2012 Department Newsletters
Ken Luther - Greetings from the Chair...

I hope this new annual newsletter (well, news-web-page) finds all of our MCS alumni well.  I thought my second year as chair of the department would be a lot easier than the first, but no such luck yet!  But it is for good reasons, as this is an interesting year for the department and the University in general.  First, we welcome a new faculty member, Tiffany Kolba, from Duke University.  She is one of two full time statisticians in the department, along with Hugh Gong.  We are very glad to have Tiffany here, she is a perfect fit in the department, and her husband has family connections to the College of Engineering.  And best of all, they have a baby, Kayla, whose awesome personality entertains everyone at department social events!  This year we will be continuing our search for someone who specializes in operations research, so if you know anyone in that area ...  The University is in the midst of a deliberate large increase in enrollment.  This influx of new students caused us to add a few sections of courses (two new sections of Math 110 and one new section of Math 131).  This will also make scheduling for Spring  semester a bit of a challenge, too!
If you visit campus for Homecoming, and we hope you do, you will notice many changes, even if you did not graduate that long ago.  Huegli Hall is gone, and a new College of Arts and Sciences building is now attached to the Christopher Center.  The Fites Center (addition to Gellersen) was completed last year, and the Solar Furnace research facility just outside of Gellersen is almost complete, and is a sight to see.
If you have any updated contact information, please share it with us.  Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2012-13! 

Alex Capaldi - BEER in Portland

This past winter I attended the 2011 International Symposium on Biomathematics and Ecology:  Education and Research at the University of Portland, lovingly referred to as BEER-2011.  Portland was an appropriate location for the conference, as it has some of the best breweries in the country!  The conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet with other early career biomathematicians, many of whom are struggling with the same problems as I.  Traditional calculus problems are usually restricted in application to physics and engineering; at the conference, I was exposed to a number of new biological examples to include in my calculus classes that would help appeal to students in the life sciences, and not simply engineering and physics.  I plan to attend the BEER-2012 conference this year in St. Louis to continue making new contacts and learning new teaching tips from my peers. 

Introducing New Faculty...

My name is Tiffany Kolba and I am a new assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science here at Valparaiso University.  I was raised in Bowie, Maryland and went to undergrad at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where I majored in mathematics with a second major in applied mathematics and statistics.  I graduated this past May from Duke University with my Ph.D. in mathematics, as well as a Certificate in College Teaching.  My research area is probability theory and, more specifically, stochastic differential equations.    I am drawn to probability theory because randomness is inherently present in almost all aspects of the world.  I met my husband Mark while he was also a graduate student at Duke and we have an 11 month old daughter named Kayla.  One of my favorite hobbies is playing board and card games.  As a life-long Lutheran, I have many friends and family members who are Valpo alumni and I am excited to be working here.

Jim Caristi-Sabbatical Year 2011-2012

A research project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture kept me busy the last academic year.  It was all very statistical, which is interesting since I’ve never even taken a course in statistics.  But now I seem to do all my research around it.  In particular, I was determining standard error for agricultural boards that are responsible for the monthly published values for major commodities.  Although my work is currently covered by nondisclosure agreements, I can say generally that their board process is very effective and quite interesting.  And there are some remarkable conclusions in terms of what is statistically significantly different among the board members.

I also had the opportunity to do a lot of work-related traveling, mostly to Washington D.C.  But I also attended conferences in Raleigh, NC and Palm Beach, FL.  Of course, it wasn’t all work last year.  I had a chance to visit relatives in Italy, my mother in south Florida, my brother-in-law in Bellingham, WA, and other in-laws in Iowa.  Best of all, my wife gave me a fantastic present: I got to attend a racquetball camp in Austin, TX run by the best racquetball player of all time.  So now I have a new life goal: to become the best 90 year old racquetball player in the world.  I might be retired by then, but you never know.

Mindy Capaldi -Participating in Project NExT
Over the course of the 2011-2012 school year, I completed my first year as a Project NExT fellow. Project NExT is a program for new or recent Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences. It helps educate us about how to teach, research, and be a professional mathematician. Through this program, I was able to attend two Mathfest conferences (in Lexington, KY and Madison, WI). After last year, Mathfest has come to be one of my favorite conferences to attend, not least because of the math musical at the opening banquet. The program also sent me to the Joint Math Meetings in Boston. At two of these conferences I helped organize panel discussions, which was a great and useful experience. Between the three conferences, I learned much about undergraduate research, interdisciplinary classes, inquiry-based learning, writing assignments in math, and more. 

