Table of Contents
- Letter from Dave Carothers,
- Sochacki and Ziegenfus Receive College's Top
- New Texts
- Department Receives CSEMS Grant
- Department Receives REU Grant
- Geometric Visualization in Problem
- Student Research
- 62nd Annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical
- 18th Annual Mathematical Contest in Modeling
- Student Awards
- New Faculty Member
- High School Math Teacher of the Year
- Alumni Info
- Alumni News
- Puzzle Corner
Greetings to all from the mathematics community at JMU.
There is a curse of very debatable origin that goes something like
"may you live in interesting times." The current budget situation in
the state of Virginia has indeed made these "interesting times" for
public universities, but in Mathematics and Statistics there are many
exciting things happening, curse or no curse.
Faculty hiring is always a sticky point when there are budget
"issues." We were fortunate to fill one tenure track position for
next year, and are delighted that Hasan Hamdan has accepted this
position. Hasan is a graduate of American University in statistics,
and is on his way to a terrific career as a teacher and a scholar. I
have received an extraordinary number of comments from people outside
of the department who had met Hasan (administrators, students, staff)
and stopped me to say how happy they were to hear he was going to join
This has been an excellent year for student research. Mary Lee, Kelly
Dickson, and Steve Penny have presented research results at national
and regional meetings, and Mary and Kelly have received cash awards
for their presentations. Patrick Rabenold received a prize for best
JMU honors thesis. Special thanks go to Debra Warne, Paul Warne, Ed
Parker, Dave Pruett, and Bill Ingham from Physics who all had a role
in directing the work of these students. This summer, we will have
our first group of students in an NSF-supported summer student
research program, led by Len Van Wyk, Steve Garren, and Debra Warne.
Mathematics education has also been very active, with grant supported
summer workshops for teachers led by Jeanne Fitzgerald and Judy Kidd
along with LouAnn Lovin from the College of Education, continuing work
on the Middle School project, and other initiatives in support of K-12
A B.S. degree program in statistics has been approved by the
department, and is awaiting action by the college curriculum
committee. If approved, this will be an exciting development for JMU
students, and is the result of a great deal of hard work by several of
In the fall, we will be welcoming back Jim Sochacki from a very
productive leave of absence. We will also be happy to have Arlene
Casiple and Zenaida Mateo join us for another year as visiting
Each year the College of Science and Mathematics selects one
faculty member as its Madison Scholar and one to honor for its
Distinguished Teacher Award. The Department of Mathematics and
Statistics is proud to announce that both awards for the 2001-2002
academic year were made to mathematicians in our department for the
second year in a row! James Sochacki was chosen as the Madison
Scholar and Charles Ziegenfus was chosen as the Distinguished Teacher
- Distinguished Teacher Award
The department is proud to announce that
Mr. Charles "Zig" Ziegenfus has received the 2001-2002 Distinguished
Teaching Award for the College of Science and Mathematics. He joins
previous teaching award winners from this department Dr. John Klippert
winner of the James Madison University Distinguished Teaching Award
(university award 1990-1991), and Dr. Carter Lyons winner of the
Distinguished Teaching Award for the College of Science and
Zig has been teaching in the Mathematics/Mathematics and Computer Science/Mathematics/Mathematics and Statistics Department for 41 years. During all of that time he has been considered an outstanding teacher. It was about time his efforts were recognized. There is a good chance that most of you reading this article have had Zig as a teacher.
During the course of his career Zig has taught a wide variety of courses. At one time or another he has taught almost every mathematics course in the major. However, his continuing interest in mathematics is in the area of number theory. He still teaches the transition course in number theory to mathematics majors and those studying to become mathematics teachers. When the department had a graduate program Zig routinely taught the graduate course in number theory. He has conducted an incredible number of independent studies. In addition to his teaching at JMU, Zig has always been an excellent ambassador for mathematics in the high schools. He has given numerous talks in all of the surrounding counties extending into West Virginia and Northern Virginia.
As a testament to his dedication to teaching and his recognition beyond campus, Zig was one of 100 faculty selected nationally as having demonstrated superior work with students who are academically less advantaged. He was recognized by the American Association of Higher Education "Stand and Deliver" project and was honored at the spring 1989 National AAHE meeting in Chicago.
Finally, Zig is also an expert ornithologist and has taught ornithology for the biology department for many years. Since the mid 1970's Zig has been involved in conducting field studies and has several publications in ornithology.
If you want to congratulate Zig his email address is email@example.com.
