Mathematics Association of America
Southern California-Nevada Section

Newsletter Spring 2009
Table of Contents

Message from the Chair:

From the Spring 2009 Sectional Meeting at California Lutheran University to the 2009 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Washington DC

Michael Frantz, Section Chair, University of La Verne

MAA Southern California-Nevada Section Chair Michael Frantz takes a break from the JMM in Washington, D.C., to do some geometry in the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden (top three) and in front of the Air and Space Museum (bottom).

Photos by Michael Frantz, University of La Verne.

Spring 2009 Meeting

The Spring Meeting of the Southern California-Nevada Section will be hosted by California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, on Saturday, March 21. The lineup of speakers promises a meeting just as exciting, entertaining, and informative as the Fall 2008 meeting at Scripps College, which was arguably one of the best in recent memory. Robert Lang, world renowned origamist, will discuss and demonstrate origami in his address, “From Flapping Birds to Space Telescopes: The Modern Science of Origami”, sure to be a highlight of the meeting. Read about and see examples of his art at We are also privileged to have Annalisa Crannell of Franklin and Marshall College, Pennsylvania, speaking on "Math and Art: The Good, the Bad, and the Pretty"; our own Mario Martelli of Claremont Graduate University speaking on “Chaos in the Solar System”; and, to round out the day, Aparna Higgins, of University of Dayton, Ohio, giving a workshop on “Undergraduate Research: An Introduction to Our Profession”. This will also be a wonderful meeting to encourage your students to attend, either as presenters of posters in the Student Poster Session, or simply to view the work of their fellow students and listen to highly regarded speakers.

Fall 2008 Meeting

The Fall 2008 meeting was hosted by Scripps College in Claremont, and as previously noted, was (in the view of this attendee) perhaps the best meeting this section has seen for quite some time. The day started off with a marvelous presentation by Stephen Abbott of Middlebury College, who utilized local Claremont College students to re-enact scenes from a number of theatrical works which employ mathematics in significant ways. It would not be exaggerating to say that the performances of Stephen and his acting students brought down the house at numerous points during his “talk”. The 2008 recipient of the Southern California-Nevada Distinguished Teaching Award, Bruce Yoshiwara of L.A. Pierce College, entertained a full house over lunch with some surprising facts about the effectiveness (or not) of technology in the mathematics classroom. In the afternoon, George Andrews from Penn State gave a fascinating account of the discovery, mathematical contents, and attempts at distortion by TV and film producers, of Ramanujan’s “Lost Notebook”, providing interesting mathematics, stories, and hilarious anecdotes for all those privileged to teach number theory. Tony DeRose from Pixar Animation Studios finished up the day with a lively presentation complete with appropriate “Pixaresque” graphics clips illustrating the tremendous role played by advanced mathematics in the generation of modern animated films.

Helaman Ferguson in his booth at the exhiit area at the 2009 JMM

2009 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Washington DC

The Annual Meeting of the AMS and MAA was held in Washington, DC, January 5-8. As always, it presented a great opportunity to renew relationships with colleagues from around the country and world, and of course was the source of many top-notch presentations, including a particularly interesting one by Kenneth Golden on using the mathematics of sea ice to help predict climate change. Although it never snowed, the presence of rain not too much above freezing was certainly a radical change for the Southern Californians attending, although clear blue sunny skies broke out at the end of the week in time to permit sightseeing breaks to the National Mall just two weeks before it was trampled by almost two million inaugural participants. A highlight for this author was the opportunity for a very lengthy and in-depth conversation with a “personal hero”, mathematical sculptor Helaman Ferguson (pictured), who manned a booth in the exhibit area with many examples of his sculptures which could be viewed in detail and even touched.

Future Meetings

Don’t forget to mark March 14 on your calendars, not simply because it is Pi Day, but also because it is the date of the 2009 Pacific Coast Undergraduate Mathematics Conference, hosted by U.C. Riverside. Not only should all your students be attending, but perhaps you should be accompanying a group of them (think Math Club). Also: MathFest 2009 is coming up in just six months in Portland, Oregon, August 6-8. Having attended my first summer MathFest ever last summer, I can attest to the more relaxed and fun nature of the summer meeting, and would recommend it to all. Finally, keep on eye on the MAA Southern California-Nevada Section website for announcement of the date and location of the Fall 2009 Section Meeting.

