2008 and Older News and Events

2008 Spring/Summer

The Oregon Invitational Mathematics Tournament (OIMT) is an annual tournament for Oregon high school mathematics students, hosted in rotation by the mathematics departments of Willamette University, Portland State University, the University of Oregon, and Oregon State University. This year, the event is hosted at Willamette University on Saturday, May 17, 2008. Entry is by invitation, primarily based on students' achievement at regional math contests offered around the state by many community colleges and other schools during the spring.


The Willamette Valley Consortium for Mathematics Research (REU-RET) is an 8 week summer research experience for undergraduate math students and teachers of mathematics. REU-RET is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Willamette University, Lewis and Clark College, Linfield College, and the University of Portland. This year’s event is hosted at Willamette University June 16 - August 8, 2008.


2007 Fall - Updated: October 17, 2007

Jessica John, who graduated in 2006 majoring in mathematics and who appeared in the news section often for her superior records at Willamette, was featured in The Oregonian's "A chat with an interesting, influential or innovative voice in Oregon business" on October 16.

Dr. Josh Laison is a new assistant professor at the Math Department. During the previous year, he was a visiting assistant professor at St. Olaf College and published two articles including "My Experiences Researching With Undergraduate Mathematicians: The Collaboration Model." The paper appeared in the AMS’s Proceedings of the Conference on Promoting Undergraduate Research in Mathematics in June and should be particularly interesting to students. Another "Seeing Dots: Visibility of Lattice Points" coauthored with his former student will appear in the October issue of Mathematics Magazine. Welcome to Willamette!

2007 Summer

Professor Peter Otto gave a talk entitled "The Random Cluster Model" in the University of Vermont/Saint Michael's College Combinatorics Seminar on June 27. He also attended a NITLE workshop on Bioinformatics in the  Undergraduate Curriculum at Bates College on July 19-20.

2007 Spring

Apology from site webmaster: This year I have failed to name the proud students who received the mathematics awards and scholarships; I am sorry. Could someone in the department please provide me with the names?

Andrea Carlson, administrative assistant for the math department, was the winner of the campus-wide award, 2006-2007 Classified Employee of the Year. Don’t forget to congratulate her when you visit her and see the nice looking plaque on her desk in Collins Hall 203.

Professor Johnner Barret resigned after four years of teaching at Willamette. He plans to complete his ongoing research project and finish his Ph.D. program at Oregon State University. Good luck!

Professor Peter Otto coauthored an article entitled Multiple Critical Behavior of Probabilistic Limit Theorems in the Neighborhood of a Tricritical Point with Richard S. Ellis of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts and Marius Costeniuc of Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences. It was accepted for publication by the Journal of Statistical Physics and will appear late this year. Congratulations!

Molly Phimister and John Lawrence were the winners of the poster sessions in Professor McNicholas’ Linear Algebra; see 2006 Fall below. They worked on the Fast Fourier Transform and Singular Value Decomposition & Image Processing, respectively. Professors Janeba and Starr were guest judges.

Congratulations are in order for:

  • Math major Greg Henselman won a presidential scholarship to work on his project "Extending the Diagnostic Applications of Graph Representations." Professor McNicholas is his project advisor.
  • Professor Erin McNicholas received an Atkinson grant to write an article on the eigenvalue statistics of genus zero one-face maps.
  • Professor Colin Starr received the Faculty Achievement Award for his superior teaching and professional development.

    Professor Inga Johnson and Professor Colin Starr appeared in the spring issue of the Willamette Scene for receiving a $491,400 grant from the National Science Foundation and providing the REU-RET summer program; see the headline below.

    Professor Inga Johnson and Professor Colin Starr organized REU-RET, an NSF funded summer research program of a grand scale for undergraduate math students and teachers of mathematics. The program that runs from June 18 through August 10, 2007, involves four consortium schools, Willamette University, Lewis & Clark College, Linfield College, and the University of Portland, each of which will host a research team of four undergraduates, one teacher, and two faculty mentors. Each research team will focus on a project from faculty research interests in number theory, geometry, abstract algebra, or computer science, and the four teams will meet on Thursdays for invited speaker presentations, progress discussions, and social activities. For additional information and application forms, visit the program website REU-RET. Contact Professor Johnson or Professor Starr if you have questions.

