Math/Stat student summers

Each summer Mount Holyoke math/stat students are involved in a variety of activities. Over summer 2018, students participated in research, teaching, internships, and summer schools at academic institutions, and in industry, non-profits, and governmental organizations, all across the world. The department is proud of the diversity of interests and everyone’s accomplishments.

A survey was sent asking majors, minors, and members of the math/stat club to let us know about the programs they participated and to pass on any advice to students looking for things to do in future summers. Their responses are recorded below.

If you’d like to have your information added, please submit a response to our survey.

Zakheyah Allen interned with SL Designs in Paris, France, represented Mount Holyoke student-athletes at an NCAA forum, and attended an RTG Topology/Geometry workshop at Notre Dame.

This summer I interned in Paris, France with SL designs that is a Parisan street wear fashion start-up for inner city youth that promotes a holistic wellness life style. During this opportunity, I worked on developing strategic sales and promotional techniques and strategies. Also, I tracked and developed our social media channels. In addition, I got accepted to attend the NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana at the NCAA headquarters. This program allowed me to embark on an opportunity where all athletes of all three divisions gathered together to develop the tools and knowledge of the different channels and pathways in the field of sports. Furthermore, I attended the RTG Topology Geometry Program at Notre Dame University. It was an introductory workshop on the topology geometry field in mathematics that consisted of classroom sessions and problem set sessions.

[I recommend] to really indulge and break in to the opportunity and experience given. Also when networking make sure to continue relationships even if it’s through email, phone to phone conversations, and thank you notes. It can take you a long way. In addition, don’t be afraid to take risk and try new things because it can fuel your curiosity.

Katerina A. Alvarez interned as a data analyst at UNICEF.

Katerina Alvarez

I was a Data Analyst Intern at UNICEF in Geneva, Switzerland within the Market Knowledge Unit and Private Fundraising and Partnerships (PFP) Division. I organized data and survey research for a new UNICEF Barometer study on 40 countries, which addresses strategies to drive fundraising and brand equity in each global market. Then, I created PowerPoint presentations for all 40 countries and participated in 10 final presentations with country offices through Skype webinar. I was also in charge of working with an agency to design the template for a new dashboard platform where country offices could access all hard data and final presentations online. Outside of my main role developing the Barometer study and Dashboard platform, I launched a unique presentation to the Market Knowledge Unit regarding UNICEF’s brand new youth coalition addressing the question, “How can the private sector contribute to the Youth Agenda?” I highlighted opportunities for growth with youth by youth because young people are the driving force for positive social change and must be seen as leaders and co-creators.

I found this incredible opportunity by reaching out to our MHC alumna network. Please do not hesitate to use your network wisely. People want to help people. Remember the worst any one can ever say is, “no.” And I promise the answer will almost always be “yes!” I am happy to connect students with the UNICEF Market Knowledge Unit in Geneva, Switzerland. The unit is looking for students studying statistics, data science, and passionate in making a positive impact.

Rachel Bostick worked in a biostatistics research lab at University of Washington.

This summer, I worked with Dr. Bruce Weir in a statistical genetics lab at University of Washington. We performed an investigation of the inbreeding coefficient using data from the 1,000 Genomes Project. My work this summer is directly related to the work I would like to pursue in graduate school. From this summer, I learned a deeper appreciation of the significance of statisticians in genetics research and the impact we can have on healthcare overall with our work in coalition with geneticists and doctors from around the world.

Maya Brody attended San Diego State University math REU.

Maya Brody

This summer I participated in an REU at San Diego State University. I am a math major with a data science nexus, and the goal of our research project was to implement an algorithm for kernelized LASSO regression in R. I learned a lot about machine learning, and my coding abilities have greatly improved.

Helen Campbell worked in Kathryn McMenimen’s biochemistry lab at Mount Holyoke.