- Madison Scholar
S. Sochacki gave the Madison Scholar Lecture for the
College of Science and Mathematics on November 12, 2001. Sochacki had
been named as Madison Scholar the previous academic year primarily for
his work in applied mathematics using numerical schemes implemented by
computer. In addition to his own research, Sochacki has also had
extensive success in mentoring student research projects.
Dr. David Brakke, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, introduced Dr. Sochacki and presented him with the Madison Scholar award and a pin signifying the honor.
Sochacki presented his talk, entitled Mathematical Models,
AlGorIthms and PolyNomials to an audience which included his father
and four siblings and dedicated the talk to his family. Dressed in
full formal wear, he discussed several elementary problems which may
by attacked by numerical approximation schemes and showed how
algorithms for such schemes lent themselves to computation by
machine. From this basis he led the audience to some of his own early
work on oil recovery models and demonstrated how, in at least one
important application, the theoretical foundation which supported the
work was the deciding factor in validating the application. Jim
finished his talk with a discussion of some of his current work,
emphasizing the continuing interplay between theory and application
and pointing out the collaborative aspects of the work both within the
Department of Mathematics and with the science departments.
A new calculus course is now available
for math and science
majors who need to strengthen their precalculus and algebra
skills. Math 231-232 is a one-year sequence that covers all the
material in the first semester of the usual "majors" calculus sequence
(Math 235), plus precalculus and algebra material. This new
"Integrated Calculus" course makes upper-level calculus accessible to
those students who are not prepared for Math 235, while still
maintaining a level of rigor appropriate for math and science
majors. The textbook for this course is being written by Dr. Laura
Taalman of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Her text
will be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2004.
- Linear Algebra and Differential Equations
After several years of students and
instructors putting up with preliminary drafts printed by the JMU Copy
Center, Addison-Wesley published Drs. Gary Peterson and James
Sochacki's textbook Linear Algebra and Differential Equations this
past summer. This book may be used for either integrated linear
algebra and differential courses or a two-course sequence consisting
of a linear algebra course followed by a differential equations
course. JMU began offering a combined linear algebra-differential
equations course in the spring semester of 1997 instead of the
independent separate linear algebra and differential equation courses
of years past. Gary and Jim developed this book because the existing
textbooks proved to be unsatisfactory.
Interdisciplinary Honors Course
Dr. Dave Pruett is currently teaching Honors 200D for the third time, to a group of 18 Honors students from a wide spectrum of majors.
The current offering of Honors 200D, entitled "From Black Elk to Black Holes: Shaping a Myth for a New Millennium" is presently supported by a 2001 "Science-Religion" Course Award from the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS), funded in part by the Templeton Foundation. In the course, we take a broad look at the universe from two seemingly disparate perspectives: from the perspective of an intuitive and mythology-based "wisdom" tradition on the one hand, and from the more familiar perspective of 20th-Century science on the other. The mythological component is provided by ancient and contemporary Native-American stories and creation myths. In the scientific components of the course, we briefly examine chaos theory, relativity, and quantum mechanics, focusing primary on the philosophical issues raised by these scientific revolutions, each as profound in its own way as the Copernican Revolution. Finally we seek common threads and unifying personal and societal insights from these disparate worldviews.
Funding from CTNS is allowing some enhancements to this year's course in the form field trips. On March 23, class members attended a matinee performance at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater of the highly acclaimed play "Copenhagen." Michael Fray's play attempts to reconstruct the dialogue of a clandestine and disastrous meeting in 1941 between German physicist Werner Heisenberg and his one-time mentor, Danish physicist Neils Bohr. As the two great physicists dance around the central issue--what does the other know of war efforts to construct an atomic bomb?--they also grapple with the profound physical and philosophical difficulties posed by quantum mechanics. The play has received excellent reviews from the scientific community and from the general public, although, very recently its historical accuracy has been called into some question.
One weekend in April class members visited John and Sharon Sun Eagle on the Mattaponi Indian Reservation near West Point, Virginia. Like the "Wisdomkeepers" in Harvey Arden's and Steve Walls book by the same name, John ("Sun Eagle") and Sharon ("Gentle Wind") are local Native Americans who keep alive the old traditions: story-telling, drumming, indigenous language, deep respect for Mother Earth and her inhabitants, and Native-American spirituality.
Motivation for such a course can be found from Einstein himself: "Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind."
The Department of Computer Science and the Department of Mathematics & Statistics received a $395,342 "Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Scholarships (CESMS)" grant from the National Science Foundation for "Building Technical and Scientific Competency in the American Workforce."
The grant will provide scholarships to qualified, financially eligible students to study computer science or mathematics at JMU. The amount of the scholarship is $3125.00 per year per recipient. Professor Ralph Grove (Computer Science Department) and Professor Leonard VanWyk will be overseeing the grant.