    Professor Erin McNicholas was invited by the Ohio State University's Applied Mathematics Seminar to give a talk entitled Embedded Tree Structures and Eigenvalue Statistics of Genus Zero, One-Face Maps in January.
    Mathscot Pooka belonging to Professor Emeritus Sam Hall passed away in January. Here is a tribute by Professor Hall: “She was born in December of 1989 and served loyally as the first departmental mathscot for more than 15 years. We hope her caring attitude toward students and her readiness to protect the department against all unwelcome intruders will live on in her successors.” The current mathscots are Dakota and Jack, whose pictures are shown in Math Faculty.

    Like a year ago, this year’s spring semester kicked off with several colloquium talks by visiting scholars. For detail, see Mathematics Colloquium, 2006-2007.
  • 2006 Fall

    Chris Hansen was the winner of the second poster session showing his work on the Eigenvalue Power Method and Internet Searches in Professor McNicholas’ Linear Algebra; see below. Professors Johnson and Starr were once again guest judges.

    When the semester began, Professor Erin McNicholas asked her linear algebra students to make researches into topics which the class would not have time to cover and give poster presentations of their findings twice during the semester. The students carried out the first presentations on October 18 in Collins 306 while Professors Inga Johnson and Colin Starr volunteered to be guest judges. Result? Elizabeth Alford, Anna Greenswag, and Marissa Richards won the unique contest for their poster on Markov Chains. The second poster session will be held on December 8 at 8 am in the same room.

    Professors Inga Johnson and Colin Starr gave a presentation on the Nature of Mathematical Research for the week’s TGIF Faculty Colloquium on October 6 in the Alumni Lounge. They explained to the general audience the nature and some of the major areas of research in mathematics, and discussed the undergraduate research they had directed over the last two summers. Note: The seminars and colloquia scheduled within the Mathematics Department together with their abstracts are now listed in Mathematics Colloquium, 2006-2007.

    The Basic Notions Seminar (see 2004 Fall) has evolved into Mathematics Colloquium, 2006-2007, which comprises a series of talks by the Willamette math department and by visiting scholars. These talks are aimed at faculty and undergraduate math students and will introduce the audience to fun, interesting applications of undergraduate mathematics, as well as more advanced topics in mathematics research. For more information, check out Mathematics Colloquium, 2006-2007, or contact either of the program coordinators, Professors Inga Johnson and Erin McNicholas.

    Kelly Jabbusch, who graduated Willamette in 2000 as one of the top math majors, appeared in the interesting AP/CNN news entitled Some universities shift future professors' focus to teaching.” As seen in the article, Kelly served as lead teaching assistant for the University of Washington’s graduate mathematics program and has received an award for her excellent teaching there.

    2006 Summer

    Paige Cudworth, Travis Dailey and Brad Kehr participated in the Summer Mathematics Undergraduate Research Program, aka SMURP, receiving the summer grants. Professors Inga Johnson and Colin Starr were again (see 2005 Summer) the SMURP directors and provided the students with new projects coming from the Frobenius problem

    Beauty Formula,” a story about Professor Emeritus Junpei Sekino and his fractal/chaos involvements, appeared in the Willamette Scene. The summer issue focused on research and scholarship in the sciences at Willamette.

    2006 Spring

    Professor Junpei Sekino retired after twenty eight years of teaching at Willamette. He will still contribute to the math department as its webmaster/designer, a job that he has enjoyed since January of 2005.

    Professor Inga Johnson won the Faculty Achievement Award for her outstanding accomplishments in research and publications. According to the university’s announcement on April 26, “[Professor Johnson] published an extensive manuscript in the journal Topology and its Applications, and co-authored another paper accepted for publication.” Congratulations!

