‘Math Talks’ taking hold at MSU

Minot State University math students attending regular “Math Talks” are working on applied mathematical research and also the art of presenting and defending their mathematical research under the guidance of assistant math professor Narayan Thapa.

Johannah Miller, a junior majoring in mathematics and chemistry, conducted research on “Schrodinger Equation in Modeling Energy Level of Hydrogen Atom,” or, more simply, “the mathematical modeling of the hydrogen atom.”

The research has let her look at something she is familiar with, the atom, from a different, mathematical angle and go more into depth with how it functions, she said.

Presenting her research also has helped her and other students hone the skills that they will use in the workplace or in graduate level programs.

“I’m finding out more and more that that’s what professionals do,” said Miller. “They research.”

And presenting their research is the way they can receive financing, she said.

Justin Ziegler, a math and finance major, researched how to model the value of an option.

Nicholas Taylor, a junior majoring in mathematics, is looking at real world application for baseball run statistics. He hopes to eventually earn a master’s and work for a baseball statistics company.

Modern day baseball team owners use statistics to arrive at the best outcomes for their teams.

Breanne Hatfield, a double major in math and biology, is using mathematics to model avascular tumor growth. She plans to eventually attend medical school to become an immunologist.

Hatfield, who is from California and came to MSU on a soccer scholarship, said the club has given her opportunities that she would not have had at a larger institution. At a larger university, students would not have an opportunity to do such research until they reached graduate school.

Thapa, who is originally from Nepal and was at the University of Oklahoma before coming to Minot State University in 2010, said there is great value in having undergrads conduct research and present their research to their peers, in other disciplines as well as mathematics.

Students who work with Thapa must meet demanding requirements: They need to maintain a 4.0 average, spend five hours a week on research, present to peers and at conferences, and work on a paper with Thapa.

Thapa was inspired to do the math talks from his experiences as a Project NeXT fellow. He was one of 70 people to receive the fellowship from the Mathematical Association of America. It is a professional development program for new or recent Ph.Ds in the mathematical sciences and addresses all aspects of an academic career, including improving the teaching and learning of mathematics, engaging in research and scholarship, and participating in professional activities.

As a Project NeXt fellow, Thapa judged more than two dozen undergraduate posters and undergraduate presentations in North America. When he came to Minot State, he realized that students here are just as capable as students presenting at those conferences and that led him to establish the math talks at MSU. Four semesters ago, his math talks began as professors presenting to each other and to fellow students on different topics. Later, it grew to include student presentations.

Now the program has grown to the point where students approach Thapa and ask to work with him.