Category: Academics

Mathematical Sciences Department Students Taking Research to the Next Level

The Mathematical Sciences (MS) Department proudly announces that Aili Toyli and Sean Phelan have been selected for the Undergraduate Research Internship Program (URIP)*. Toyli and Phelan will spend the academic year working on individual research projects under the guidance of a Michigan Tech faculty mentor.

Additionally, Sean Phelan was awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)**. Research is conducted over the summer semester.

Both SURF and URIP are high-caliber undergraduate research opportunities that create a unique collaboration with professors and hone a student’s skills to distinguish themselves. 

Phelan’s SURF project title is, “Discovering Genetic Markers for Alzheimer’s Disease Using Genome-Wide Association and Rare Variant Association for Risk Prediction.” He is a dual major in Statistics and Mathematics–Business Analytics, under the advisory of Weihua Zhou—Applied Computing. We conducted an email exchange to find out more about Sean.

MS: What do you hope to do with your degree?

SP: “Work as a data scientist where I draw insights from large company data sets. I am interested in the operations and supply chain side of business where I can optimize the flow of resources.”

MS:  What piqued your interest in doing research?

SP: “I want to apply my statistical knowledge from MTU to real-world data and explore the world of deep learning. Research at the MTU bioinformatics lab is a perfect fit, where I learn about medical deep-learning models and develop statistical risk scores. My research also draws from an elective science course I took, Intro to Biotechnology with Dr. Busov.”

MS:  What do you enjoy most about the research you do?

PS: “Learning about new measures and models that I can apply in the future and keeping on top of cutting-edge machine learning methods are important for a budding data scientist.”

MS: What do you like to do outside of school?

PS: “I like to camp and backpack while exploring the outdoors. I also mountain bike and snowboard depending on the season.”

MS:  Why did you choose to study here at Michigan Tech?

SP: “I like the UP, I received a solid scholarship, and the math program is great.”

MS:  What do you like the most about Michigan Tech?

SP: “It’s a double-edged sword, but I like being in the middle of nowhere—so much outdoors and the air is so fresh. Also, the small-town energy here is very safe and friendly, which is much nicer than a large city like New York.”

Toyli is pursuing a B.S. in Statistics—under the advisory of Qiuying Sha— that she anticipates will open the door to a graduate degree in biostatistics, and a career as a statistical consultant for medical research. She has always been interested in both medical sciences and statistics, and knew she wanted to be in research. We asked Aili a bit about herself.

MS: What piqued your interest in research?

AT: “I attended the undergraduate research forum last fall and reached out to Dr. Zhou because I was intrigued by his work.”

MS: What do you enjoy most about research?

AT: “I enjoy applying what I’ve learned in class to real-world problems. I’m excited to contribute to research that could lead to improvements in medical treatments.”

MS: What have you learned most about yourself by doing research?

AT: “I’ve learned about my ability to learn independently. Research topics can seem daunting at first, but I’ve learned to create a plan and tackle it one step at a time.”

MS: What do you like to do outside of school?

AT: “I love to spend time with friends and family, especially outside. I enjoy hiking, skiing, and spending time on the lake!”

MS: Why did you choose to study here at Michigan Tech?

AT: “I chose to come to Michigan Tech because I really love both the area and the school’s STEM focus.”

MS: What do you like the most about Michigan Tech?

AT: “The people I’ve met are my favorite part of Michigan Tech. I’ve made so many wonderful friends!”

Selfie photograph of Alil Toyli on the Keweenaw Peninsula winter ski trails
Aili Toyli out on the Keweenaw Trails

We, in the Mathematical Science’s Department, applaud our student’s success! Congratulations Aili and Sean!

*The URIP is open to all Tech undergraduates interested in joining a research project under the guidance of a Michigan Tech faculty mentor during the regular academic year (September-March). Student researchers showcase their findings at Michigan Tech’s annual Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Symposium, national conferences, and contribute to peer-reviewed journal articles graduation.