    Nine math majors, David Bennett, Paige Cudworth, Travis Dailey, Sarah Fairbrook, Jessica Gospe, Steve Lester, Rebecca Moore, Sean Powers and Andrea Walker, won this year’s mathematics scholarships/awards, and were recognized at the university’s Annual Honors and Awards Fair on April 26, 2006. Congratulations! For detail, see Mathematics Awards & Scholarships.

    Professors Inga Johnson and Colin Starr were among the recipients of the Hewlett grant awards announced by President Pelton on April 18. The grant will help them organize and hold the Summer Mathematics Undergraduate Research Program, aka SMURP (not SMURF), for Willamette students over the summers of 2006 and 2007 while working on their larger goal to apply for more permanent funding from NSF. Contact Professor Johnson or Professor Starr if you are interested in this summer’s research program; see earlier SMURP in 2005 Summer below.

    Professor Johnner Barrett was elected as the Mortarboard Professor of the Year for his superior teaching and presented the award during the annual ceremony at the Hallie Ford Museum on April 11. Congratulations! Mortarboard is a honorary association of students selected for distinguished achievement in scholarship and leadership, and the students began voting the Mortarboard Professors in 1982. Professor Barrett is the third person to receive the honor in the mathematics department after Professors Sekino (1983) and Iltis (1985). Incidentally, 1983 was the year in which US News and World Report ranked Willamette as the best of all the small comprehensive universities/colleges in the west of Mississippi River.

    Sarah and Colin Starr are proud parents of Eliana Elizabeth Starr. Congratulations! When Ellie was born at 1:15 pm on March 31, she weighed 6 pounds, 12.8 ounces and was 18.5 inches ‘tall.’ “I can't bring myself to say ‘long’!” Professor Starr said. “Thanks for all of the good wishes -- they worked!”

    In February this year, the team comprising math club members Kyle Evans-Lee, Les Miller, and Peter Olson participated in the international competition, Mathematical Contest in Modeling, sponsored by the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP). It has just been announced that the Willamette team won a Certificate of Achievement designating the team as a successful participant. Way to go! Contact Professor Inga Johnson, who is the Faculty Advisor for the Mathematical Contest in Modeling, if you are interested in entering the contest in February 2007.

    In December 2005, the team comprising math club members Paige Cudworth, Kyle Evans-Lee, and Ben Kaster participated in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition administered by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). According to the recently publicized results, the Willamette team was ranked 118th -- out of about 500 schools competed. Way to go! Contact Professor Colin Starr, who is the Faculty Advisor for the Putnam competition, if you are interested in entering the contest in December this year.

    Dean Carol Long congratulated three faculty members including Professor Inga Johnson for receiving Junior Faculty Sabbatical Awards on March 20. As a result, Professor Johnson will be taking next fall semester off from teaching responsibilities and concentrate on her ongoing research project generalizing recent results in the Steenrod algebra at the prime 2 to the odd primary case. The Steenrod algebra is an important object of study in cohomology and homotopy theory, which are subjects in the area of mathematics called algebraic topology.

    Math Club celebrated p day on March 14 beginning at 1:5926535897932384626433832795028 pm sharp (or flat?). The club treated people in and out of the math hearth with plenty of pies baked by Professor Colin Starr (which were absolutely delicious!) and soft drinks, and held, among other events, a Sudoku competition. Sean Adkinson and Dave Bennet won full and mini , respectively. According to Professor Sekino, means (?!) a number (and logic) game that is better played by singles like Sean and Dave. He says marriage is likely to take something away from logical thinking.

    Professor Inga Johnson attended an NSF conference on Grant Writing held March 13-14. Professors Johnson and Starr, who directed the participating students in the Summer Mathematics Undergraduate Research Program at Willamette last year, hope to submit an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates site grant proposal in the near future.

    Erin McNicholas, who will receive her Ph.D. in June at the University of Arizona, and Dr. Peter Otto, a visiting professor at the Union College, New York, will be the new assistant professors of the math department beginning the fall semester. Erin graduated Willamette in 1997 as a math and physics major and summa cum laude (GPA 4.00). She also won the Chester F. Luther Mathematics Award as shown on the plaque displayed in the math hearth. They will take over the positions vacated by Professor Sekino, who retires in May, and Professor Liz Stanhope, who resigned last summer.

