Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Westminster College juniors Jenna Huston and Lisa Kaylor participated in the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics Jan. 27-29 in Lincoln, NE.

Kaylor, a mathematics major, gave an oral presentation on "Straightline Hanoi," a variation of the original Tower of Hanoi puzzle.  The presentation previously earned an Outstanding Presentation award at the Mathematical Association of America's MathFest last summer.

The project was supervised by Westminster mathematics faculty Dr. Jeffrey Boerner, assistant professor, and Dr. Natacha Fontes-Merz, associate professor.

"Through our research, we devised an algorithm for game play, which we conjecture gives the minimal number of moves for solving the puzzle," Kaylor said.

Kaylor received a travel/presentation grant from Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning to present at the conference.

Mathematics and computer science major Jenna Huston also attended the conference.  Both students participated in numerous conference activities, including undergraduate presentations, panel discussions, breakout sessions, and networking with graduate students and other professionals.

"I attended multiple activities, but these were some of my favorites," Huston said.  "The breakout session ‘What is Math Research?' allowed us to ask questions about areas of math research.  Because I am a mathematics and computer science major, it was interesting to see where my interests could overlap in research.  I also enjoyed the dinner where I could sit with graduate students and people in industry and ask questions in smaller groups."

Both appreciated the benefits of being able to attend and participate in the conference.

"The Nebraska Conference was a beneficial experience not only for presenting my summer research, but also for providing me with a vast amount of information on summer opportunities and post-graduation plans," Kaylor said.

"I learned more about graduate school and math research," Huston said.  "I am still unsure about pursuing a higher degree, but this gave me a lot of information to help me decide.  I also got a lot of ideas for summer opportunities and the conference made me more excited about starting research.  I did some last year and just started a project this semester."


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Jenna Huston and Lisa Kaylor