I worked in a biochemistry lab at Mount Holyoke researching small heat shock proteins. This research helped with my chemistry major. It helped me to get ideas about the type of research I might be interested in for graduate school. I would recommend taking general chemistry and some organic chemistry before joining the lab.

Maria Maria Castillo worked with Breakthrough New York as a math teaching fellow.

If you want to be a teacher this is a great program. It does not pay a lot but it’s amazing.

Emily Castner participated in a few programs below. Emily graduated in May 2018 but was still able to participate in a number of activities before going on to graduate school in the fall.

Open to undergrads or grads: Connecticut Number Theory Summer School and Conference as participant (didn’t have all the requirements but was still useful even though I was confused a lot),

Aimed at undergrads but open to graduating seniors: counselor at Duke University Summer Workshop in Mathematics for rising high school senior women (we ended up doing a lot more organization than I thought, but I also befriended the PhD students who were teaching the classes),

Counselor at Epsilon Camp for 7-11 year old mathematicians (pays well and the kids are adorable and need us to help give them a childhood and explore higher math, counselor group still stays in touch, professors are incredible)

Advice: If you want to do something and it doesn’t explicitly say it’s closed to graduating seniors, email and ask! Maybe having a program every other week is a little too exhausting, but it was worth it even just to get half my travel paid for visiting friends in between, let alone the mathematical connections

Ruixin Chen did summer research in a medical lab.

I did a summer research about Proteomics in a lab. It’s basically a new medical area [that is] interdisciplinary in bio and maths. They welcome applied mathematicians and data scientists to do the latter part of the whole study. The work is basically about analyzing the data from the mass spectrometry and build libraries.

Xinyi Cheng did research in financial math with a professor at UMass.

The aim of the project is to build a model that predicts stock price on a daily basis using Multiple Linear Regression. I am a math major with a potential double major in Computer Science. This summer experience is really valuable to me as it allows me to utilize my knowledge in both fields and solve the problem in the financial markets. After researching in an academic setting for the first time, I see the possibility of further studying fields related to Applied Mathematics, such as Financial Mathematics or Financial Engineering, during my graduate years.

I heard about this program through an upper class student in a meeting held by Women in Business club. One of the advice I would like to give to future applicants is to attend different career-related presentations, hear what other people did during summer, and connect with them. Thus, one can have a better idea about what she wants to do and what she really likes. As part of the program, I concluded all the research work into a well-organized paper. If anyone is interested, I would love to share it.

Abena Danso-Manu interned at MasterCard.

I was a Product Management Intern at MasterCard in their Digital Payment Lab in New York. My main project this summer was to develop an operational model with historical data and incorporate various simulations to help the team understand the relative impact of various initiatives on their service and support processes. Another project was to analyze service request data to highlight inconsistencies in post-release system defects tracked across multiple systems by the different teams that work on the product. I also had few administrative tasks like data entry and operational process mapping.

They had a job post on LyonNet [now Handshake, and] they usually start to recruit late fall/early spring. The job posts on LyonNet just list the various departments looking for interns but not the description of the roles. There are so many different roles in each department so talk to the recruiters so they know your interests and can place you better.

Spencer Daugherty attended the Muhlenberg College math REU.

Spencer Daugherty

This summer I was part of the cohort at the Muhlenberg College REU: Research Challenges of Identifying Integer Sequences Using the OEIS. My first project investigated the nimbers of Node-Kayles played on various families of graphs. This project lead to multiple new sequences published on the OEIS and a paper for future publication. My other project focused on different concepts of efficiency in graph domination. The program was a very positive research experience, and I now feel much more prepared to pursue a graduate degree.

Advice: consider which projects you request within your REU very carefully!

Qiran Dong attended the Combinatorics and Algorithms for Real Problems REU at University of Maryland.