    Professor Junpei Sekino joined Faculty Stories in the Willamette home page. The story introduces his background and accomplishments in art.

    Professor Inga Johnson was invited by the University of Oregon Topology Seminar to give a talk entitled On the degree 2 map for the sphere on March 7.

    This year’s spring semester opened with several colloquium talks by visiting scholars. The titles were:

  • Monotonicity of the Mean-First Passage Time in First-Passage Percolation on February 6,
  • Edit Metric Spaces and DNA on February 3,
  • The Geometry of Surfaces and Space Curves on February 1,
  • Eigenvalue Statistics of Random One-Face Maps on January 30,
  • Party Tips from Topologists ~ Sperner’s Lemma and Envy-Free Cake Cutting on January 27.
  • 2005 Fall

    Craig Webster, one of the top math/physics majors who had appeared in the news section several times and graduated in May, was selected as a finalist for the Rhodes scholarship.

    Professor Emeritus Richard Iltis was invited by Math Club to give a colloquium presentation on the Hat Problem and its Connection to Hamming Codes on November 4.

    Professor James Bernard of the University of Puget Sound was invited by Math Club and gave a colloquium talk entitled Introduction to Bioinformatics on October 28. This was his third visit to Willamette University.

    Professor Junpei Sekino gave a web-based presentation on Fractal Geometry: A Bridge between Art and Mathematics for the week’s TGIF Faculty Colloquium on September 30. He also lectured in the mini-university session entitled Computers, Mathematics, and Fractal Art during the Parents and Family Weekend.

    kehr Professor Mark Janeba taught the mini-university session entitled The Mathematics of the Infinitely Small, a History during the Parents and Family Weekend.

    2005 Summer

    Professors Mark Janeba, Inga Johnson, Steve Prothero and Colin Starr completed a summer project of reforming the calculus courses supported by the university’s Hewlett grant. As a result, Calculus I & II (Math 141-2) have different contents starting this fall semester and Brief Calculus (Math 139) has been dropped.

    Sean Powers, Charles Trevelyan and Craig Webster participated in the Summer Mathematics Undergraduate Research Program (see a headline in 2005 Spring below) receiving the summer grants. Professors Inga Johnson and Colin Starr directed the students with projects coming from the Frobenius problem

    Professor Liz Stanhope resigned and took a position at Lewis and Clark College citing her personal reasons tied to Portland.

    2005 Spring

    Professor Sam Hall retired along with the immensely popular mathscot Pooka. His work at Willamette that began in 1972 includes many years of service as Vice President of Academic Affairs and establishing R. Samuel Hall Scholarship for mathematics students.

    Professor Steve Prothero completed his 40th year as Willamette men's golf coach. His team came in second in the NW Conference of the NCAA-III consisting of eight colleges this spring while his players finished first and second individually. See the related headline in 2004 Spring below.

    Professor Liz Stanhope organized a Summer Mathematics Undergraduate Research Program at Willamette University: The four-week program scheduled June 19 - July 16, 2005, involves research/scholarly work by Willamette math majors matched with faculty mentors and provides a stipend of $1,515 to each full-time participant. Potential research topics may be given in a future Basic Notions Seminar. Professor Sam Hall raised the seed money to launch the first year of this exciting program utilizing the James T. Matthews endowment.

    Nine math majors, Anna-Lisa Breiland, Michael George, Jessica Gospe, Jessica John, Brad Kehr, Steve Lester, Sean Powers, Laura Schick, and Craig Webster, won this year’s mathematics scholarships/awards, and were recognized at the university’s Annual Honors and Awards Fair on April 27, 2005. Congratulations! For detail, see Mathematics Awards & Scholarships.

    Professor Gary Gislason gave a talk on Some Consequences of the Law of Sines in the Basic Notions Seminar on February 16.

