[Photo: Max Luetkemeier, Nathan Nieman, Dr. Justin Lambright, and Greg Clarkson in front of the Mathematics Building at BYU.]
The Undergraduate Research Group in Mathematics was formed last fall in the Department of Mathematics through a grant from the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics (CURM). Through this grant, students received a paid stipend to work on original research in mathematics. The group meets weekly with faculty advisors Dr. Justin Lambright and Dr. Courtney Taylor. During these meetings, students discuss what they have learned, ask questions, and receive direction for further work.
One of the stipulations of the grant was that students attend and give a 15 minute research talk at the annual CURM spring mathematics conference. Participants from AU were among a total of 42 students from around the country. "It was a little stressful in the preparation, but it proved to be very rewarding to share the results of all of my work," said student Nathan Niemen. "I was very happy with how the conference worked out, we got to hear what other students and professors were working on."
Lambright also traveled to Utah and was pleased with the students’ presentations. "Our students did an excellent job representing themselves and Anderson University not only by effectively presenting their research, but also through their attitudes and engagement in the conference as a whole," said Lambright. "Several faculty from other schools gave very positive feedback on their talks."
AU students Greg Clarkson, Max Luetkemeier, and Nieman started their spring break with a trip to Provo, Utah, to present their discoveries concerning a mathematical object known as the quantum polynomial ring. They also participated in a friendly competition of Mathematics Jeopardy, learned about graduate school options through a panel discussion, and conversed with students from other universities at a banquet. "The conference was a great opportunity to make connections with individuals at other institutions and to find out more about research and career options," said Nieman.
The students’ topic of research concerning the quantum polynomial ring originated from Lambright’s Ph.D. dissertation. It relies on the fact that a certain type of algebraic object called a polynomial possesses only nonnegative numbers in front of the variables. "When these numbers appear, and only these appear, it is quite surprising and suggests that their presence is not accidental," said Lambright. "Their appearance is counting something." The polynomials being studied by the students are algebraic, but count features in another area of mathematics known as graph theory.
Each of the students has studied different but closely related problems within this context to more fully understand the polynomials of interest. This has allowed them to experience firsthand how collaboration in a research setting works toward a common goal.
The Undergraduate Research Group in Mathematics plans to continue their research throughout the rest of the spring semester. The group will present additional discoveries in poster format at AU Scholars’ Day later in the spring.
Anderson University is a private Christian university in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.), Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.