Our project is about Hadwiger-Nelson problem, or as some people would call it, the chromatic number of the plane problem. We consider the \(\mathbb R^2\) plane as an infinite graph where every point on the plane is a vertex, and every 2 vertices that are 1 unit apart are joined by an edge. The task is to find the chromatic number of this infinite graph, which is either 5, 6, or 7. We have both computer science approach and theoretical approach. For the computer science approach, we wrote a program that discretizes a finite square and used SAT solver and simulated annealing to generate proper colorings. On the theoretical side, we used probabilistic methods and developed a theorem that basically says any \(k+1\) coloring with countably many bad (i.e. monochromatic) edges would imply a proper \(k\) coloring.

I met a lot of interesting people from other colleges and some very smart high school kids, and picked up a lot of useful research skills. It is hard to do a pure Maths research, and harder to live with the mood when you can’t make anything work for weeks or knowing that all your efforts could be futile even when you find a possible construction. Otherwise this was definitely a splendid experience. We had good housing, great food, and fun activities with a lot of Maths lovers. The pay was great as well.

Advice: Most projects offered in this REU are heavily CS related. My group worked on one of the few pure Maths project and even so, our mentor suggested that we used a coding approach at first. The other (2 if I remembered correctly) pure Maths projects were about Ramsey theory. The mentors are not familiar with fields outside Combinatorics (Ramsey theory to be specific) and Computer Science (such as Algorithms).

Jessica (Ziyan) Feng interned at Goldman Sachs.

I interned at Goldman Sachs Securities (Sales &Trading) Division as a strats. Strats is a role similar to other firm’s “quant” where I used both mathematical and coding skills to solve finance related problems.

Nanako Honda did an independent study with Margaret Robinson about p-adic numbers and cryptography.

Ashley Jimenez attended the St. Mary’s College of Maryland math REU.

Ashley Jimenez

The program lasted for seven weeks, from June 11-July 28, and was offered to twelve early-career undergraduate students from all over the country. There were four groups in total, two groups with four students and two groups with two students, and each group focused on a different research topic. My group focused on the mathematical approaches to climate modelling and we came across several findings. We worked with energy balance models (EBMs), analyzed zero-dimensional EBMs, investigated one-dimensional EBMS, found Earth’s equilibrium temperature, introduced parameters to existing climate models, and compared Earth to Europa, which is one of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons. Furthermore, during the seven weeks, we got exposure to higher level mathematic courses, such as ordinary differential equations, linear algebra, introduction to proofs, and abstract algebra - every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 9AM-12PM. Not only did this information provide insight on the courses I will be taking over the next three years at Mount Holyoke College, learning the basics of these higher level math classes assisted in the equations me and my group were working with. Overall, this was an amazing experience and I learned an abundant amount of information that I would have never thought I would have been exposed to after my first year of college.

This research experience was an experience that I will never forget. When applying to this REU , it is important that the student is passionate about mathematics because the essay to apply, which was “Why do you want to work on solving unsolved math problems for the next seven weeks?”, was just as important as the transcript. I encourage any first or second year students to apply to this program, due to the fact that this is one of the few REUs who cater solely towards early-career undergraduate students. The staff was extremely caring and they did their best to make the research experience memorable. Overall, the REU led me to think beyond the surface of certain topics and I now feel like I can conquer any challenge that comes my way, considering the research that I was working on led to me to think outside of the box.

Amelia Johnson attended the Summer Institute of Biostatistics at North Carolina State University and Duke University.

I am a junior and a math major interested in going into statistics after graduating. This summer I attended the Summer Institute of Biostatistics at North Carolina State University and Duke University. I learned about what biostatisticians do and about new statistical analysis methods and study designs that are specific to problems surrounding public health and clinical trials. In my final project I used survival analysis to do a subsequent analysis on a widely used post-myocardial infarction anticoagulant (medication given after a heart attack) to look at the long term affects of the drug on adverse events like heart attack or death, since the original study was looking only at a short term outcome. I used R and became much more comfortable with it, and also learned a new language called SAS. There were 19 others in the program and we got to go the beach together, do a ballroom dancing class, get southern barbecue, and do other fun activities!

