titled: “How Random is That?” Nov. 2021.
Teach Bilingual Learning Summit (virtual), titled: “Ideas for Making Mathematics More Accessible for Students from Diverse Backgrounds” in April 2021.
Apr 6, 2022
Fall 2021 brought a return to in-person classes. Department club presidents reflect on the positive effects for the community of math majors.
Trinity Kobielusz, Math Club President
“It has been absolutely amazing to be back in person because it has allowed me to reconnect with old friends and also make new friends. I have enjoyed not sitting in front of a computer for all hours of the day and actually being able to talk to my peers in my classes. My level of stress has decreased, and I have been able to manage my time better. Attendance has significantly increased for Math Club since coming back in person. Everyone is eager to be involved and excited to come to our meetings.”
Adrienne Boone, Association for Women in Mathematics Club President
“I switched to the math major during the online spring 2020 quarter. As a result, my classes last year were filled with virtual strangers, so the absolute best part of being back has been getting to know the people outside of the computer! I’ve been able to do things I love with people who I love being around. Whether we’re having fun at the beach or stressing out in the math lounge, I don’t take any of it for granted anymore.
I am especially proud that the Association for Women in Mathematics Club has fostered such a supportive and welcoming environment despite the limitations of the pandemic. Running the club with four other amazing women has solidified my confidence and my love for mathematics. Our bi-weekly meetings and various events have introduced our members to inspiring speakers and provided a space for math-loving people of all identities and backgrounds to feel celebrated and heard. I am so grateful for the community I’ve found in mathematics, and I’m so excited for that community to grow next year.”
Networking and Career Opportunities
The return to campus also gave students unique opportunities to network and seek career advice from local companies. On Dec 1, the operations coordinator, Danielle Borelli, and a recent graduate from the California Cybersecurity institute came to visit. In January, the two Directors, Kim O’Neill and Dmytro Marushkevych, from the Data Science & Analytics Group of Razorfish came to give a talk to the math majors.
Apr 6, 2022
Math alumnus Stephen Corcoran, above, and former Department
Chair Charles Hanks both served in the Coast Guard.
As Stephen Corcoran (Mathematics, B.S., ‘69; M.A., ‘75) tells the story, Charles Hanks was a strong presence in the Cal Poly Mathematics Department. He also played a significant role in Corcoran’s life beyond Cal Poly.
Corcoran came to Cal Poly as an aeronautical engineering major. All engineers took the same two-year calculus progression ending with Hanks’ differential equations course, MATH 318. Along the way, Corcoran also took linear algebra just for fun, and it hooked him on mathematics. He never looked back, not even to tell the Aeronautical Engineering Department that he was changing majors.
“The deeper I got into mathematics, the more I enjoyed it,” Corcoran said.
Though Corcoran didn’t use much math in his 26-year career in the Coast Guard — except for programming in COBOL when he improved the payroll system that paid reservists — Hanks, who was a captain in the Coast Guard Reserve, still influenced Corcoran’s career considerably.
Corcoran joined the Coast Guard directly after graduation, then left in 1974 and decided to return to Cal Poly to pursue his master’s degree. To enroll, he needed approvals from the dean of the college and the Mathematics Department chair, which at the time was Hanks. When Corcoran presented himself, Hanks chewed him out for leaving the Coast Guard, approved his admission and offered him a job teaching agricultural mathematics.
“Better than that, it just doesn’t get,” Corcoran said.
Corcoran finished his master’s degree and began working for the Burroughs Corporation selling computer systems to financial institutions in San Francisco. He often saw Captain Hanks, who came to the Bay Area for his weekend reserve duty.
One weekend Hanks told Corcoran, “Make something out of your life, Corcoran. Go back in the Coast Guard.”
Corcoran told him, “I applied and was rejected. I was just one of too many lieutenants with sea service seeking recall.”
Captain Hanks said, “Try again.” When he reapplied, the Coast Guard found it needed Corcoran. He suspected Hanks had something to do with their change of opinion.
