News & Events

Statistics Thesis Defenses

Thursday, April 18
4:00 - 6:30 p.m.
SMUD 206
4:00 p.m.: Fengling Hu
"A Visit to the Zoo: Teaching Machines to Think Like Humans"
Advisor: Amy Wagaman
4:50 p.m.: Robert Zielinski
"A Comparison of Bayesian Inference Algorithms for Hierarchical Mixture Models:
Advisor: Amy Wagaman
5:40 p.m.: Zachary Brown
"Using Em Methods to Handle Data Below the Lower Limit of Detection"
Advisor: Nicholas Horton

Mathematics Thesis Defenses

Kate Finnerty: Wed, April 17

Ellie Thieu: Mon, April 22

Caroline MacGillivray: Tues, April 23
4-4:30pm: refreshments in SMudd 208
4:30-5:15pm: presentation by the day's thesis author in SMudd 206
Then all students but the thesis author will be excused from the room,
and the faculty will ask more detailed questions about the thesis.

Math & Stats Table

Valentine Terrace Room, every Monday at noon while classes are in session

All are welcome!

Wedesday April 3, 4-5pm in SMudd 206

Prof. David Cox: Reflections on Teaching

Monday March 18, 4:30-6pm in SMudd 206

Mary Pilgrim, San Diego State University

Active Engagement in Calculus
Calculus continues to act as a gateway for students pursuing STEM degrees. While the 2012 President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Report calls for over one million STEM graduates by 2020, fewer than 40% of the STEM-intending students actually complete a STEM degree (PCAST, 2012). These data are not surprising when studies show that experiences in first-year courses, such as Calculus I, play an important role in the retention of STEM majors (Bressoud & Rasmussen, 2015; Ellis, Fosdick, & Rasmussen, 2016; Seymour & Hewitt, 1997). Active engagement in mathematics, rather than passive observance has been demonstrated to have significant impact on student performance and success (Freeman et al., 2014). However, identifying strategies that will best support students in our own contexts can be a challenge.

In this interactive workshop talk, participants will share successes and challenges from their mathematics classrooms and explore and participate in a variety of Calculus activities intended to foster engagement. Such activities will provide opportunities to engage in low-stakes writing and group discussion as mechanisms to deepen understanding of content. In addition, data from a related research project as well as student work will be shared. The workshop talk will close with participants reflecting on their own teaching and identifying ways to be inclusive and supportive of all students.

Tuesday March 19, 2:30-4pm in Porter Lounge

Mary Pilgrim, San Diego State University

Departmental Action Teams: A Model for Enacting and Sustaining Change (workshop sponsored by Center for Teaching and Learning)
Fostering sustainable improvements in undergraduate education remains a formidable challenge. The Departmental Action Team (DAT) model was developed as a response to this challenge. DATs are small working groups of faculty, students, and staff, that work collaboratively to envision, plan, develop, and build sustainable structures in their department. To support the uptake of such structures, DATs collect and analyze data to reflect on the root causes of an issue, which they use to shift beliefs, values, and practices within their context.

In this interactive workshop talk, we will discuss examples of change from the literature, why change is impacted by culture, as well as the DAT model and how it can be used to enact and sustain change. Participants will reflect on change within their own context and develop strategies for moving forward.

Wednesday March 6, 4:30-5:30pm in SMudd 206

Gavin LaRose, University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Michigan Calculus: Structure and Outcomes

Calculus at Michigan is a large and many-faceted course. In this talk, we discuss the structure and pedagogical expectations of the course, and the nature of its assignments and assessment. Student work in the course includes reading their textbook, in-class group work, daily on-line homework, and team homework. We will discuss how and why these are implemented, and consider their relationship to more summative assessment in the course (quizzes and exams). As the goal of the course structure is to promote student learning of fundamental mathematical concepts, especially for groups traditionally underrepresented in mathematics, we will present some evidence supporting the success of the program and reflect on students' experiences and affect in the course.

Wednesday December 12, 3:45-4:45pm in SMudd 207

Math & Stats End-of-Semester Party

Please join us to celebrate the end of another great semester!

Thursday December 6 at 4:30pm in SMudd 206

Math Colloquium by Catherine Pfaff, Queen's University

Title: Symmetries, Groups, & How They Interact
Abstract:  The symmetries of a polygon form a group. This group acts on the polygon by rotating it and flipping it. This basic idea of studying a group as symmetries of an object extends far beyond polygons. Through a myriad of colorful pictures, I will introduce the notion of a group, some of my favorite examples, & then examples of the interplay between these groups & various geometric objects. No advanced mathematical knowledge will be assumed and of course we will also play with doughnuts!
Refreshments will be served at 4:15 pm in Seeley Mudd 208.