There were many panels and discussions about the field of biostatistics, so if you are thinking about applying math or statistics to medicine or public health, this is a great way to gain more information. Also, if you’re thinking about graduate school in statistics or biostatistics, this program is really well known and looks good on an application.

Gabrielle Kerbel worked on a research project at Swarthmore College.

I spent this summer working on a 10-week long research project with a small group at Swarthmore College. Our focus was on working with splines, and I chose a project with the goal of finding minimal spanning sets of splines on various graphs given edges labeled with ideals of non-commutative rings. I am a math major specifically interested in studying pure math, so this gave me great insight into how research is conducted in this area.

I secured this internship/research opportunity by sending an email to the chairs of the math departments of a number of small liberal arts colleges and asking if there were any spots available for a student to do research with a professor in the department. For any student who is interested in doing the same, my best advice would be to look broadly (unless there is a professor with whom the student wants to work on a specific research topic, in which case it would be best to contact that person directly). In my case, I sent emails to nearly a dozen different schools before hearing back and finding an opportunity that fit my interests. The more a student can reach out and ask for opportunities, the more likely it is that they will find something that suits them.

Julian Laferrera attended the Brown University math TEU.

Julian Laferrera

I participated in Teaching Experiences for Undergraduates (TEU) at Brown University. 11 TEUs took a 60 hour math methods class and taught local Providence high school students math. We designed our own project-based curriculum, and had a lot of freedom to choose what we wanted to teach. Some people taught about Konigsburg Bridge Problem, Fibonacci, mathematical puzzles, or other fun math topics that aren’t explored as deeply in school.

This program is not just for education majors, in fact most people were not! This program is good for anyone who likes to think creatively about math and work in a team. If you are thinking about doing Teach for America or similar programs, this also would be a good opportunity.

Ziyu Liu participated in the Muhlenberg College math REU.

I participated in Muhlenberg College REU this summer, working on two research projects —“Sums of Two Polygonal Numbers” and “Decomposition of integers”. “Sums of Polygonal Numbers” was aimed at finding the characterization of ring \(Z_n\) such that all the elements in \(Z_n\) can be written as a sum of two polygonal numbers; “Decomposition of integers” was related to a problem created by John Conway and focused on integer partitions. At the end of the program, we published several sequences on On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences(OEIS) and wrote papers for future publication. Besides this, we also attended a graduate school workshop in Rutgers and a conference about combinatorial analysis at Penn State University.

I appreciated the opportunity of attending this REU program. It helped me familiarize the research process and deepen my understanding of pure mathematics (specifically number theory). I realized that I did enjoy doing research on pure mathematics, and I would like to attend a graduate school in the future.

Advice: Apply for as many REUs as you can, and try to finish your applications before the spring semester begins. I knew I would like to do research on pure mathematics, so I applied for all the pure mathematics REU program I was interested in. I started writing my PS in January, but procrastinated until the deadlines of each program. It was awful since my workload was heavy and it messed up everything. Don’t procrastinate. If you can finish them during winter break, believe me, it will make your life much easier!!!

Laura Perry

Laura Perry worked as a supervisor on the management team at CVS.

Zhaoqi Ren attended the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics summer program.

Just come !!!!!!

Maddy Ritter was a counselor at MathPath, a summer camp for middle-school-aged kids who love math.

[I was a ] counselor at MathPath!!! I learned a lot of math and got to meet some brilliant kids from ages 11-14. It can be intense and challenging. If you love kids and don’t mind feeling like the least knowledgeable person in the room, it’s a great experience. I had the most wonderful summer working here. I look forward to going back.

Annie Schenck attended the Hobart and William Smith Colleges math REU. Annie and her research partner, Levi Lorenzo from Hamilton College, got the chance to present their work at MathFest where they won an outstanding presentation award for their work.