Lara Pudwell - How I spent my summer "vacation"...

Graduation and end of spring semester might seem like a “break” in the faculty schedule, but for me, May meant it was time to gear up for the sixth Valparaiso Experiencein Research by Undergraduate Mathematicians (VERUM) program. Students from schools all over the country apply to work on interesting problems and spend 9 weeks on campus working under the guidance of a Valpo faculty member. You can learn more about the 2010 and 2011 programs by reading my old newsletter entries at  
http://www.valpo.edu/mcs/alumni/pudwell10.php and

This year’s cohort worked in 3 teams. Three students worked with Paul Drube on “Quandles and Generalized Colorings of Knots”, three worked with Daniel Maxin on “Vertical transmission in two-sex epidemic models with isolation from reproduction”, and three worked with me on “Non-Contiguous Pattern Containment in Binary Trees”. All three groups had very productive summers. You can read each group’s final paper at http://www.valpo.edu/mcs/verum/pastprojects.php. In addition to 2012 being my 3rd consecutive summer to lead a VERUM project, it was my first summer to completely administrate the program. Zsuzsanna Szaniszlo and I have already submitted another grant application so that we can continue to fund the program in future summers.

Besides my VERUM work, I spent June 10-16 in Glasgow, Scotland for the Tenth International Conference on Permutation Patterns, a research conference I have attended annually since 2006. I thoroughly enjoyed the time to re-connect with friends and collaborators from all over the world. Besides chairing a session and presenting a talk on “Pattern-Avoidance in Binary Trees”, I was elected to the 6 person international steering committee for the conference, and I look forward to attending and helping plan the conference for years to come.

Hui Gong - Traveling Summer

It’s a traveling summer for me. Half of the time I was not in Valpo. First was the Cambridge new faculty seminar. It was really amazing. It provided a great opportunity to know the university and get acquainted with the faculty members from the other departments.  It’s my first time to step foot on European soil. 

Left on the 4th of July, I traveled to China, where I have been to for six years. It felt really good to meet some old friends. The most exciting was the 15-year high school reunion, particularly. 

On my return from from China, I flew to San Diego, California to attend the Joint Statistical Meeting of 2012, the annual statistics meeting for statisticians mainly from America and Canada. During the marketing session meeting, I made a presentation about the application of Partial Differential Equation (PDE) on the modeling volatility, based on a working paper. I also met the chief-editor of the Journal of Model Assisted Statistics and Applications, which I have served as a reviewer for two years. Later I was invited to join the Editorial Board. Again, it’s my first time to the Golden State. 

P.S. I look forward to the Joint Statistical Meeting of 2013 in Montreal, Quebec.

Daniel Maxin - US-Czech collaboration, August 2012

This past Summer I spent two weeks at the Institute of Entomology, Biology Centre of the Academy of Sciences in the city of Ceske Budejovice of Czech Republic to work on research projects with my collaborator Ludek Berec. This visit (the first of the two) was supported by Wheat Ridge Ministries - O.P. Kretzmann Grant for Research in the Healing Arts and Sciences.

Although separate institutions, the Institute and the University of South Bohemia share the same campus and collaborate extensively. Together they offer a strong doctoral program the fields of entomology, ecology, genetics, animal physiology and developmental biology, and in molecular and cell biology. More than 150 PhDs where awarded by the Institute from its inception. More details can be found at http://www.entu.cas.cz/en/

My collaboration with Dr. Berec started three years ago when I found that he is also interested, like me, in two-sex population dynamics but from an ecological perspective. We published together three articles and we currently work on several problems related to the evolution of infectious diseases in humans or animals, in particular, in cases where the mechanism of disease transmission and reproduction is the same.

Paul Drube

The 2011-2012 academic year was my first at Valparaiso University, and after a full year in town I'm happy to report that I'm acclimating nicely to both the University and the community.  Last year I attended the Lilly Conference on Teaching in November, restarted a "Problem Solving Club" for students interested in taking the Putnam exam or other mathematical competitions, and co-directed an independent study course in Topology (my research specialty!).  This past summer I partook in the VERUM summer REU as one of the program's three faculty advisers, leading a grouping of three undergraduate researchers on a project entitled "A Partial Ordering of Knots" (studying the branch of topology known as knot theory).  I really enjoyed being a part of the REU, and am eager to participate in similar programs in the future.  This fall has definitely been "back to business", and although I'm continuing to direct the Problem Solving Club I've been focusing mostly on my courses.