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Mathematics at the 2009 National SACNAS Conference

The 2009 National Conference of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) was held in Dallas, Texas, October 15-18. The theme was Improving the Human Condition: Challenges for Interdisciplinary Science. The conference featured keynote speakers, sessions and symposia, awards, undergraduate poster presentations, graduate oral presentations, mentoring, and social events--and mathematics was a significant component of the program.


The American Mathematical Society (AMS) was among the conference session sponsors and was among the over 200 exhibitors--institutes, colleges, universities, associations, hospitals, government agencies--that provided information about educational programs and career opportunities in the sciences. Generous support from the National Security Agency (NSA) allowed many math students to attend the conference.


The CONVERSATIONS WITH SCIENTISTS - MATHEMATICS SECTION on Thursday evening drew about 100 students and mentors (left and below). Both undergraduates and graduates from colleges and universities around the country gathered to discuss mathematics, courses, graduate programs and careers in the mathematical sciences. There was a mentor at each table to answer questions and guide the discussions.




The Who Wants to Be a Mathematician game was again a popular event. Nearly 1,000 attended the breakfast to see six undergraduates compete for prizes. Cory Colbert of Virginia Commonwealth University won US$2000 from the AMS and a TI-Nspire graphing calculator from Texas Instruments. Pictured above are Cynthia Wood, University of California, San Diego, second-place winner; Cory Colbert, Grand Prize winner; and Mike Breen, game emcee and AMS Public Awareness Officer.


Many of the mathematics undergraduate students took the qualifying test for the game at the Conversations With Scientists gathering the prior evening.


one of the math poster aisles

The student poster presentations were a highlight of the conference. See the list of mathematics posters, presenters and photos. The following students received awards for mathematics posters:

  • Cory Colbert, Virginia Commonwealth University, won an Undergraduate Poster Presentation award sponsored by DuPont, for "INVESTIGATION OF THE LOEWNER TRACE"
  • Laura Strube, University of Texas at Tyler, won an Undergraduate Poster Presentation award sponsored by DuPont, for "MINIMAL SURFACES IN FOUR DIMENSIONAL EUCLIDEAN SPACE"
  • Andreea Erciulescu, Colorado State University, won an Undergraduate Poster Presentation award sponsored by NSF Mathematical Sciences Institutes, for "SOLVING KAKURO PUZZLES"
  • Don Tadaya, Arizona State University, won an Undergraduate Poster Presentation award sponsored by the Sandia National Laboratories, for "THE DYNAMICS OF A SPATIAL CYCLIC COMPETITIONS SYSTEM"

Many of the mathematicians at the conference served as mentors and poster judges at the 2009 National SACNAS Conference, and several are part of the SACNAS Biography Project.

The AMS gave each student poster presenter a bag with Riot at the Calc Exam and Other Mathematically Bent Stories, by Colin Adams, and some small gifts in appreciation of their work.


  • Sarah Mena, Clemson University, won a Graduate Oral Symposia awards sponsored by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), for "SULFUR-IODINE CYCLE: PHASE EQUILIBRIUM DATA FOR THE TERNARY IODINE-WATER-HI AND THE BINARY IODINE-WATER SYSTEMS"
  • Juliet Portillo, San Francisco State University, won a Graduate Oral Symposia award sponsored by the NSF Mathematical Sciences Institutes, for "EXPLORING DNA UNKNOTTING BY TYPE II TOPOISOMERASES: A STUDY OF WRITHE"
at the AMS exhibit booth

The AMS EXHIBIT drew undergraduate and graduate students, mathematicians, and teachers. AMS Public Awareness Officers Mike Breen and Annette Emerson answered questions about the Society's programs and services, graduate school programs and careers in mathematics.

The AMS provided visitors with materials including:

MATHEMATICS SESSIONS and EVENTS on the program included:

* Keynote Address by Juan Meza, Department Head and Senior Scientist, High Performance Computing Research, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in the "Insights to Success: Real Life Adventures of SACNAS Scientists" session
* Math Institute Modern Mathematics Workshop (Ricardo Cortez, Tulane University, and Cheri Shakiban, University of St. Thomas, chairs)
* Math Mini-Course: An Introduction to Wavelets and Their Applications in Digital Imaging (Ricardo Cortez, Tulane University, and Herbert Medina, Loyola Marymount University, chairs)
* Mathematics of the New Generation (Erika Camacho, Arizona State University and Stephen Wirkus, Arizona State Unvierrsity, chairs)
* Who Wants to Be a Mathematician game (Mike Breen, AMS, and William Butterworth, Paul University, chairs)
* Conversations with Scientists (Mathematics, Neuroscience, and Mathematics/Science Education: Julia Aguirre, University of Washington, Tacoma, and Ricardo Cortez, Tulane University, chairs; Statistics: Javier Rojo, Rice University, chair)
* Statistics in Genetics, Materials Research, and the Environment (Keith Crank, American Statistical Association, chair)
* An Abstract Look at Algebra (Stephen Wirkus, Arizona State University, chair)
* Math Gaps and Pipelines: Does Addressing Equity Mean Something More in Mathematics Education? (Julia Aguirre, University of Washington, Tacoma, and Rochelle Gutierrez, University of Illinois at Urabana-Champaign, chairs)
* The Impact of Mathematics and Statistics on the Human Condition and Potential (Javier Rojo, Rice University, chair)
* Mathematics is More Than Counting (Ricardo Cortez, Tulane Univesity, and Angela Gallegos, Occidental College, chairs)
* Multidiscilinary Mathematics Addressing Everyday Life (Ricardo Cortez,Tulane University, chair; sponsored by the AMS)

MORE PHOTOS from the 2009 National SACNAS Conference


Anastasia Chavez, of San Francisco State University, is a member of the graduate math club, the Mathematistas.

Velez SACNAS poster presenter

The AMS apprecIates all the mathematicians who organized the mathematics sessions, gave talks, served as mentors, and judged posters at the 2009 National SACNAS Conference.

Read Highlights of the 2008 SACNAS National Conference.

--- Annette Emerson, AMS Public Awareness Officer