Thank You

As my term as Section Chair comes to an end on June 30, I would like to take this last opportunity to thank in writing the entire board of the section for their wonderful hard work and dedication, which (from my admittedly biased perspective) has helped this section grow into one of the largest and undoubtedly the best section in the MAA.  I would particularly like to thank the outgoing board members, Perla Myers (Program Chair) and Michael Hoffman (Treasurer), for their multiple years of service.  The board members are unsung heroes, the invisible glue that hold everything together and “make it happen”.  Check out who they all are on the section web page, and thank them the next time you encounter them.  Be sure to vote for new members on the ballot accompanying this newsletter, and … why not commit your own time and energy to give back to the MAA by volunteering to join the board in some capacity?  Just contact any of us and ask us about it.  See you in Thousand Oaks!

Message from the Governor:

2009 Joint Mathematics Meeting and National Science Policy

Kenneth Millett, Section Governor, University of California, Santa Barbara

During the 2009 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Washington, D.C., the MAA held an open house at its national headquarters. MAA members could view the spiral staircase winding to the top of the Dolciani Building, mathematical artwork on display in the Dolciani Building.
Photos by Section Chair Michael Frantz, University of La Verne

As tradition appears to require, the JMM occurred during our first week of classes for the winter quarter. The Board of Governors devoted much of its effort to discussion of how the MAA will respond to the consequences of the weak economy. Affirming its historical mission, the MAA has made and continues to make prudent adjustments that will help us weather the challenges for the near term without losing the capacity to respond to opportunities that may arise. Fortunately, we are in relatively good financial health and can see our way ahead even as things get worse. Nevertheless, we will be seeing some adjustments in publication schedules, moving to a "green" election system, and implementing other measures to reduce cost and increase efficiency and effectiveness of programs. The Science Policy Committee is moving to strengthen the MAA's voice with respect to national support of mathematics through its spring visits to Congress and federal agencies as well as embarking on an effort to strengthen its voice in districts. I hope to meet with anyone interested in discussing this effort at our spring meeting.

Of course, the JMM was more than committee meetings. There were many wonderful lectures, panels, and special sessions. Our section was once again well represented with familiar faces present in most every venue. Of course there were opportunities to learn new (at least to me) mathematics from Margulis, Chudnovksy, Mirzakhani, Sarnak, Khovanov, and so many more mathematicians. Not only that but also the amazing array of opportunities to explore ways to be more effective in our work with students, in the classroom and individually. A highlight of the JMM is always the opportunity to be with colleagues we have not seen in a while and to catch up on things. Being in DC just prior to the inauguration made the experience even more special with all the excitement and preparation around us. Janis and I even managed to break away for a "quiet" dinner at the French bistro near Dupont Circle.

Next year, the meetings will be January 13-16, 2010, in San Francisco. I am sure that it will be a splendid affair and hope to see an even stronger presence of our section there. Now is a good time to start planning and maybe even consider organizing a special session devoted to a topic that you feel should be represented there. I will look forward to seeing you in San Francisco.

Tell the Governor what you think

I am certain that I missed out on many really super sessions at MathFest as well as questions and concerns you have that should be brought to the BOG. Please take a few moments to contact me at (805)893-3894 or at and let me know of your thoughts.

Include your news...

Send email to our newsletter editor Janet Beery to share news from your department in the next newsletter.

News of the Section

News from Harvey Mudd College:  Harvey Mudd College welcomes its two newest Assistant Professors of Mathematics, Dagan Karp and Talithia Williams. Congratulations to Darryl Yong who was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure.

Mathematician and beadwork artist Gwen L. Fisher of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo worked with Paul Brown on an adult-sized jungle gym in the form of a Sierpinski tetrahedron for Burning Man 2008. The sculpture, called "Bat Country," was built from 384 aluminum steel reinforced baseball bats, with 130 softballs at the vertices. Read more and see images at Image copyright 2009 Gwen Fisher and Paul Brown.