Annie Schenck

The project was in number theory and dealt with dynamically generated sequences. Specifically, we considered the orbit of zero of polynomials with rational coefficients; this sequence is found by iterating a function about zero. We tried to determine which properties made it so that a term in the sequence was divisible by its index (for example, when the third term was divisible by three). Getting the chance to work with mathematics outside of the controlled setting of a textbook or classroom helped me see what real mathematics is like and has helped me decide whether or not I would like to pursue mathematics in graduate school.

Make sure to go over your application materials with professors before the submission deadline. It is always helpful to receive feedback on your written work. Also, do not be afraid to apply for projects in which you have no background. An REU can be a great way to learn about a subject you have not had exposure to in an undergraduate course.

Nikkole Spencer worked in Audrey St. John’s robotics lab in the computer science department at Mount Holyoke. Nikkole carefully documented her work over the course of the summer and posted it here.

I did a lynk funded internship under Prof. St. John this summer with a group of mhc researchers. Together we created a multi robotics system. Specifically, I researched the math within multi robotics, meaning I studied theories like rigidity theory, and persistence theory. It was mostly graph theory related questions, and my task was to help create robot formations, reach conjectures if possible, study theorems. The math in multi-robotics systems is mostly in the theory behind it.

Try out lots of things! Quite honestly I didn’t think I’d like anything related to robotics, but it gave me a new perspective on a subject I wasn’t previously interested in. Also! If you’re interested in research, make sure to try a few research experiences before you get out of undergrad so you can see if that’s the right career path for you.

Huong Thu Tran worked as an English translator and interpreter in Vietnam, and also volunteered at VietAbroader, a non-profit organization.

This summer, I worked part time at an English center founded by two Australian teachers. They do not speak Vietnamese, so I worked as a translator and interpreter for them. I also managed the center’s social media, used Microsoft Office and Power Point to do PR for the center and update the process of the center, and answered the phone calls of people interested in English programs at the center. Besides that, I also volunteered as the school representative at the school fair of VietAbroader Study Abroad Conference 2018, the non-profit organization founded by a group of students from Ivy League, whose aim is to equip high school students who want to study abroad in the USA the essential skills and things about application process such as standardized tests and extra curricular activities, etc.

Elianna Viggiani interned at Olympic National Park.

This summer, I worked with the Elwha Tribe Natural Resources and Olympic National Park on the Elwha River Restoration. I mostly worked with the revegetation crew, managing invasive species and working in the nursery. I also had the chance to work with fish biologists on a pacific lamprey study and doing fish surveys. This internship was extremely rewarding, and I couldn’t have asked for better co-workers and mentors. This summer has made me realize how much I value and enjoy working outside and on meaningful projects.

This is an amazing opportunity but requires a significant amount of physical labor. For example, a typical day could be hiking with a 3 gallon herbicide pack for 8 miles over 10 hours. Be prepared to do this type of work!

Serena Wang attended the Summer Internship in Biostatistics at UMass.

I did a research with Professor Leontine Alkema at Umass Amherst. We worked on a model about stillbirth rate which was previously published by other researchers. We studied the paper at first and then tried to reproduce the results in a Bayesian model. Moreover, my teammates and I also worked on adding Time Series and Bayesian model validation. We did several presentations about our work in weekly lab meetings and a gathering event at Amherst College this summer. In the end, we successfully converted the original regression model to a Bayesian model which will assist our professor in her future work. During this project, I applied my coding skills, machine learning skills and model building skills that I learned from Mount Holyoke. This internship opportunity makes me realize my interests in Statistics and Computer Science. It also shapes my future career goals in the tech industry.

This internship is a great opportunity to explore Biostat. Although it is a stat program, it requires lots of coding skills. It would be better if you can take some computer science classes before this research. Moreover, if possible, it would be great if you gain some experience with working with Version Control such as Github. Reflecting back to my research, I noticed that using R in my previous Stat/Math classes really helps me build a nice foundation for my researching skills.