For the 2002-2003 academic year, the available scholarships will be: 12 four-year scholarships for 1st-year students, 4 one-year scholarships for 1st-year students, 6 two-year scholarships for 3rd-year (community-college transfer) students, 3 one-year scholarships for 3rd-year (community-college transfer) students, and 4 two-year scholarships for 1st-year graduate students.
Visit the departmental
CSEMS web page for more information.
The Department of Mathematics & Statistics received a $35,974 grant from the National Science Foundation for "Mathematics Research for Undergraduates at James Madison University."
The grant will support undergraduate research in the department for the summer of 2002. Professor Leonard VanWyk and Department Head Dave Carothers will be overseeing the grant. The projects will run for eight weeks, from early June until late July. Students will work in groups of two on projects directed by faculty mentors; each student participant will receive a stipend of $3000 plus board.
There will be three projects this summer: Professors Debra and Paul Warne will be overseeing a project in nonlinear solid mechanics, Professor Steven Garren will be overseeing a project in order restricted inference, and Professor Leonard VanWyk will be overseeing a project in geometric group theory.
Visit the departmental REU web
page for more information.
Last summer Department of Mathematics and Statistics faculty members Jeanne Fitzgerald and Judy Kidd along with College of Education faculty LouAnn Lovin conducted a two-week workshop aimed at increasing teacher effectiveness in middle school mathematics instruction. The project was funded under the federal Dwight D. Eisenhower Professional Development Program through the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia. Sixteen in-service teachers of grades 4-8 from Augusta, Page, Rockingham, and Shenandoah Counties and seven pre-service teachers from JMU were involved.
The participants worked together to find new ways to explore mathematical concepts with their students through hands-on, geometrically motivated problem-solving experiences particularly suited to diverse student populations. The culminating project was a collection of original, creative, nonroutine problems and solutions written by the class participants and suitable for classroom use. These are available via the math homepage. (www.math.edu)
The faculty members have received an Eisenhower grant to conduct a similar workshop in the summer 2002. Please contact Judy Kidd (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
We have been fortunate to have several students who have worked on independent research under the direction of departmental faculty members. Many of these students have presented the results of their research at local and/or national conferences. As in 2000, one of our students even won a national award for a poster she presented at a national meeting!
Three of our students presented their research work at the national joint mathematics meetings in San Diego, CA, in January 2001. Mary Lee won one of the first place awards at the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Undergraduate Student Poster Session at the recent annual Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego. The award included a cash prize. Stephen Penny and Kelly Dickson also made presentations in the session that included 85 posters presented by individuals or teams of students. All three were among 26 students nationwide selected to speak at the American Mathematical Society (AMS) Special Session on Research in Mathematics by Undergraduates at the San Diego Meetings.
The titles of their presentations were:
Kelly Dickson and Mary Lee also both participated in the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics, held at the University of Nebraska,
Lincoln, Feb. 1-3, 2002.
Kelly Dickson has been accepted into the NSF sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Tennessee for Summer 2002. She will work jointly with mathematicians and scientists at Oak Ridge National Labs in her REU program.
Mary Lee was accepted into the 2002 Summer Undergraduate Applied Mathematics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, which is part of the NSF funded Center for Nonlinear Analysis at Carnegie Mellon.
Last year we reported that Brett Enge (B.A., 1999) had worked on a research project in algebra with Professor Carter Lyons. Brett's paper, "The Search for Tri-Operate Fields" which appeared in the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal in Fall 2000 has received the Richard V. Andre Award from Pi Mu Epsilon. This annual award recognizes the top three research papers written by undergraduates published in that journal. Brett is currently a graduate student at Virginia Tech.
On Saturday, December 1, 2001, four JMU students were among the
from the United States and Canada who participated in the 62nd annual
Putnam Competition. The Putnam is a notoriously challenging 6-hour exam
consisting of 12 mind-numbing problems, 6 in the morning session and 6
in the afternoon. These problems cut across many areas of mathematics,
and are designed to test "originality as well as technical
The four JMU students who participated in the exam were:
- Eva Goedhart
- Kristina Lee
- Augustine O'Keefe
- Steven Penny
See the department's Putnam page for
The Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) is an international contest for high school students and college undergraduates. There are two problems, Problem A (continuous) and Problem B (discrete), and teams of three students have from 8pm Thursday night until 8pm the following Monday to work on the problem of their choice. Last year, 768 teams submitted solution papers representing 238 institutions from eleven countries. JMU has had teams entering the competition since 1990. In that time, we have had four Honorable Mention and four Meritorious awards. Our best ever result was achieved in 2001 when JMU was the only institution to have two teams each do a different problem and both be awarded Meritorious.