News for Students

Cindy Wyels, Student Chapters Coordinator, Cal State Channel Islands

Students Make Their Presence Felt

Over 40% of those in attendance at the Fall Section Meeting at Scripps College were students, and they made their presence felt by presenting talks, asking questions in the invited lectures, and generally soaking up all there was to take advantage of. What with the Student Poster Contest at the Spring Section Meeting, might we have 50% students? Check the program, organize a group from your school, register, and attend. Or better, consider whether you might present a poster. Topic ideas follow. Undergraduate and Masters students are eligible.

  • Results of masters thesis, honors, senior, or independent study projects;
  • Results of classroom projects or modeling contests;
  • Results of REUs or other summer research programs;
  • Historical investigations in pure or applied mathematics;
  • Solutions of problems from the Putnam Exam or from the Monthly or other journals.
What are the benefits?
  • the opportunity to share your work with other students and with mathematicians from both academia and industry in a friendly environment;
  • free meeting registration and free lunch;
  • the chance to win recognition; and
  • a great resume entry.

To submit a poster, complete the information requested on the poster session registration page by Wednesday, March 11, 2009.

Pacific Coast Undergraduate Math Conference March 14, 2009 (Pi Day!)

The fourth annual Pacific Coast Undergraduate Math Conference will be held Pi Day, March 14, 2009 at UC Riverside. For more information, including registration, visit

Southern California – Nevada Students Present Posters at JMM in Washington, D.C.

Students from Southern California and Nevada made the trip to the 2009 Joint Meetings in Washington D.C. during the first week of January. Many presented their work in the Student Poster Session there; a list of the six award-winners attending So Cal-NV institutions follows. And kudos to all who presented – the fact that your advisor(s) supported your entry and it was accepted to be presented means you all accomplished much.

2009 National Student Poster Session Award-Winners from the So Cal-NV Section

  • On Possible and Probable Triangles in a 2-Edge-Colored Complete Graph
    • Author: Rebecca Ruth Payne, Pomona College
    • Advisor: Ami Radunskaya, Pomona College
  • On Metric Trees and n-Widths
    • Author: Kyle E. Kinneberg, Claremont McKenna College
    • Advisor: Asuman Aksoy, Claremont McKenna College
  • The Effects of Maternal Age on the Prevalence of Autism
    • Authors: Melissa Ann Bilbao, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
    • Advisors: Baojun Song, Montclair State University; Xiaohong Wang, Arizona State University
  • Intrinsically triple-linked graphs in RP3
    • Authors: Emily R. Stark, Pomona College; Kristin McNamara, James Madison University
    • Advisor: Joel Foisy, SUNY Potsdam
  • Calculating class numbers of ray class extensions over imaginary quadratic fields
    • Author: Ila Varma, California Institute of Technology
    • Advisor: Matthias Flach, California Institute of Technology
  • A Sinkhorn-Knopp Fixed Point Problem: A Matrix and its Doubly Stochastic Equivalent
    • Author: William B. Cousins, Pepperdine University
    • Advisor: David Strong, Pepperdine University

See the rest of the winners here.

Students, find what opportunities are available to you!

The MAA Undergraduate Page is a great resource:

Did you know you could spend several weeks this summer pursuing research under the guidance of a mentor near or far … while having your travel costs and room and board covered … and even receive a stipend to offset your usual summer job earnings? Check out the REUs on this page. (Don’t wait: most application deadlines are in February and March.)

What’s (SoCalNev Section) NExT?

Magnhild Lien, CSU Northridge
Ioana Mihaila, Cal Poly Pomona

Section NExT is sponsoring a workshop “Undergraduate Research: An Introduction to Our Profession” by Aparna Higgins, University of Dayton, at the Spring Meeting, March 21, 2009, at California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks. The workshop, which will be run at the conclusion of the meeting (3–5:30 pm), is open to all meeting participants. Please indicate your intent to participate when registering for the meeting. In addition there will be a special session for Section NExT members (past and present) in the morning.

If you have a Master’s degree or PhD and are within the first three years of full-time employment with significant teaching responsibilities at the community college or university level and want to join Section NExT in time for the spring meeting, please complete an application form by Wednesday, March 11, 2009.

Project NExT (New Experiences in Teaching) is an MAA program for new and recent PhDs in the mathematical sciences that addresses the full range of faculty responsibilities, including teaching, scholarly activities, and service. Since its inception in 1994, the national Project NExT program has grown tremendously, and sections of the MAA have been encouraged to organize regional NExT programs.

