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Students present research at math conference

March 14, 2011

Each year undergraduate student’s travel from various states throughout the Southwest to participate in the wonderful world of mathematics research. Developing a social network between math students and faculty, and celebrating undergraduate research accomplishments is the goal of SUnMaRC.

Created in 2004 by Glenn Hurlbert, professor of mathematics in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at Arizona State University, the Southwestern Undergraduate Mathematics Research Conference encourages students from all years of study to attend and present their research in math as well as applications to other disciplines. Faculty mentor students on interesting research projects for presentation at the conference. Recently, eight ASU students attended the conference, and three presented their research.

Kari Baker, a math and English linguistics double major, presented on discovering syntactic structure of sentences in tasks including natural language processing for clinical data. Her research was motivated by her work over the past summer with Oregon Health and Science University’s Center for Spoken Language Understanding.

"I have been to SUnMaRC twice before, which opened my eyes to the different research opportunities that are available to undergraduate students," Baker said. "This motivated me to look for and pursue my own research. It also gave me the opportunity to network with undergraduates and professors from other institutions." Baker is a senior and plans to possibly teach English overseas before working on a doctorate in semantics. Her goal is to return to ASU to teach semantics and syntax.

Other presentations included inventory risk mitigation by Ellen Chang, a senior double majoring in math and finance with a minor in economics, and surjective prime numbers by Madieyna Diouf, a sophomore majoring in mathematics with an emphasis in number theory and applied math.

"I had a great time at this year’s conference," Chang said. "I learned a lot from listening to the other presentations and networking with other math students and professors from around the region." Upon graduation in May, Chang will move to St. Paul, Minn., where she has accepted an actuarial analyst position at Travelers Insurance. Diouf, who was inspired to major in math after seeing a Nova documentary on the proof of Fermat’s last theorem, plans to obtain his doctorate degree in order to teach and continue his research.

SUnMaRC 2011 was hosted by Northern Arizona University, March 4-6. Originally the Arizona Mathematics Undergraduate Conference (AMUC), it was renamed the Southwestern Undergraduate Mathematics Research Conference in 2008 and is one of the Mathematical Association of America’s regional undergraduate mathematics conferences funded through the National Science Foundation. It has been attended by undergraduate students from Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, California and Colorado. Students receive full funding to travel and participate in this conference.

For more information on the Southwestern Undergraduate Mathematics Research Conference visit or contact Professor Glenn Hurlbert at

Caleen Canady
School of Mathematical & Statistical Sciences