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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

Undergraduate Mathematics Day

Two scientists who use mathematics to break state driver's license codes and reveal the "magic" behind rope tricks will be featured speakers at the University of Dayton's Undergraduate Mathematics Day on Saturday, Nov. 11.

Hosted by the department of mathematics, the biennial conference celebrates the mathematics work being done by University undergraduates and others in the campus community. The event from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Science Center auditorium features two invited speakers and student presentations. Admission is free but registration is required; lunch and snacks will be provided to all participants.

The mathematics department invites undergraduate, graduate and high school students to participate as attendees or presenters of 15-minute contributed papers. The registration and abstract submission deadline is Nov. 1. Students need not be mathematics majors to present or attend.

“We invite talks on all topics that are related to mathematics,” said assistant professor Jon Brown, a conference organizing committee member. “We especially encourage students in the sciences and engineering to present their work. Talks need not be on original research results.”

The conference is anchored by the 18th annual Schraut Memorial Lecture. Joseph Gallian (pictured), the Morse Alumni Distinguished University Professor of Teaching at the University of Minnesota Duluth and a past president of the Mathematical Association of America, will present “Breaking Driver’s License Codes.”

“Many states use complicated algorithms or formulas to assign driver's license numbers but keep the method confidential,” Gallian said. “Just for the fun of it, I attempted to figure out how the states code their license numbers. In this talk I will discuss how I was able to break the codes for Minnesota, Michigan, New York and Missouri. The talk illustrates an important problem-solving technique used by scientists but is not emphasized in mathematics classes. It also teaches the lesson that sometimes things done just for the sake of curiosity can have applications.”

Seattle University associate professor Allison Henrich will give a second plenary address, “It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Becomes a Mathematician.”

Henrich works in knot theory and won the Mathematical Association of America’s 2015 Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College or University Mathematics Faculty Member. She will discuss how playing games on knot diagrams can provide us with intuition about knotty structures, while learning about the theory of knots can reveal the magic behind rope tricks.

“Both talks will be accessible to everyone with an interest in mathematics,” Brown said.

The Schraut Lecture was endowed in memory of Kenneth “Doc” Schraut, a mathematics faculty member from 1940 to 1978, who served as mathematics department chair from 1954 to 1970.

Launched in 2003, Undergraduate Mathematics Day is held in odd-numbered years and alternates with the Biennial Alumni Career Seminar, which was started by Schraut in 1964. The conference and lecture are both generously supported by alumni donations.

Mathematics professor Aparna Higgins and assistant professor Dan Ren also serve on the organizing committee.

To register or submit a paper to the refereed proceedings of Undergraduate Mathematics Day, please visit the conference website.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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