**SURFs are open to all Michigan Tech undergraduates who have at least one semester remaining after the summer term. Fellowship recipients conduct a research project under the guidance of a Michigan Tech faculty mentor, during the summer semester. SURF Fellowship recipients are required to:

About the Mathematical Sciences Department

Mathematicians at Michigan Technological University conduct research and guide students, applying concepts to fields like business, engineering, healthcare, and government. The Mathematical Sciences Department offers undergraduate and graduate programs with degrees in mathematical sciences, applied statistics, and statistics. Students supercharge their math skills at Michigan’s premier technological university. They graduate prepared for successful careers in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business environment.

Questions? Contact us at Follow us on Facebook or read the Mathematical Sciences news blog for the latest happenings.

CTL Instructional Presentation Series: Cécile Piret, 2018 Innovative and Out of Class Teaching Award Recipient

Cecile PiretIn the second presentation of our fall award series, Cécile Piret (Math), will discuss her use of 3-D printing techniques to visualize multivariable functions in teaching Calculus 3, titled “3-D Printing for Mathematics Education.” Her innovative approach has illustrated mathematical concepts that can be studied in unique and practical ways and was recognized as part of the Dean’s Teaching Showcase. Piret will present from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11.

Formal recognition of this award for Innovative and Out of Class Teaching will follow her presentation. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how you might innovate your own teaching and recognize Cécile’s success. Coffee and light refreshments will be provided to those who register by Monday, Oct 8.



A book co-authored by Don Kreher, titled “Graphs, Algorithms, and Optimization,” Second Edition, has been selected for review by Choice, a journal for librarians. Only three books from the publisher’s entire mathematics and statistics portfolio have been chosen for review this year.

In January, Choice will select their Book of the Year from the books reviewed. The review of Kreher’s book, co-authored by William Kocay of the University of Manitoba, places it in nomination.

Beth Reed Named Distinguished Teacher

1495653731Beth Reed, a senior lecturer in the Mathematical Sciences Department of Michigan Technological University, is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award in the Assistant Professor/Lecturer/Professor of Practice category.

Reed, who is also assistant to the department chair, has been teaching mathematical sciences at Tech since 1985 and has been recognized at the departmental level multiple times for both her teaching and her service. This year she was named to the Deans’ Teaching Showcase.

Reed began her academic career in forestry, earning a master’s in forest biometrics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1982. She joined Michigan Tech’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science in January of 1983 as a research associate working on four different research projects before moving to the Department of Mathematical Sciences in 1985.

Reed says the secret to her success lies, in part, in her effort to “personalize” her classroom. Though many of her classes have almost 60 students, she learns every student’s name.

“I expect and actually get interaction from almost everyone. It really helps that I can call on each person by name. and if they don’t know the answer, I can turn to their neighbor and ask them to help out.”

Read the full story.

Michigan Tech to Host UP Math Championships

Math09232013019Michigan Tech’s Department of Mathematical Sciences is hosting the UP Math Championships from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (April 15) in Fisher Hall. Students in grades 3 -12 from throughout the UP have been invited to participate.

Students will compete as individuals and in teams of four. High school students will be competing for 10 scholarships to Michigan Tech. The competition includes an individual test, a team test and a “GUTS” test in which teams race to complete as many problems as they can.

Prizes, in addition to scholarships, include laser tags, Texas Instruments calculators and 3-D printed trophies.

Sponsors, in addition to Tech’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, include OHM Advisors, GS Engineering, Respawn Laser Tag, Texas Instruments and Art of Problem Solving.

Math Students Present at Undergrad Research Symposium

imedImageThe Undergraduate Research Symposium highlights the amazing cutting-edge research being conducted on Michigan Tech’s campus by some of our best and brightest undergraduate students.

The students showcasing their work today have spent a significant portion of the past year working alongside Michigan Tech faculty and graduate students to explore, discover and create new knowledge. They’ve spent long hours in the lab or out in the field designing experiments, gathering data, creating new models and testing hypotheses. They’ve applied their classroom knowledge in new and sometimes unexpected ways, and developed new skills that will propel them forward in their careers.

Anthony Marcich – Applied and Computational Mathematics

Title: Preliminary Work for Autochrome Photograph Reconstruction: Scanning and Processing Design
Advisor: Dr. Cecile Piret
Overview: Marcich goal is to use Radial Basis Functions methods (RBF) to construct smooth and accurate images from scans of these photographs. Their investigation of RBF requires processing scanned photos into nodes. They then described the initial scanning and processing work necessary to obtain these nodes.

