Department of Mathematics Newsletter
This is our second issue. We’d like to include alumni news, but you will have to help us by letting us know what’s up.
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Alan Sharples Retires!
For 32 years, students at New Mexico Tech have been learning Complex Analysis in the “Zed” plane. For 32 years, Applied Analysis tests have been “set”, and office hours “sheduled”. For 32 years, students have been enjoying the accent, and fearing the exams, of Dr. Sharples. This summer, however, was the last semester of full time teaching for Alan. He retired, effective August 4th.
But wait! Who is that Englishman teaching Math 435 this fall? Why, it’s Alan Sharples, who decided that teaching one class gave him an excuse to stay in sunny Socorro, and avoid the infamous Cornish winters. He also says that as an emeritus professor, he feels free to speak his mind, although no one seems to have noticed any hesitancy on this score, before.
Dr. Sharples arrived in the fall of 1968 as the 6th member of the department. He taught applied analysis from the beginning, and worked with several members of the Physics department, the Bureau of Mines, and Engineering. Alan served as Chair of the department from 1974-1985, Chair of the Institute Presidential Search Committee in 1983, and Chair of the Institute Senate.
An accomplished campanologist, enthusiastic camper and hiker, and dedicated gardener, Alan is most easily recognized by his mania for wearing shorts in all weathers. Some of the very few days we saw him wearing long pants were the days he returned from his twice-yearly trips back to England. These were important days, however, as Alan had usually managed a stop at the duty-free shop for a liter of “the malt”.
Alan is also now an emeritus member of the Applied Math group. He will, of course, be spending more time exercising his fingers on the piano and organ, but we expect he will continue to enliven our meetings (at the local pub) and defend his dart championship!
Jay Aden is our visiting Statistician this year, teaching Introduction to Applied Statistics, Probability, and Stochastic Processes. Jay is ABD at UNM, specializing in Probability. In addition, Jay and his wife Jenni are the proud parents of a new boy, Jack. Jay says,” I really enjoy the campus and the students here, and I look forward to hopefully a long relationship with all the students and faculty here at New Mexico Tech. To all the guys at the 1pm basketball gym game, I'll see you on the court.”
Art is covering a wide range of classes for us, from Trigonometry to Calculus to Vector Analysis. Art, a Professor Emeritus from the University of Alaska Anchorage, brings lots of experience and a love for teaching. Besides teaching his classes, Art is helping out by supervising the Trig course. The Bukowskis (Art and Marcia and their two living-at-home daughters Leah and Lacey ) love the Southwest, and we’re glad to have them here in Socorro. In more family news, the Bukowskis have a new grandson, Joseph.
Chris Cotter and Mark Claussen are also teaching for us again this year.
Department Moves to Cramer
The Math Department will be living in temporary quarters on the 2nd floor or Cramer in anticipation of the remodel of Weir Hall. The remodel should be finished by Summer 2002. The new remodel of Weir Hall includes adding two stairwells to meet fire codes, smaller classrooms, and of course our new home which includes support areas such as a help room, computer room, conference room and offices for the entire faculty and grad students. The plans for Weir Hall are going through the final revisions and may be seen at http://www.vhga.net/prcss.html.
The Physical Plant gutted the 2nd Floor of Cramer and created a maze of offices which now house the Math Department, Graduate Office, some of Mechanical Engineering and Vannetta Perry's multi-function office of MST, Science Olympiad, and Science Fair. The move was interesting since the Math department had been firmly planted in Weir Hall for over 30 years. This move prompted the need to clean house and do away with many antiquities that had gathered in every nook and cranny for a few decades. Our move occurred one week before classes started and four days prior to the math placement exam for the semester, which prompted 4 days of intensely long days and a very tired crew.
The departmental office is located in Cramer Hall room 206. Our contact information remains the same for all faculty. Drop by and see our new home in Cramer or visit the old Weir Hall before it closes for remodeling.
Dr. Curt Barefoot, professor of Mathematics, is now also teaching in the Computer Science department. He is teaching their Introduction to CS class, and a Cryptography course. We miss having Curt full-time in the department, but we welcome some closer ties to the CS department.
A team of New Mexico Tech students performed well in the 60th annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition. The competition was held on December 4, 1999. A total of 2,900 students from 431 colleges and universities in the US and Canada participated in the competition. 346 institutions fielded three member teams. Six NMT students participated, and three of these students (Kirk Blazek, Michael Eydenberg, and Kyle Campbell) ranked among the top 500 individual scorers. As a team, NMT ranked 28th out of 346 teams.
The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is an
annual mathematics contest for undergraduate students in the US and
Canada. Students sit for two sessions of three hours each. In each
session the students are challenged by six extremely difficult problems.
A sample problem from the 59th Putnam:
A right circular cone has base of radius 1 and height 3. A cube is inscribed
in the cone so that one face of the cube is contained in the base of the cone.
What is the side-length of the cube?
Calculus, Differential Equations, Basic Concepts, these can all be tough courses. But if you were to ask which class gives students the most trouble, you might well find it to be College Algebra! This course, a critical preparation for Calculus, is a stumbling block for many. To help students succeed in this course, and go on to be successful in Calculus, the department has started a new program of Supplemental Instruction (SI).