The SoCalNev Section NExT program is in its 7th year, and has sponsored dynamic cohorts of participants at the MAA Southern California-Nevada Section meetings. SoCalNev Section NExT Fellows attend both the Fall and Spring section meetings where they participate in special sessions offering practical information about implementing effective pedagogical and professional strategies, including topics such as teaching methods, directing undergraduate research, and writing grant proposals. In addition, SoCalNev NExT provides a venue in which its participants can meet informally and discuss issues relevant to new faculty. Unlike the national Project NExT program, Section NExT includes community college faculty. For more information about SoCalNev Section NExT, including a list of past activities, follow this link to SoCalNev Section NExT.

To participate in the Saturday, March 21, 2009 Spring Section Meeting at California Lutheran University, please apply by Wednesday, March 11, 2009.


Click here to register on-line, and pay by credit card (deadline 5 pm, March 17th).

Click here to register by mail, and pay by check (deadline March 16th).

Spring 2009 Section Meeting

California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, CA
Saturday, March 21, 2009

Meeting web site

The Spring Meeting of the Southern California-Nevada Section of the MAA will feature three exceptional speakers on three exciting applications of mathematics:

  • world renowned origami artist Robert Lang on origami and engineering;
  • Annalisa Crannell of Franklin and Marshall College on perspective; and
  • Mario Martelli of CGU on “Chaos in the Solar System”.

The meeting also will feature the Student Poster Session, organized by Cynthia Wyels of California State University, Channel Islands; and a workshop on directing undergraduate research by Aparna Higgins of the University of Dayton. The MAA Book Sale, offered throughout the day by Michael Hoffman and Richard Katz of Cal State Los Angeles, will have a large selection of new MAA books, along with almost all of the other titles in the MAA booklist. Even the Business Meeting promises to be exciting, with the highly anticipated presentation of the 2009 Section Distinguished Teaching Award and recognition of our section’s 25- and 50-year MAA members. The Southern California-Nevada Section NExT (New Experiences in Teaching) will run a parallel program of activities for its members during the morning and will sponsor the workshop on directing undergraduate research in the afternoon.

See you at Cal Lutheran!

Meeting web site

Great Books, Great Bargains at MAA Book Sale!

The 2009 Spring Meeting at California Lutheran University will include the ever-popular MAA Book Sale. Book prices at the meeting will be about 10% less than the already discounted MAA member prices. Almost all of the books in the MAA Catalog will be on display, including a number of brand new titles. Among the new MAA books are A Radical Approach to Lebesgue’s Theory of Integration, by MAA President David Bressoud, and Uncommon Mathematical Excursions: Polynomia and Related Realms, by former MAA Southern California Section member Dan Kalman. Again, prices of books bought at the Spring Meeting are about 10% less than the already discounted member prices in the MAA Catalog. Book Sale organizers are Michael Hoffman and Richard Katz of California State University, Los Angeles.

Save these dates for future national MAA meetings

Summer 2009 Portland, OR August 6-8
Winter 2010 San Francisco, CA January 13-16
Summer 2010 Pittsburgh, PA August 5-7
Winter 2011 New Orleans, LA January 5-8
Summer 2011 Lexington, KY August 4-6
Winter 2012 Boston, MA January 4-7
Summer 2012 Madison, WI August 2-4
Winter 2013 San Diego, CA January 9-12
Winter 2014 Baltimore, MD January 15-18
Winter 2015 San Antonio, TX January 9-12
Summer 2015 Washington, DC August 5-8

Congratulations to 25- and 50-year MAA Members

Congratulations to the following members of the Southern California-Nevada Section who have been MAA members for 50 years!

Andrew M Bruckner
George S McCarty
Frederic T Metcalf
Selig Starr
John V Wiggins

Congratulations also to the following members of the Southern California-Nevada Section who have been MAA members for 25 years!

Nancy J Bray
Mark W Bowron
Joe P Buhler
Ralph T Grannan
Theodore H Hsu
Joan C King
William B Lacina
Caryl A Margulies
Carol S Murphy
John P Sepikas
William Schwartz
Thomas W Starbird

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