Tuesday December 4 at 4:30pm in SMudd 206

Statistics Thesis Mini-talks

Feng Hu '19
Robert Zielinski '19
Zachary Brown '19

Monday December 3 at 4:30pm in SMudd 207

Mathematics Thesis Mini-talks

Caroline MacGillivray '19
Kate Finnerty '19
Ellie Thieu '19
Gregory Caroll '19

Tuesday November 13 at 4:30pm in SMudd 206

Math Colloquium by Ralph Morrison, Williams College

Title:  Chip-firing games on graphs

 Abstract:  A graph is a collection of nodes connected by edges.  In this talk I'll present a family of chip-firing games, which start with a placement of chips on the nodes of a graph.  After placing the chips, we move them around by "firing" a node, meaning it donates a chip to each of its neighbors.  This leads to many mathematical questions: Given two placements of chips, can we move between them using a sequence of chip-firing moves?  If so, what's the fastest way?  It not, how can we prove it's impossible?  And if some of the nodes start with a negative number of chips, can we perform chip-firing moves to get those nodes out of debt?  This talk will showcase many results and open questions about these chip-firing games, including new theorems proved by undergraduates in Summer 2018.
Refreshments will be served at 4:00 pm in Seeley Mudd 208.

Wednesday November 7 at 4:30pm in SMudd 206

Math Colloquium by Alyssa Crans, Loyola Marymount University

Title:  Pizza Numbers!
Abstract:  Our goal is to experience firsthand the joy, frustration, and creativity involved in exploring a question as a mathematician does.  We’ll begin with a simple puzzle:  If we slice a pizza with n straight line cuts, what is the maximum number of pieces we can make?  Discovering these pizza numbers will inspire us to ask a variety of related questions, some of which we’ll answer and others of which will lead to unsolved problems at the level of current mathematical research!
Refreshments will be served at 4:00 pm in Seeley Mudd 208.

Monday November 5 at 7:00pm in Science Center E108

Math Club - first meeting of the year

Monday November 5 at 4:00pm in Science Center A131

Talk by Matteo Riondato, who will join Amherst as an Assistant Professor in January 2019

Title: "Data Mining: Tasks, Systems, Challenges, and Research Directions"
Abstract: In this talk, I describe the field of Data Mining (DM) from the point of view of a researcher in this discipline. Starting from my definition of DM, I give examples of DM tasks for different kinds of data, commenting on available systems for DM and discussing the algorithmic challenges in DM. I show how my research tackles some of these challenges and list the interesting questions I plan to answer in the near future with the help of Amherst students.

Thursday November 1 at 4:30pm in SMudd 206

Connecticut Valley Colloquium

Melody Chan, Brown University

Title: The Moduli of Space Curves
Abstract: I will give a prerequisite-free introduction to the idea of a moduli space. Then I'll introduce the moduli space of algebraic curves of genus g, a space that has connections to many areas of mathematics and has been studied intensively, yet remains mostly a mystery. In recent joint work with Søren Galatius and Sam Payne, we obtained new results on the cohomology of Mg

Refreshments will be served at 4:00 pm in Seeley Mudd 208.

Thursday November 1 at 4:30pm in SMudd 207

Statistics colloquium by Krista Gile (UMass Amherst Mathematics and Statistics Dept)

Title: Inference from Multivariate Respondent-Driven Sampling Data

Abstract: Respondent-Driven Sampling is type of link-tracing network sampling used to study hard-to-reach populations.  Beginning with a convenience sample, each person sampled is given 2-3 uniquely identified coupons to distribute to other members of the target population, making them eligible for enrollment in the study. This is effective at collecting large diverse samples from many populations. Due to the complexity of the sampling process, inference for the most fundamental of population features: population proportion, is challenging, and has been the subject of much work in recent years, typically using only data on local network size and the variable of interest. This talk focuses on work that considers inferential goals addressed using multiple variables measured on participants.   We describe using data on local network composition for a variable biasing recruitment to adjust for preferential recruitment, semi-parametric testing for bivariate associations in the RDS dataset, and methods for clustering RDS participants based on covariate and referral data.

Refreshments will be served at 4:00 pm in Seeley Mudd 208.

