Category: People

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.

Ong Closes Contract from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Benjamin Ong
Associate Professor Benjamin Ong

Benjamin Ong is the principal investigator (PI) on a project that has received a $45,000 research and development contract from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, entitled “Systematic Approaches to Construct Coarse-Grid Operators for Multigrid Reduction in Time.”

Multigrid Reduction in Time (MGRIT) [2] uses multigrid reduction techniques to enable temporal parallelism for solving initial value problems. It is known that the convergence rate of MGRIT [3] depends in part on the choice of time-stepping operators on the fine- and coarse-grid, which we call the fine-grid operator and coarse-grid operator respectively. An “ideal” coarse-grid operator is the fine-grid operator applied to approximate the solution on the coarse time interval.

In practice, the ideal coarse-grid operator is never used as the computational cost destroys any parallel speed-up that could be obtained using MGRIT. Instead, a common choice for a coarse-grid operator is a simple re-discretization of the fine-grid operator, i.e., if a single-step method is used on the fine-grid with time-step size h, then the same single-step method is used on the coarse-grid with time-step size m h, where m is a specified coarsening factor.

Numerical simulations are increasingly important in the study of complex systems in engineering, life sciences, medicine, chemistry, physics, and even non-traditional fields such as social sciences. Dr. Ong is working to solve these large-scale evolution problems on modern supercomputing architectures by using a hierarchy of space-time grids to accelerate the solution on the finest time grid.


Time permitting, Dr. Ong will explore the connection between the proposed sequences of generated coarse-grid operators to those recently proposed by Vargas et al. [4].

[1] Daniel Crane. The Singular Value Expansion for Compact and Non-Compact Operators. PhD thesis, Michigan Technological University, 2020.

[2] R. D. Falgout, S. Friedhoff, Tz. V. Kolev, S. P. MacLachlan, and J. B. Schroder. Parallel time integration with multigrid. SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing, 36(6):C635–C661, 2014.

[3] Andreas Hessenthaler, Ben S. Southworth, David Nordsletten, Oliver RÅNohrle, Robert D. Falgout, and Jacob B. Schroder. Multilevel convergence analysis of multigrid-reduction-in-time. SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing, 42(2):A771–A796, 2020.

[4] David. A. Vargas. A general framework for deriving coarse grid operators for multigrid reduction in time. Technical report, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 2023.

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.

In Print: Iosif Pinelis Published in The American Mathematical Monthly

Iosif Pinelis article cover page
Iosif Pinelis article as it appears in The American Mathematical Monthly

Iosif Pinelis authored a paper accepted for publication in The American Mathematical Monthly. The paper is titled “An exact bound for the inner product of vectors in C^n”. View a preprint version of the paper and/or download it online.

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.

Copper Country Scholars Funded by Jerry Davison ‘66 and Wife Judy

Jerry and Judy Davison
Jerry and Judy Davison

Kids across the United States dream and aspire for things bigger than them, whether that’s wanting to be an astronaut, a lawyer, a cowboy, etc… It’s no different in the small towns of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; where, thanks to the influence of Tech, many dream of being computer scientists, engineers, and scientists. Michigan Tech alumnus Jerry Davison ‘66 and his wife Judy, just made it easier for those dreams to come true by establishing the Copper Country Scholars Endowed Scholarship Fund. The scholarship is open to hard-working students in science, engineering, math, and computer science with financial needs who have graduated from Copper Country schools and are currently attending Michigan Tech with a minimum 2.75 GPA.

Growing up in the Copper Country is rigorous and difficult. Rugged terrain, Superior’s gales, bone-chilling cold, plentiful snow, and isolation- conditions that prepare students for the rigor and difficulty of Michigan Tech coursework. Jerry (and Judy, a Michigan graduate) knows it well as a Yooper from Calumet, just 13 miles from campus.

Jerry’s parents instilled their hard-working, blue-collar values from an early age. He saw those values in action in the community around him. Additionally, he also saw how the community stayed together and supported each other. His family was connected to Tech. Like his sister, he worked in the business office at Michigan Tech. Their father worked in the Maintenance Department. Jerry earned $1.25 per hour to pay his college tuition, toiling hard and persevering until his graduation with a B.S. in Mathematics.

Jerry had always been drawn to the field of computers. However, during his time at Tech, there was no Computer Science degree program available. “I started off my career interviewing with communications, steel, and aerospace companies and The National Security Agency, but my career took me all over. I worked for many companies over the course of my career, including communications laboratories, a national laboratory, investment bank, insurance companies, hospital system; you name it. I was always hoping for a challenging new opportunity, never settling for the mundane,” said Davison.

Jerry’s values of hard work and determination helped him forge his own path; values he learned from his family and community. He recognizes the power of community members coming together to support each other. It is this recognition that drove him to establish the Copper Country Scholars Endowed Scholarship Fund. Jerry is hoping to give others like him the chance to forge their own path forward, achieve success, and give back to the community.

