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2008 - 2009 Academic Year

Abstracts & Biographies

Date: 9/4/2008 (Thursday)

Speaker: Ms. Kristin Yvonne Rozier
Formal Methods Group
Safety Critical Avionics Systems Branch
NASA Langley Research Center

Title: On Formal Methods

Abstract: The Turing Award, considered to be the Nobel Prize in Computer Science, was awarded this year to three giants of formal methods. Despite such recognition, many undergraduates are unfamiliar with this discipline. Formal methods is one of the hottest areas of computer science, especially for the specification, design, and verification of hardware and software systems for safety and security. In this talk, I will answer some of the more common and important questions about the discipline such as: what is formal verification and what makes it formal? What methods are used for formal verification and what kind of assurance do they provide? I will also examine the need for formal methods given other, perhaps more mature, verification techniques such as testing, simulation, and fault-tolerance. Finally, I will address the question of why we don't formally verify all systems, briefly examine some of the limitations of formal methods, and point to areas of future research.

Bio:Kristin Yvonne Rozier is a Research Computer Scientist at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Her primary research interests in theoretical computer science include model checking, theory of computation, finite automata, theorem proving, mathematical logic, automated reasoning, and algorithms. Ms. Rozier graduated Magna Cum Laude as a James Monroe Scholar from The College of William and Mary with a B.S. in 2000 and an M.S. in 2001, and is currently working on her PhD at Rice University under the advisement of Moshe Y. Vardi. She is active in the scientific volunteering community and is a core team member of MAGIC (More Active Girls In Computing). She is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, ACM, IEEE, and AIAA.


Date: 9/23/2008 (Tuesday)

Speaker: Mr. Todd A. Phillips
Department of Mathematics
Mills E. Godwin High School
Richmond, VA

Title:Dr. Strangelove: or How I Stopped Resisting and Learned to Love Education

Abstract: A student's journey through the educational system can often be an interesting and difficult one. The journey back to this system can be equally, if not more, interesting and tumultuous. Professionals who return to the classroom as teachers are often asked "what drove your decision to be a teacher?"

This lecture, through a series of anecdotal stories noting the events and people that have been most influential, will examine this question both more deeply and more broadly. In the end, perhaps the question above is at best polite conversation and at worst mere small-talk. Uncontrollable circumstances "drive" decisions; choices, however, are much more complex. Perhaps then, there are better questions to be asked.

Why would someone with years of professional experience or someone just out of college choose to return to education, choose to teach? How does this affect the style and quality of their teaching? How does this affect their students? Are the keys to being a successful teacher any different than the keys to having a successful career in other fields? Why is all of this important?

This lecture will examine all of these issues through the journey and from the perspective of one student who after a successful career in engineering returned to teaching.

Bio: Todd's family moved from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Richmond, Virginia prior to his freshman year of high school. He attended the University of Virginia, and transferred to the University of Richmond where he graduated with a degree in Mathematical Sciences in 1985. He earned his Master of Engineering degree in Systems Engineering and Certificate of Studies in Manufacturing Systems from the University of Virginia in 1994.

Todd married Kelly Wycall in July of 1986. Kelly is an Assistant Vice President of IT Application Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. They have two sons, TJ (17) and Trevor (12) and keep busy being involved in their sons' many extra-curricular activities such as basketball, swimming, soccer, and music.

Todd's professional career has taken many diverse and challenging paths. After receiving his Bachelor's degree Todd worked as a Nuclear Control Room Operator for Virginia Power at the North Anna Nuclear Power Station. He received his Reactor Operator's license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1991 and continued to work for Virginia Power while completing work on his Master's degree. In 1994, Todd accepted a position at Virginia Power corporate headquarters with the Emergency Preparedness Department. In 1996, he transferred to the Nuclear Engineering Department.

In June of 1999, Todd decided to leave the Nuclear Power industry to become a full-time stay home Dad. During this time he was very involved in his sons' schools as a volunteer and also coached the freshman basketball team at Godwin High School. In 2004, Todd accepted a position as a teacher at Mills Godwin High School and Specialty Center for Science, Mathematics, and Technology.