Wednesday October 31 at 4:30pm in SMudd 206

Math colloquium by Marshall Ash

Title: Discontinuous functions as limits of compactly supported formulas
Abstract: A bounded real valued function with domain the entire real numbers and one point of discontinuity can be discontinuous in six ways. In beginning textbooks such functions are usually defined piecewise with each piece being given by a formula. Here we give six examples, each having a different type of discontinuity at its unique point of discontinuity. Each example type is represented as a pointwise limit of quite simple continuous functions. Each approximating function can be given by an elementary formula and also can be chosen to be of compact support. (A function has compact support if the set of points where it is non-zero is contained in some finite interval.)

Refreshments will be served at 4:00 pm in Seeley Mudd 208.

Friday October 26 3:30-5pm in SMudd 206

Math & Stats Family Weekend Reception

Wednesday October 24 at 4:30pm in SMudd 206

Math colloquium by Christina Frederick, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Title: Aliasing in sampling theory and applications
 Abstract: The area of inverse problems can be thought of as the “Jeopardy!” of mathematical research. Instead of trying to find solutions to complicated equations, the theory of inverse problems attempts to do the opposite: given solutions to equations, what are the equations themselves? Just as many questions have the same answer, it is true that many different equations have the same solution, making inverse problems extremely challenging to solve. In this talk I’ll describe the inverse problem of sampling continuous signals, and how to guarantee a perfect reconstruction by preventing the occurrence of “alias” signals.
Refreshments will be served at 4:00 pm in Seeley Mudd 208.

Tuesday October 23 at 4:30 pm in SMudd 206

Statistics colloquium by Matthew Rattigan, Center for Data Science at UMass

Title: Data Science for Political Campaigns

Abstract: In recent years, presidential campaigns have become increasingly quantitative in nature.  Once dominated by a small group of backroom strategists making gut decisions, modern campaigns have become increasingly reliant on data-backed decision support. Over the past two decades, this "moneyball-ization" of politics has transformed the way campaigns are run and how resources are allocated. In this talk, I will describe my experiences working for the Analytics Department of Obama For America during the 2012 election cycle.  As a digital analyst, I worked alongside political scientists, statisticians, and physicists on problems ranging from social media analytics to quantifying the effects of communications and messaging.  In addition, I'll touch upon some of the privacy issues brought up in the 2016 election cycle.
Refreshments at 4 pm in SM 208.

Saturday September 22

StatFest 2018 at Amherst College

STATFEST 2018 is a one day conference aimed at encouraging undergraduate students from historically underrepresented groups (African American, Hispanic, Native Americans) to consider careers and graduate studies in the statistical and data sciences. It includes presentations from established professionals, academic leaders, and current graduate students that will help attendees understand the opportunities and routes for success in the field. Many opportunities for networking will be created. Attendees are also encouraged to submit poster presentations. Panel forums provide information and tips for a rewarding graduate student experience, achieving success as an academic statistician or data scientist, and opportunities in the private and government arenas, among other topics.

StatFest 2018 will be taking place on Saturday, September 22nd. We are excited that StatFest 2018 will be held at Amherst College. Registration is free (but preregistration is required). More information can be found at:

Thursday September 20 at 4:30pm in Mudd 206

Math Colloquium by Doug Ensley

The MAA Instructional Practices Guide: A Resource for Change

Abstract: The MAA Instructional Practices Guide presents evidence-based
methods for engaging students. Beyond documenting active-learning
classroom strategies, the guide also includes practices for assessment
and course design that support these strategies. This presentation will,
of course, include an overview of the guide, but be sure to bring a
pencil. Throughout the period, we will be putting some of the practices
into, well, practice.

Refreshments at 4 pm in SM 208

Monday September 17 at 4:30pm in Mudd 206

Math Colloquium by Prof Rob Benedetto

The abc Conjecture: An Introduction

Abstract: The abc-conjecture is a straightforward statement about the prime factors of integers ab, and c satisfying the equation a+b=c.  In spite of the simple name, simple equation, and simple statement, the conjecture is an important problem in number theory and is quite difficult. In this talk, we will motivate and state the abc-conjecture.  To help us along, we'll look at the related case of putting polynomials, rather than integers, in the roles of ab, and c.  We'll also present some evidence supporting the conjecture, as well as some of its uses in number theory.
Refreshments will be served at 4:00 pm in Seeley Mudd 208.

Friday September 14 3:00-4:30pm in Ford Hall

Math and Stats Welcome Tea

Searchable calendar of events in the Five College area.