In SI, upperclassmen are hired as SI leaders. These leaders sit in on the course, acting as ‘model students’. Then they offer two-hour study sessions outside of class to groups of 4 – 6 students
At Tech, we are trying this out with 2 SI leaders per section, each of whom offer 3 of the two-hour sessions. Every student in the course signs up for a study session, although attendance is not required. At these sessions the students get back their graded homework, and the SI leader can go over any problems that those particular 4 or 5 students had. If they have any questions about the new material, the SI leader can go over it with them, then they can get started on their next homework assignment.
We are trying this out as a three-year pilot program. We hope to improve students’ success in College Algebra, and have them well enough prepared for Calculus that their success in Calc I will be pretty much the same as the success of students who place directly into Calc I. The administration has funded the first year of the pilot, and we expect they will be willing to keep the program going at least long enough to see if it works.
The department tried something new this year, the first “New Mexico Tech Applied Math Problems Workshop”. This was a two-day event in which people from outside the department brought problems to be solved. The problems were presented in a seminar Friday afternoon, then we broke into groups and attacked the problem. The workshop concluded with a wrap-up and presentation of solutions (or progress) Saturday afternoon.
The first presenter was Eric Small from Tech’s Hydrology program. He presented a problem concerning the nonlinear nature of the flow of soil on hill-slopes. Basically, he wanted to determine a field measurable way to check the linear vs. the nonlinear model.
Next, Ron Thomas from Tech’s Electrical Engineering department presented a problem of arcing events in lightning bolts. Power measurements from different stations did not agree, and it was thought that anisotropies in the electric fields might be behind the variation.
During the workshop, we were able to solve Eric’s problem. A write-up of the solution can be found on the department’s web page at
The group working on Ron’s problem wasn’t quite as successful, but they were able to give some useful direction to the experimentalists. Anisotropies didn’t seem to explain the variations, so some new experiments, with known sources, are planned.
We had 21 participants, from 9 different departments. A couple of people said they would be interested in presenting a problem at the next workshop. We were pleased with our first “Problems Workshop” and plan to have another this spring.
New Department Chair
As of July 1st, Dr. Brian Borchers has taken over as Chair of the department. Curt Barefoot served his three year term and is back to full time teaching now, although Curt is now half time in the Computer Science Department (see article above).
Brian Borchers, with Roseanna Neupauer, has A MATLAB Implementation of the Minimum Relative Entropy Method for Linear Inverse Problems, to appear in Computers & Geosciences. He is also working in using inverse methods to detect land mines with Jan M. H. Hendrickx, Bhabani S. Das, and Sung-Ho Hong.
Ivan Avramidi has a book out this year, Heat Kernel and Quantum Gravity, in the Springer Series Lecture Notes in Physics. More information can be found on his web page, http://www.nmt.edu/~iavramid/. In addition, he has a paper with R. Schimming that will appear this year in "Mathematische Nachrichten" and another paper with T. Branson that will appear in a Segal memorial volume. He participated in a couple of international conferences in the UK this summer, and was a plenary speaker at one.
Bert Kerr has a paper with G. Melrose and J. Tweed to appear this year in the International Journal of Fracture, "Stress Intensification Due To An Edge Crack In An Anisotropic Elastic Solid”. He is also continuing his mini-permeameter work with John Wilson of the Hydrology program.
Anwar Hossain is continuing his research with William Zimmer of UNM, and had a couple of papers with him this past year: “Comparisons of Methods of Parameter Estimation for a Pareto Distribution of the First Kind” in Communications in Statistics, and” Least Squares Type Estimators for the General Three Parameter Pareto Distribution”, in. Journal of Statistical Research.
Steve Schaffer is continuing his work on semicoarsening multigrid methods for elliptic partial differential equations with widely varying coefficients. He is also starting to work on the parallel implementation of the 2- and 3-dimensional algorithm with Sue Goudy, a PhD student in the computer science department. He has just returned from a year long sabbatical in Norway where he worked on developing a discrete particle code for modeling cemented granular materials. He is continuing this research with several colleagues in Norway. He is also planning to work in the hopefully not-too-distant future with Dr. Matt Heizler in the Bureau of Mines on modeling aspects in geochronology
Bill Stone continues working with Fred Phillips of the Earth & Environmental Science Department on low-energy cosmic-ray neutron fluxes near the land/atmosphere interface. He is also working with Jan Hendrickx, of Hydrology, on unsaturated water flow, and is starting some work with Dave Raymond, of Physics, on nonlinear balance equations and vorticity potentials.
David Kebler, “Solutions of the Diffusion Equation with One or More Sinks Using the Method of Multiple Scales”. David is now working on his Ph.D. in Math at the University of Utah
Baokun Li, “Projection Dimension and Continuity”. Li will be continuing on for a Ph.D. in Math at New Mexico State.
Timothy Hannan, “Elliptic Curve Public Key Cryptosystems”. Tim is now working on his Ph.D. in Math at New Mexico State.
Julie Luna, “Predicting Student Retention and Academic Success at New Mexico Tech”.
If you have questions, or story ideas for our next issue, or if you need to contact us for any reason, the Mathematics department can be reached at
Department of Mathematics
New Mexico Tech
801 Leroy Place
Socorro NM 87801
Telephone: (505) 835-5393
Fax: (505) 835-5366
(Back issues: Fall 1999)