In 2002, four teams entering the18th Annual Mathematical Contest in Modeling. This is the maximum allowed per institution, and the largest number of teams ever fielded by JMU. The teams were
- Steve Penny, Patrick Rabenold and Jason Calhoun (advisor: Caroline Smith)
- Matthew Downey, Sean Walsh and Kevin Finnegan (advisor: Dorn Peterson)
- Mary Lee, Kelly Dickson and Charles Martin (advisor: Paul Warne)
- Charles Arnold, Renzo Olguin and William Quarles (advisor: Joe Rudmin).
The work submitted by the team consisting of Steve Penny, Patrick Rabenold and Jason Calhoun was judged Meritorius. Congratulations to them for their good work and thank you to all of the teams for participating!
Every spring the department recognizes the achievements of some of our outstanding students at an awards ceremony sponsored by the College of Science and Mathematics. Traditionally we have given the J. Emmett Ikenberry Prize (for academic achievement), the Thompson Learning Future Teacher Award (formerly the Award for an Outstanding Mathematics Major Preparing to Teach), the Undergraduate Research Award, the Statistics Award and the ASQ Applied Statistics Award (special consideration is given to those students minoring in statistics, but not majoring in mathematics).
The award recipients for 2001 were:
- J. Emmett Ikenberry Prize: Daniel P. Robinson (2001, B.S.)
Dan is currently a graduate student in mathematics at the University of California,.San Diego.
- Thompson Learning Future Teacher Award: Betsy Hoeltzel (2001, B.S.)
Betsy is currently teaching mathematics at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville.
- Undergraduate Research Award: Rebecca Wasyk (2000, B.S.)
Rebecca is currently a graduate student in mathematics at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
- Statistics Award: not presented in 2001.
- ASQ Applied Statistics Award: Donald Varakin (2001, Psychology)
This year we also had many fine students. In addition to the awards mentioned above, we also presented an award for an Outstanding Junior Majoring in Mathematics.
This year's award recipients are:
- J. Emmett Ikenberry Prize: Patrick Rabenold
- Thompson Learning Future Teacher Award: Kimberly Cartwright
- Undergraduate Research Award: Stephen Penny
- Outstanding Junior Majoring in Mathematics: Mary Lee
- Statistics Award: Dana Wajdowicz
- ASQ Applied Statistics Award: Hilary Kissel (Psychology)
In addition to these awards presented by our department, we recently learned of several more awards to our students. Patrick Rabenold won the university's Phi Beta Kappa Honors Thesis Award. Patrick has double majored in mathematics and physics. His thesis, Simulations of Ideal Gas Expansions using Smooth Particle Mechanics, was supervised by Dr. William Ingham of the Physics Department, with Dr. Dave Pruett and Dr. Debra Warne, of our department serving as readers. Kelly Dickson and Mary Lee both won awards for research presentations in the MAA Student Paper Competition as part of the MAA's VA-MD-DC sectional meeting. Kelly received second place honors and Mary received third!
For more information about the statistics awards, or to see the
names of past winners of the awards visit http://www.stat.jmu.edu/jobawards/awards.htm
Hasan Hamdan joined the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in
fall of 2000 as a visiting assistant professor. We are happy to
report that he has accepted a tenure track position at JMU starting in
the fall of 2002.
In 1993 Hasan received his B.S. in mathematics from Bir-zeit University in Ramallah, Palestine. Prior to coming to US, he worked at Bir-zeit for one year. In 1994, he came to the U.S. on a Karim Rida Said Foundation scholarship to finish his Masters degree in Statistics at American University in Washington D.C. He also finished his Ph.D. in statistics at American University under the direction of Prof. John Nolan. While a graduate student Hasan was also a full time instructor for 3 years.
His research interests are approximating infinite scale mixtures, heavy-tailed distributions and ratio estimators based on systematic sampling. Currently, he is trying to use infinite scale mixtures of normals to model real data that exhibit unusual behavior in the tails or in cases where the normal modeling methods fail to produce a good fit. He is also exploring new methods for recovering the mixing measure.
Hasan enjoys life in Harrisonburg and enjoys working at JMU. In his spare time, he enjoys sight-seeing, going to the parks and mountains and listening to news. He hopes that the world will be more peaceful and that all conflicts, including the Mideast conflict, will be fairly resolved so that all people in that region will live in lasting peace and harmony.