Jerry wants to emphasize that this scholarship is open for donations and remains nameless, keeping with the community’s spirit of coming together for a shared goal, rather than recognition or glamor. “I want this scholarship to be open to donations to make sure that we give back to those who come after us,” said Davison.

The Davisons’ contribution to Michigan Tech students is appreciated and has not gone unnoticed. “I am so grateful for Jerry and Judy’s generosity, which will allow more of our own Copper Country students to afford the world-class STEM education that Michigan Tech provides, and hopefully inspire many more alumni to contribute to this scholarship,” said David Hemmer, dean of the College of Sciences and Arts.

If you would like to contribute to the Copper Country Scholars Endowed Scholarship Fund or inquire about other opportunities, please contact Karin Van Dyke, Michigan Tech University, Director of Advancement, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931. Email: Phone: 906-487-2464

“Always dislike the mundane” – Jerry Davison 

A Super Sweet Pi Day Celebration

Pi Day was celebrated in the Department of Mathematical Sciences on Tuesday, March 14 (3/14) at 1:59pm.

Are you starting to see a slight pattern here – 3.14159? Pi Day celebrations were held throughout the world on March 14 and we thought it would be fun to join in on the festivities.

As you probably already know, the Greek letter “Pi” is a mathematical symbol used to represent a constant. One of the most well known mathematical constants is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. So, in keeping with the mathematical related theme, pie was served!

Several members of the faculty, staff and student body in the math department joined together on Pi Day to chow down on their favorite variety of that sweet, circular treat – PIE. As a matter of fact, a total of 12.14159 different selections of pie adorned a conference table in the math lounge for sampling.

Additionally, undergrad math majors were invited to participate in a very irrational game of Pi Bee. Here, students tested their memory by recording as many digits of pi they could remember – unassisted.

Many entries were submitted, but there could be only one winner. Eli DeWitt (General Mathematics major) provided a heaping total of 43 correct and consecutive digits. His sweet reward for such an outstanding memory was a gift card to the Campus Book Store.

We look forward to the infinite possibilities for future celebrations. Check out our Facebook page to see some of the other interesting events taking place in the department.

Applied and Computational Mathematics Major Anthony Palmer Wins Best Poster at Computing [MTU] Showcase

Michigan Tech double major in applied and computational mathematics and physics, Anthony Palmer, along with computer science PhD candidate Elijah Cobb, won the best poster recently in the Computing [MTU] Showcase for “Universal Sensor Description Schema: An extensible metalanguage to support heterogenous, evolving sensor data.”

Learn more about their accomplishment.

Image of Anthony Palmer and Elijah Cobb with their poster at Michigan Tech’s Computing Showcase
Anthony Palmer (left) and Elijah Cobb present their poster at Michigan Tech’s Computing [MTU] Showcase

Applied Mathematics + Computer Engineering = 2x Experiences

Image of Drew Rosales, applied mathematics major at Michigan Tech
Drew Rosales

What to do if you’re a computer engineering major and have plenty of math credits from high school?

If you’re Drew Rosales, you add an applied mathematics major, Blue Marble Enterprise, use your love of coding to help a PhD student conduct his research, and co-op for 10 to 15 hours a week. This Husky knows all about personal and professional exponential growth!
Drew is from Ann Arbor. He chose Michigan Tech because he relished the chance to try something different, get away from his hometown with a few friends, and be more independent. Experience a different part of the world. Drew likes the personable campus and class sizes. “I love the level of bonding here,” he says. “It’s not cutthroat.”

Drew has always enjoyed the engineering process. He’s been competing in Vex Robotics
since middle school, programming and building robots to perform tasks. He’s always been interested in mathematics. Coursework in linear algebra and differential equations helped him to better understand how space and time functions worked and how they relate to the world around us. He found he could use math to describe how objects move through the air and how different variables like drag and torque impact the robots he worked with. The robot improved through increased knowledge of how to manipulate sensor data and control algorithms — a great intersection between math, computer science, and physics. Applied math seemed like a perfect addition to computer engineering. Looking at the influence of mathematical techniques on computer algorithms added excitement to Drew’s studies.

One of his favorite courses is numerical partial differential equations (NPDE). He worked with a group to make a finite element analysis (FEA) tool to create a virtual mesh around a real-world product. The mesh allows the group to use math to show how different forces might impact the product. For example, think about a bridge subject to stressors like winds, tides, and weight-bearing. The tool makes it possible to select the optimal designs and materials for essential project specifications and conditions well before production.

“In NPDE I gained insight into how to use the tool and work with group members. It really was a point at which my two worlds of coding and mathematics (came together).”

