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SIAM Student Chapter Math Conference Continues to Grow as It Enters Third Year

May 11, 2018
Dozens of people seated in the tiered rows of lecture hall smile for the camera.
Attendees of this year's SIAM Student Chapter Conference.

The dynamics of blood coagulation, evolution of language and carnivore foraging strategies were just a few of the many topics discussed at the third annual Central Valley Regional Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Student Chapter Conference held on the UC Merced campus April 27.

UC Merced’s student chapter of SIAM hosted the conference, which attracted scores of undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities around the Central Valley, including UC Merced, UC Davis, California State University, Stanislaus, and Merced College.

As in previous years, the conference included meet-and-greets, SIAM news updates, an invited keynote speaker and a student poster session. This year’s event also featured an expanded awards ceremony, which for the first time included prizes for student poster presentations.

Chapter President Mario Banuelos received the SIAM Student Chapter Certificate of Recognition for his “outstanding efforts and accomplishments on behalf of the SIAM chapter at the University of California, Merced.” The Valley native received his bachelor’s in math from Fresno State and teaching credential from CSU Bakersfield. He’ll receive his Ph.D. in applied math at this year’s spring commencement and has already secured a tenure-track position at his undergraduate alma mater.

Three men facing the camera pose in front of a whiteboard with one of them holding a certificate.
Banuelos (right) receives the SIAM Student Chapter Certificate of Recognition from Applied Mathematics Chair Francois Blanchette (left) and keynote speaker Matthias Heinkenschloss.

Among his many accomplishments as chapter president, Banuelos and his fellow chapter officers secured additional funding for SIAM from on-campus sources, including UC Merced’s School of Natural Sciences, Graduate Division and the Graduate Student Association. The proceeds were used to fund the new poster prizes and increase awareness of SIAM on campus.

“The majority of our chapter is graduate students, so one of the things I wanted to do is incorporate more undergraduates into our events,” Banuelos said. “Here at the conference, there’s more of an undergraduate presence. And during the year we held a couple events — one was a career panel and one was applying to grad school — geared to undergrads.”

Keynote speaker Professor Matthias Heinkenschloss — the Noah G. Harding chair in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University — delivered a talk called the “Optimization of Engineering Systems Modeled by Partial Differential Equations (PDEs)” to a capacity crowd in one of largest lecture halls in Classroom and Office Building 2. The seminar focused on how optimization techniques and PDEs can be used to improve efficiency in engineered systems, from managing underground oil reservoirs to finding the best shapes for musical instruments.

A man stands in front a projected image delivering a talk to a crowded lecture hall.
Rice University Professor Matthias Heinkenschloss delivers his keynote lecture at this year's conference.

The day-long event culminated with the student poster session and poster prize ceremony. Faculty judges made their way from poster to poster, assessing the originality of the research and evaluating each student’s ability to communicate his or her research clearly and concisely. Four poster prizes were awarded:

  • Fourth place went to UC Merced graduate student Johannes Brust for his poster “Large-scale Quasi-Newton L-SR1 Trust-Region Solver;”
  • Third place went to UC Merced graduate student Alex Quijano for his poster “The Curves of Language Evolution: Quantifying ‘Stable’ and ‘Volatile’ Word Frequencies Using Data Science;”
  • Second place went to UC Davis graduate student Robert Bassett for his poster “Fused Density Estimation: Theory and Methods;” and
  • First place went to UC Merced graduate student Michael Stobb for his poster “Local and Global Sensitivity Analysis of a Coagulation Model with Flow.”

Stobb uses mathematical models to study how components of complex systems interact. His winning poster focused on models that describe how vast networks of proteins and clotting factors cause blood to coagulate. These models may help explain why some people who test positive for hemophilia present no symptoms.

“Type A hemophilia is the lack of a single clotting protein — Factor VIII,” Stobb explained. “There are people who, if you were to test their blood, lack this protein. They technically have hemophilia but they don’t present any of the symptoms. That’s because other components are working together or working against each other and offsetting the lack of Factor VIII.”

UC Merced’s SIAM student chapter was founded in 2010 to provide students in applied math and associated fields with networking and professional development opportunities. Professor Noemi Petra has served as the group’s faculty advisor since 2014. But she attributes much of the chapter’s success to student-led efforts.

"Our chapter officers have been very busy organizing various events this past academic year –  for example, weekly research seminars, grad school and career panels for undergraduate students, an Integration Bee competition and this conference,” said Petra. “These activities would not have been possible without their dedication to promote applied mathematics and computational science to students on our campus and their excellent teamwork. I am very proud of the UC Merced SIAM student chapter officers."