This close relationship between faculty and students and the down-to-earth practicality that Hanks embodied define the Cal Poly experience for Corcoran.
“The professors have their feet on the ground and make things real life,” Corcoran said. “We never had 300 students in an amphitheater class. To the extent possible, the Mathematics Department added enough sections to satisfy the need. If seats were needed for 300 students, somehow the department opened 10 sections. The students got the attention they deserved.”
When Corcoran attended Cal Poly, state funding for higher education was substantial, and college was the free education California was promising. Full-time tuition was $45 for fall quarter and $15 for spring. The difference was a sports fee for fall. Seeing how much state funding has decreased, he wanted to help students today who face much higher tuition costs.
“It’s no longer an education for all situation in California,” Corcoran said.
When Corcoran learned of the Hanks Scholarship, he decided to change his annual contribution from a general contribution to the Mathematics Department to one Hanks Scholarship each year.
“It felt more satisfying to contribute to a particular individual,” Corcoran said. “It’s important to fund the Mathematics Department because of its foundational nature: the department supports the whole university, but there aren’t enough mathematics graduates to make as significant a financial impact as would be desirable. I decided if I could directly help one student, I would better appreciate the impact of my contribution.
“When it came down to putting numbers on paper, I decided to change it to two scholarships and perhaps pleasantly surprise someone. I did not know then that Dr. Hanks’ widow Marjorie had passed and the Mathematics Department was concerned for the future of the Hanks Scholarship. For the next five years at least, we will have two scholarships in Charlie Hanks’ name.”
Hanks’ generosity continues to inspire Corcoran.
“Charlie helped me along the way, likely more than I can know,” he said. “Perhaps I can continue the favor in his name and spirit.”
Supporting Mathematics Students
If you'd like to support mathematics students with a scholarship or a gift to the department, you can contact Morgen Marshall, senior director for advancement and external relations, or make a financial donation.
Apr 5, 2022
Alumni and friends of the Mathematics Department
We’re back in the classroom! It’s been a while since that fateful day when everything went virtual, but the chalk dust is once again flying in building 38. I’m pleased to report that as of winter 2022, math courses are entirely face-to-face.
While math faculty have all become semi-expert with Zoom and other web-based content delivery methods, the main lesson we’ve learned is that online instruction is a poor substitute for good, old-fashioned, face-to-face coursework.
During the virtual experiment that COVID forced upon us, in-person courses were limited to labs and other activity-based experiences, so it wasn’t until fall 2021 that we were first allowed to return to the chalkboards. We are now near the forefront of Cal Poly departments for in-person offerings and frequently get thanked by students for going live.
The beginning of the winter quarter was difficult as each math instructor managed multiple instances of COVID-related student absences. It undoubtedly would have been easier to simply teach the quarter online, so it is a testament to the faculty’s dedication to the live Cal Poly experience that we did the extra work needed to keep our classes in the classroom.
By the time of this writing, things have stabilized nicely. All our usual activities are up and running: the undergraduate study lounge has reopened, students and faculty are traveling to research conferences, our student clubs are back in person, and we’re all looking forward to the math awards banquet and the faculty/student softball game. Hopefully spring quarter will be even smoother.
Finally, we recently conducted a search for two new tenure-track faculty members. This search, chaired by Vince Bonini was fantastically successful, and we are happy to announce that Patrick Orson and Cal Poly alumnus Sean Gasiorak will join us in the fall. Watch this space for official introductions upon their arrival next academic year.
In closing, I'd like to once again thank everyone who has supported the department financially. Your gifts have a direct impact on the quality of our program, funding many of the initiatives which are so important to the major but take place outside the classroom. We are incredibly grateful for the flexibility and opportunity provided by your generous donations.
Please keep in touch and let us know what you’ve been up to. I’m happy to once again be able to say that we'd love to see you at the department office if you're ever on campus.