Todd continues to enjoy teaching at Godwin, where in addition to teaching AP Statistics, Trigonometry/Pre-Calculus, and Math Modeling he is also the coach of the freshman basketball team and sponsor of the Math Modeling Club. He feels that the diversity of his background and experiences help bring about a different atmosphere and application for all of his students.


Date: 10/9/2008 (Tuesday)

Speaker: Dr. Paul F. Hemler
Associate Professor of Computer Science
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Hampden Sydney College


Abstract:It is well known that enrollments in Computer Science and Engineering programs have decreased significantly from their peak in 2000. One popular idea to increase the number of students entering these programs is to incorporate robots into the curriculum. The thought is to teach the problem solving skills necessary in the major by apply them to a robot. I attended a workshop this summer where some faculty at several institutions have developed a low-cost robot for educational purposes. They envision students buying one of these robots for about the same price as a textbook. They have also created a textbook for CS1 and CS2 that is freely available on their web site. In this colloquium I will describe the robot and some of its capabilities. This past summer a student, Anthony Regner worked on characterizing some of the robots sensors and he will present his work and give a demonstration of the robot in action.

Bio:Paul Hemler has been an Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Hampden-Sydney College for the past four years. Prior to joining HSC, Professor Hemler was an Assistant Professor in Medical Engineering and Computer Science at Wake Forest University for nine years. Professor Hemler has also been a Senior Research Scientist at Stanford University and a Member of the Technical Staff at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. Professor Hemler received his doctorate in Electrical and Computer Engineering from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC.


Date: 11/18/2008 (Tuesday)

Speaker: Dr. Brian Lins
Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Hampden Sydney College

Title: Nonnegative Matrices

Abstract: Nonnegative matrices are n-by-n matrices with all nonnegative entries. I will talk about some of the amazing properties that these matrices posses. Along the way, I will introduce the notion of Hilbert's projective metric and explain how it can be used to derive many of the best known properties of nonnegative matrices. If I have time, I hope to discuss some of the applications of nonnegative matrices such as the Google page rank algorithm.

Bio: Brian came to Hampden-Sydney after teaching for a year as a visiting professor at Dickinson College. A Virginia native, Brian attended William and Mary as an undergraduate. He received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Rutgers University, and his thesis focused on applications of Hilbert's projective metric to positive operators (which are nonlinear generalizations of nonnegative matrices).


Date: 10/30/2008 (Thursday)

Speaker: Dr. Chirashree Bhattacharya
Assistant Professor
Department of Mathematics
Randolph-Macon College

Title: Fretting-The Math Behind It

Abstract: Historically, makers of musical instruments used simple geometric methods to place frets on stringed instruments in order to achieve near-equal temperament. A study of the underlying mathematics, especially the link to continued fractions, reveals why they have surprisingly high accuracy. In this talk, I will explore a few of these methods.

Bio: Dr. Bhattacharya completed her PhD in mathematics at the University of Virginia and has been teaching at Randolph-Macon College ever since. She is also trained in Indian classical music. Lately she has been merging her interests in mathematics and music and is currently teaching an interdisciplinary math-music course for freshmen.


Date: 1/27/2009 (Tuesday)

Speaker: Dr. Nicholas Robbins
Assistant Professor, Mathematics - Sciences
Department of Mathematics
Gettysburg College

Title: Pleading the Fifth: Euclid's Parallel Postulate

Abstract: Geometry was created to solve concrete problems in the lives of ancient People. Euclid of Alexandria first organized it as a rigorous axiomatic system. He based his system on five assumptions. The fifth of these, his fifth postulate, has captured the interest of geometers for thousands of years. I will discuss several different notions of geometry, how they relate to Euclid's Parallel Postulate, and how well they describe the world around us.

Bio: Dr. Robbins is in his first year as an Assistant Professor at Gettysburg College. He came there from St. Mary's College of Maryland, where he worked after finishing his degree at Duke University. He studies singular negative mass solutions to general relativity.