Drew Rosales, 2022, double major in applied and computational mathematics and computer engineering

“Research is fun,” says Drew, who’s grateful he’s been able to acquire valuable research experience as an undergrad. He enjoys writing code to support PhD student Praveen Hettige and Professor Ben Ong’s research to find structure in data using Geometric Multi-Resolution Analysis (GMRA). Drew reads academic papers — an art in itself — on GMRA, which is an approach for taking large amounts of high dimensional data and approximating it using affine hyperplanes (think line segments used to approximate a curve) enabling the data to be more easily stored and accessed. He grapples with challenges like creating data representations that can be easily interpreted as well as streamable and applicable to different scientific and engineering domains.

Praveen says Drew is a fast learner who’s up to the task. “In order to complete the coding parts, it’s necessary to have a basic understanding of the theoretical concepts about my research topic,” said the PhD student, who completed his master’s work in statistics at Michigan Tech. “ caught up with those concepts quickly.”

The research is aimed at taking data efficiently in smaller quantities instead of one big dump. Doing so makes it easier to process and analyze the information, reducing computation time and allowing data-based decisions to be made much faster and more efficiently.

Working on Real-World Projects with Michigan Tech Enterprise

Image of Drew Rosales working with the Blue Marble Security Enterprise team
Drew (far left) works with his Blue Marble Security project team

Drew is also a member of Michigan Tech’s Enterprise program, serving as president of Blue Marble Security, a virtual company focused on industry-sponsored R&D and commercial product development including security, the environment, and industrial process control. The team is currently involved in seven multi-disciplinary projects, from smart tow capability for the US Navy to vision sensing for General Motors. In addition to his leadership role, Drew is doing coding and engineering work for the Navy project. Drew’s presidential duties include making sure the teams are progressing in their projects and have the resources they need to be successful. He assists teams in assessing timelines and tasks, is the point person for check-ins with Glen Archer, project sponsors, and keeps the Board informed. “Blue Marble has been instrumental in building my leadership skills. I have to assess how the team is doing and determine how to respond,” Drew says.

Archer goes a bit farther in assessing Drew’s skill. “One of Drew’s strengths that I have come to really appreciate is his calm approach to events around him. He is pretty much imperturbable. Drew is also resolute in his pursuits. He has risen steadily from a project engineer to project manager to the most senior leader in the organization. “

“It’s a pleasure to work with him because I know that if I ask him to do something, he will ask the questions he needs answered in order to do a good job. Once he has the answers, he will not fail to complete the task.”

Glen Archer, Interim Chair, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Blue Marble Security Enterprise Advisor
Image of the Blue Marble Security Enterprise team
Blue Marble Security Enterprise Team, with Drew Rosales standing next to Glen Archer in the lower left.

A Co-op with Caterpillar Builds Skills and Confidence

In addition to classes, research, and Enterprise, Drew works as a co-op student for Caterpillar for 10 to 15 hours per week, a stellar addition to his engineering portfolio. His primary role has been to develop software for engine system sensors and to integrate the sensors into existing software. Drew conducts simulation testing on software for engines, validating that an engine reaches fuel efficiency guidelines and standards. The software allows Caterpillar to validate engine functionality before producing an engine en masse.

The work he’s put into presentation skills during his co-op has built confidence as well as a vision of what a bright future looks like. “I’ve learned more about how a full-time job works, how to work with others in a corporate setting, and what is expected of me on the job,” Drew says. “In addition, I have learned how to prepare myself while in college, building the skill set I need to be successful in my future career.”

Q&A on Drew’s Past, Present, and Future

Q: What have you learned about yourself and what advice would you give your high school self now?

DR: A lot of the time I see myself working on a task that might seem irrelevant or boring and tedious at the time, but it does come together, in the end, to be important. In college, with everything I have done, I’ve gained the ability to think about how to get better. Where are the gaps in knowledge I need to fill in and how do I go about doing it? It goes back to the dualities I’ve encountered between math and engineering, industry, and research. How can I grow and find value out of present and future opportunities? How does this influence what I find interesting and learned thus far?

Before college, I was more shy. Not as well-spoken. I always felt things would come together and fall into my lap. College helped me to see that I needed to be proactive, take initiative and make things happen. That breeds confidence. You would be surprised with the opportunities that you come across through networking, being bold, and sticking to your passions.

Q: Where do you go from here?

DR: I’m switching to a research role this summer doing predictive modeling with autonomous vehicles and possibly putting my GMRA research experience into practice. I plan to continue working at the intersection of math and computer science and putting research into practice. Eventually, I hope to go to graduate school.

2022 Undergraduate Research Symposium

Join us in congratulating Drew Rosales for taking third place!

Undergraduate Research Symposium took place on Friday March 25, 2022 at the Rozsa Lobby. The undergraduate students were able to present posters describing completed or ongoing research, receive feedback from distinguished judges, and learn from the experience.

Drew is double majoring in Computer Engineering and Mathematics. He is research is under supervision of Dr. Benjamin Ong. The presented work entitled “Incremental Geometric Multi-Resolution Analysis”.

What a great experience, and once again congratulations on your hard work!

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.

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.