    In her colloquium talk entitled Hot Geometry!” addressed to a general audience on February 4, Professor Liz Stanhope explained topological classifications of compact spaces and the Thurston geometrization conjecture “proved” recently by enigmatic Grisha Perelman. What makes the subject hot is the fact that the geometrization conjecture implies the celebrated Poincaré conjecture in topology with a million dollar price tag on it. See an interesting blog on Perelman and the Poincaré conjecture by a Columbia professor.

    Professor Junpei Sekino, who is on sabbatical leave, worked as a referee for manuscript #x-xxxx submitted to the College Mathematics Journal. This was his fifth referee job for MAA journals (the CMJ and American Mathematical Monthly).

    Professor Liz Stanhope had her article Spectral bounds on orbifold isotropy accepted for publication by the journal, Annals of Global Analysis and Geometry. Congratulations!

    Anna-Lisa Breiland, one of the math award winners (see Mathematics Awards & Scholarships), presented a talk entitled p-Coloring Classes of Torus Knots at the AMS-MAA Joint Mathematics Meeting held in Atlanta, GA, on January 8. Way to go! The abstract of her talk can be seen in AMS-MAA-SIAM Special Session on Research in Mathematics by Undergraduates.

    2004 Fall

    Professor Colin Starr gave a talk entitled “Pythagoras Numbers of Polynomial Rings” in the Basic Notions Seminar on November 10.

    Professor Liz Stanhope gave a presentation on “Spectral Geometry and Hearing the Shape of a Drum” in the Basic Notions Seminar on October 13 and November 3.

    Professor Inga Johnson organized a Basic Notions Seminar in which math faculty members introduce each other to some of the basic notions (ideas, questions, tools, techniques,  etc.) in their fields of interest and/or research. The informal seminar meets on selected Wednesdays and some of the topics are accessible to math majors and club members. Keep your eyes open for the announcements of upcoming talks.2004 Summer

    The Mathematics Department hosted the 24th Oregon Invitational Mathematics Tournament on May 22, 2004. Professors Mark Janeba and Steve Prothero were the main driving force behind initiating and implementing the unique format of grouping the contestants and having them work on open-ended problems in various categories.

    2004 Spring

    Professor Steve Prothero celebrated his 42nd year as a math professor and 39th year as the university’s golf coach. His story was featured in a recent issue of the Willamette newspaper, the Collegian; see the article written by Alex Compton.

    Birthday Paradox! During the annual math party for graduating math majors at Professor Janeba’s house in May 2004, it was discovered that among twenty six people attended, a total of three people comprising two professors and a student had the same birthday, February 15. Could this qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records?

    Professor Junpei Sekino’s manuscript entitled n-Ellipses and the Minimum Distance Sum Problem,” which appeared in the American Mathematical Monthly in March 1999 as its lead article, is now quoted in the popular MAA book, Mathematical Treks – From Surreal Numbers to Magic Circles,” by Ivars Peterson.

    At this year’s Student Scholarship Recognition Day, math major Matt Conner presented a talk entitled An Introduction to Graph Theory. The presentation was based on his senior research project focusing on simple graphs that are not planar.

    Jessica John, one of the award winners below, joined Student Stories in the Willamette home page. The story honors her for participating and winning first place in the Association of Women in Mathematics Essay Contest of 2003. Click on 2003 AWM Essay Contest to see her essay involving Professor Liz Stanhope.

    Six math majors, Amanda Alexander, Anna-Lisa Breiland, Jessica John, Nathan Matlock, Sean Powers, and Laura Schick, earned mathematics scholarships/awards, and were recognized at the university’s Annual Honors and Awards Program on April 21, 2004. Congratulations! See Mathematics Awards & Scholarships for detail.

    Willamette Math Club members, John Boyer, Jeffrey Nickerson, and Craig Webster, participated in the international competition, Mathematical Contest in Modeling, sponsored by the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP) in February 2004 and won a Honorable Mention. Way to go!

    Professor Colin Starr published two algebra textbooks co-authoring with Dr. Jill Dumesnil, a mathematics professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. The books, College Algebra: A Field of Dreams and Intermediate Algebra, were published by Fountainhead Press and Scholarship Press, respectively.