Date: 2/17/2009 (Tuesday)

Speaker: Dr. David Bernstein
Professor of Computer Science
Department of Computer Science
James Madison University

Title: Getting from Here to There

Abstract: In this talk I will describe the computational mathematics of personal navigation systems that use the global positioning system (GPS). It will include a description of the various problems that need to be solved, some of the classical techniques that are used to solve these problems, and some of my research into new techniques for solving these problems. At the end of this talk, you'll know everything you need to know to create your own.

Bio: Dr. David Bernstein is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science at James Madison University. Dr. Bernstein's research focuses on the use of computing and communications technologies in

transportation. He has published numerous papers in journals such as Transportation Science, Operations Research, Transportation Research, the Transportation Research Record, and the ITE Journal. Before

getting his Ph.D., Dr. Bernstein was a researcher at Atlantic Commodities and was the Vice President of Software Development for Investment Technologies, one of the first electronic commerce companies. Since completing his Ph.D., Dr. Bernstein has been a faculty member at MIT, Princeton University, and James Madison University.


Date: 3/5/2009 (Thursday)

Speaker: Dr. Stephen Morse
Retired Consultant
Adjunct Faculty Member
George Mason University

Title: How Five Regular Solids Turned into Seventy-five

Abstract: Using the ideas and synthetic style of the 20C geometer Donald Coxeter, the talk will develop the notion of self-congruence in solid polyhedra. The class of Uniform Polyhedra will be introduced by means of several examples, and the talk will conclude with a brief overview of Skilling's proof that there are exactly 75 Uniform Polyhedra. The talk makes extensive use of slides showing accurate, colorful drawings of many of the figures under discussion. Topics touched on along the way include stellation, faceting, taxonomy, Euler's Theorem on rigid rotations of the sphere, and the theorem that there are only three non-trivial finite rotation groups (in three dimensions). The speaker will also bring large, carefully constructed models of some of the polyhedra he will be discussing. The talk was originally given as the Friday evening lecture to the college community at St. Johns College in Annapolis, MD.

Bio: Dr. Stephen Morse is recently retired from a 30-year career as a consultant to the defense and intelligence communities in the Washington, DC area. He has a PhD in mathematics from the University of Maryland (Complex Analysis, 1978), and is the author of two books: one on high performance parallel processing; and the other on data mining of very large parallel data bases. Retirement has allowed him to devote more time to his first love, Euclidean Geometry (in the synthetic style). He is currently an adjunct faculty member at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.


Date: 4/2/2009 (Thursday)

Speaker: Mr. Brandon Taylor
Instructor of Mathematics
Lord Botetourt High School
Daleville, Virginia

Title: What They Don't Teach You About Secondary Education

Abstract: Many future educators pursuing a career in the secondary setting are often times released into the harsh world of public education with only an unrealistic truth about what really happens in today's high schools. This presentation, targeted towards aspiring secondary mathematics teachers and current teachers alike, will focus on key issues facing our profession, challenges within the classroom, and how high stakes testing has changed the scope and content of the mathematics we teach in high school today. In addition, our talk will enlighten the listeners to a few of the many challenges first year teachers undergo and which cause a great lack of retention in the field. It will culminate with some strategies and suggestions for overcoming and dealing with such challenges as well as a question and answer session for those getting ready to embark on the same journey I did just two years ago.

Bio: Brandon Taylor, a Longwood graduate, is an instructor of mathematics at Lord Botetourt High School just north of Roanoke in Botetourt County of Virginia. He is currently in his second year of teaching and has taught or is teaching courses in Geometry Part I, Geometry Part II, Geometry, Precalculus, and Probability and Statistics. Outside of his teaching responsibilities, Brandon is the faculty sponsor for the Math Club and is also the statistician for Varsity boy's basketball and a stat keeper for Varsity boy's football. If he is not keeping stats at a game, he can be found on the field or court as an assistant to the coaching staff. In addition, Brandon has become regarded by his colleagues as the "voice of the Cavaliers" as he has called games for JV football, JV and Varsity girl's and boy's basketball, and now girl's softball. If he is not at school (which is a rarity), Brandon enjoys working with his youth group at church and his career as a national champion go-kart driver. During the spring and summer months he spends a good deal of time officiating regional and national karting events up and down the eastern United States.