JoAnna Sychterz, a teacher at Governor Mifflin High School, Shillington, Pa., was named High School Math Teacher of the Year for 2001 during an award ceremony in the James Madison University Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
Ms. Sychterz, 29, of Reading, Pa., is the department's sixth recipient of the award. In September, JMU students enrolled in math courses at the university nominate high school math teachers for the award. Tracey Magda of Mohnton, Pa., a sophomore psychology major, nominated Sychterz this year.
Sychterz is the first teacher from outside of Virginia to receive the award. She is also is the youngest recipient of the award and the teacher with the fewest years in the classroom to receive the award. Getting the award showed that a teacher with only a few years in the classroom "can make a difference," Dave Carothers said in presenting the award.
Sychterz has been teaching high school math courses for five years. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University in 1993 she worked in the research laboratory of Air Products and Chemicals Inc. in Allentown before deciding to become a teacher. She said she always wanted to teach, but others persuaded her to stay out of the profession. Sychterz said that after two years of working in a research laboratory, she decided to follow her own career path. For her, teaching is fun and finding each student's unique talents is what she likes. "You've got to find the fun in it, find something to like. There's something good in everyone," Sychterz told a group of JMU faculty members and students before receiving the award. She obtained her teaching certificate and a masters degree in curriculum and instruction from Kutztown University in 1997.
Magda was a student in Sychterz's advance placement statistics class in 1999. She wrote in her nomination letter that Sychterz got her interested in statistics. She wrote in her nomination that Sychterz finds "a way to connect" with her students and called her an "example of an outstanding teacher." She also cited the teacher as someone who treated all her students with "respect."
"You could not possibly ask for more from Miss Sychterz. She was willing to take an entire class to explain a concept one hundred different ways to be sure that everyone had complete understanding. In addition, she was available whenever possible and always accommodating. She was always willing to come in before school, to stay after school, and to use her planning periods to work with her students," Magda wrote in her recommendation. Tracey is currently minoring in statistics at JMU.
Sychterz's name will go on a plaque in Burruss Hall. She also received a plaque of her own as the 2001 recipient.
Previous recipients of the award, all from Virginia schools, were: Elizabeth Riddle of Alexandria, Robert Salewski of Fairfax, June Billings of Yorktown, Martha Blakeney of Leesburg and Kathy Beatty of Clifton.
Be the first person on your block to get a JMU Math Club t-shirt. These shirts will be available during September 2002.
For more information about the t-shirts, visit
How would you like to help support the programs in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics? You can help by contributing to our student scholarship fund, or by making an unrestricted contribution to the department's JMU Foundation fund. Unrestricted funds can be used, for example, to support student activities or to bring student-oriented speakers to campus. Funds may be sent to:
The JMU Foundation
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, VA 22807
Mark the donation "Greater University Fund" and designate it for the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
Tell us what you are doing! We'd love to hear from you.
Fill out our
on-line alumni information form.
- Laura Laing (1990, B.S.) and Gina Foringer (1990, B.S.) live in Norfolk, Virginia with their two toy poodles, their obnoxious conure, and their two year-old daughter, Zoe. Since meeting in the JMU math department in 1986, they have strayed a bit from mathematics. Laura works as an Online Producer for PilotOnline.com and HamptonRoads.com and received her MA in Humanities from Old Dominion University. Gina is an Environmental Project Manager for Versar, Inc. and is currently working on her MBA from ODU.
They write, "Thanks so much for the recent issue of math news. We
enjoyed reading about JMU professors and alumni. We were particularly
impressed with the recent distinctions bestowed upon Dr. Peterson and
Dr. Lyons. We both remember them and their classes well. In return,
we wanted to update you with what's happening in our lives. Thanks
for giving us the chance to let folks know what we're up to!"
- David Wilk (1996, B.S.) lives in Weyers Cave, VA. He writes, "Unfortunately I am gainfully employed. I am a Information Associate/Analyst
with EDS. Working on a contract with McQuayService in Verona. I am the senior programmer on the job, learning a lot about accounting which will open new opportunities for me."
The Goldbach Conjecture states that every even number greater than two is the sum of two primes. Don't worry, we're not asking you to solve this famously hard problem! (For an amusing look at this conjecture read Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis.) However, try your hand at this:
What is the largest even integer not expressible as the
sum of two odd composite numbers? Prove your answer is
The person who submits the best solution to this question will receive a copy of The Mathematical Experience by Phil David and Reuben Hersh. Mail your solution to Peter Kohn at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, or e-mail your solution to email@example.com.
solution to last year's puzzle was submitted by Chris Worley
(1997, B.S.) Chris received a copy of The Mathematical Experience.