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Westminster College Mathematics Majors Receive Drinko Research Grants, Students and Faculty Present at Conference

Posted on Friday, February 1, 2013

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Westminster College senior mathematics majors Jenna Huston and Lisa Kaylor received undergraduate research grants from Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning, and presented their research at the joint meetings and annual conference of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Jan. 9-12 in San Diego. Six Westminster faculty also attended and presented at the conference.

Huston's project, "Information Theoretically Secure Computation Protocols in the Quantum Noisy Storage Model," was a part of the Research in Industrial Projects for Students (RIPS) program in Los Angeles. She focused on examining the practicality of efficiently implementing quantum secure communication protocols that could be used together to create string authentication.

"For example, a customer has to authenticate themselves at an ATM," Huston said. "The ATM does not trust the customer, and the customer does not trust the ATM. The customer wants to be able to authenticate themselves without revealing their PIN. Following the security constraints derived in previous work, we analyzed computer models, to empirically measure computation time and bandwidth for each protocol."

Huston, a senior computer science and mathematics major, is a daughter of Robert and Robin Huston of Beaver Falls and a graduate of Blackhawk High School.

"This research experience was a lot of fun and opened a lot of doors. I really liked how I was able to use both of my majors for one project. It was great to see an area where mathematics is being directly applied," Huston said.

Kaylor's project, "Is Every Invertible Linear Map in the Structure Group of Some Algebraic Curvature Tensor?," was part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates Program at California State University, San Bernadino. She focused on the field of differential geometry dealing specifically with algebraic curvature tensors and their structure groups. These objects are used to study the curvature or geometry of space.

Kaylor, a senior mathematics major, is a daughter of Karen Kaylor of Chicora and the late Terry Kaylor and a graduate of Karns City Area High School.

The AMS and MAA are the two largest mathematical professional organizations in the country.  This year's conference was attended by over 6,700 mathematicians and included presentations and information on various mathematical topics, including: graduate school and career options for math majors, job positions abroad for math majors, information on the business side of publishing papers, information on a sustainable math research career, and more.

"Attending the Joint Math Meetings was a great experience, not only because I was able to reunite with the other participants of my program, but also because it gave me the opportunity to meet and network with mathematicians from across the country," Kaylor said.

"The conference was a really good experience. I had never been to such a large math conference. It was overwhelming at times, but I was able to find some good talks and panels that helped me to grow professionally," Huston said.

Throughout the academic year mathematics and computer sciences majors participate in a variety of activities in addition to conferences, including an international mathematical contest in modeling, local and regional programming contests, and volunteering at Westminster's Campus Learning Center. There is also an opportunity for students to meet with faculty to prepare for the prestigious national Putnam exam, and Acturial and Graduate Record Exams (GRE).

The Drinko Center for Experiential Learning was created to enrich undergraduate education at Westminster through advancing world-class teaching as well as by participating in collaborations that address community and regional needs including strengthening K-12 education.  The Undergraduate Research Initiative provides funding for students to conduct research and to present their research at regional and national conferences. 

Visit for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.

Dr. Pamela Richardson, associate professor, also attended the conference as a member of the MAA's Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters.  Richardson helped to run the MAA Undergraduate Student Poster Session, an event that included over 500 undergraduate research participants. She also organized a day-long Graduate Education Mentoring workshop for female mathematics graduate students.

Dr. Barbara Faires, faculty emerita, prepared scripts, agendas, and citations for many sessions of the Joint Meetings and ran meetings of various MAA groups in her role as secretary of MAA.

Dr. Carolyn Cuff, professor, led a four-hour mini-course titled "Teaching Introductory Statistics."  Designed for instructors who are new to teaching introductory statistics, this workshop exposed the participants to statistical concepts, assessment techniques, and classroom materials.  Cuff also attended an officers meeting as an appointed member of the MAA's Committee for SIGMAAs, a committee charged with overseeing the special interest groups within the MAA.

Three additional Westminster faculty served as judges for the Poster Session and participated in MAA sessions on number theory and combinatorics:

Dr. Jeffrey Boerner, assistant professor, co-chaired one of the sessions.

Dr. Natacha Fontes-Merz, associate professor, gave a research presentation titled "Adding Edges to Graphs and its Effect on the Pebbling Number."

Dr. David Offner, assistant professor, gave a research presentation titled "A New Lower Bound for a Variation of Cops and Robbers on the Hypercube, With an Application to Graph Searching." 

Contact Boerner at (724) 946-6023 or email for more information.

Math and computer science major Jenna Huston presents at the Mathematical Association of America
Math major Lisa Kaylor presents at the Mathematical Association of America
(l-r) Dr. Jeffrey Boerner, Dr. Pamela Richardson, Dr. Natacha Fontes-Merz and Dr. Carolyn Cuff.