E. Yasmine Walton-Durst – Mathematics

Title: Rayleigh–Bénard Convection in Michigan Tech’s Cloud Chamber – A Statistical Analysis of High Frequency Temperature Fluctuations
Advisor: Dr. Will Cantrell
Overview: Walton-Durst used time series analysis and other statistical methods to identify trends in temperature fluctuations from a second to several minutes. We hypothesize that data from the temperature sensors can provide a signature of the characteristic fluid movement within the chamber.

Madison Heeringa – Acutarial Science Mathematics

Title: Finding Structure in Data
Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Ong
Overview: Heeringa’s goal is to learn about and understand PCA and multi-scale PCA. Which will eventually be used to classify land and canopy cover in satellite images.


A Year in Germany Gives Michigan Tech Student New Insights

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 2.33.40 PMWhy would someone put acceptance to a prestigious law school on hold to spend a year in Germany?  That’s just what Russell Lawson did, and he doesn’t regret a minute of it.

Lawson, who earned his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a minor in economics at Michigan Technological University in 2016, has been accepted into the University of Michigan Law School, but he chose to spend this year participating in the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange program.  In Germany, he’s going to school, working a job, immersing himself in the culture.

Lawson calls the competitive program, known as the ‘’Parlamentarisches Patenschafts-Programm’’ in German, a “cultural exchange program aimed at promoting understanding and cooperation between the two countries.”  It includes 75 participants chosen from all over the US, representing a majority of states and multiple fields of study. “We have engineers, bio chem majors, those who study music, politics, international relations, two welders and four chefs/bakers, really a diverse group,” Lawson explains.

Read the full story.

In the News: The Monroe News (Minnesota) published a feature article about Russell Lawson, a Michigan Tech student who is spending a year on a fellowship in Germany.

by Mary LeDoux, student writing intern

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Beth Reed

Math09232013021Bruce Seely, Dean of the College of Sciences and Arts, has chosen to recognize Beth Reed, senior lecturer and assistant to the chair in mathematical sciences as our first Spring 2017 Dean’s Teaching Showcase member.

Seely’s nomination was influenced by Brent Baltus, a senior on the hockey team, who singled Reed at the Faculty Appreciation event during a game on December 2nd.

Baltus, a senior major in Finance who started this year with a 3.73 GPA, named Reed as “the best professor he had encountered” at Michigan Tech. Baltus had taken a couple of classes from her during his first two years in statistics and math and added she was “an unbelievable professor.”

Seely asked Reed what she does that would lead a good student (and athlete) like Brent to value her efforts. She answered with several points from the recently submitted students teaching evaluations for Fall 2016 and offered several points. Reed knows every student’s name, signaling that they are individuals to her. This makes her approachable and shows she cares about them as people. She prepares a handout for every class session containing the concepts, problems, formulas and so on covered that day. This allows students to actually listen in class rather than struggling to write everything down. Her handout adds structure to the notes taken by the students while eliminating transcription errors. Reed dedicates some class periods to worksheet days, devoted to working problems while she walks around and answers questions from students.

Finally, she asks a lot of questions of the students during class sessions. Students report this makes them pay attention (especially at 8 a.m.). When a student offers an incorrect answer, she talks them through the process until they get to the correct answer. Seely also asked Reed if there was something she did that specifically helps student athletes, who must miss classes due to travel.

In addition to her willingness to meet with them outside of class, she noted the most important thing was to ask them to introduce themselves on the first day of class. That allows her to work with them and their schedules. From this initial discussion, it is much easier to ensure Reed has a heads-up when an assignment and/or exam might conflict with games and travel. Such communication allows her and the student to work around any conflicts.

These are the kinds of effort — small steps in some respects, but large in the aggregate — that make a difference in how well students do. While a student-athlete recognized Reed’s efforts, the more important fact is that she makes these attempts for any student.

Reed will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with 11 other showcase members, and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large class teaching, innovative teaching methods or work in curriculum and assessment.