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SIAM Student Chapter Conference Unites Valley Regional Applied Mathematics Community

May 23, 2019
Conference attendees and faculty members share math discussions
SIAM's conference attendees shared their work in the field of applied mathematics.

Oscillatory traffic patterns, the dynamics of micro swimmers and the use of deep neural networks in image reconstruction were just a few of the topics at the fourth annual Central Valley Regional Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Student Chapter Conference held at UC Merced this spring.

UC Merced’s SIAM student chapter hosted the conference that brought together undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities around California’s Central Valley and Northern California, including UC Davis, Sonoma State University, California State Universities Fresno and Stanislaus, and the Naval Postgraduate School.

As in previous years, the conference included a meet-and-greet, SIAM news updates, updates from regional SIAM student chapters, an invited keynote speaker and a student research poster session. The poster session featured an award ceremony, which included prizes for exceptional student research poster presentations.

“Part of the mission of the UC Merced Department of Applied Mathematics is to foster a community of applied mathematicians here in the Valley; it is through events such as this that we can fulfill this mission,” department Chair Professor Francois Blanchette said in his opening remarks. “It is wonderful to see this event growing every year. Not long ago, we thought that in the future UC Merced could be a center for applied mathematics in the area. Now it is a reality, thanks to all of you who are participating today.”

Chapter President Michael Stobb received the SIAM Student Chapter Certificate of Recognition for his outstanding efforts and accomplishments on behalf of the SIAM chapter at UC Merced. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Humboldt State University and is completing his Ph.D. at UC Merced in applied mathematics this summer. Soon after, he will begin his career by overseeing the founding of a data science program at Coe College, a liberal arts institution in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Michael Stobb receives an award.
Chapter President Michael Stobb receives an award for his accomplishments, with Professor Noemi Petra, left, and guest speaker Karen Wilcox, right.

The conference’s keynote speaker was Professor Karen Wilcox, director of the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences and professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin. She delivered a talk titled “Data to Decisions: Computational Methods for the Next Generation of Engineering Systems” to a large audience of undergraduate and graduate students. The seminar focused on the use of data-driven techniques to create simple reduced-order models of complex physical phenomena and the subsequent use of models for expedient dynamic decision making, such as in the need to alter a flight path when an airplane incurs damage.

The final event of the day-long conference was a research poster session that culminated with prizes awarded to those who could both clearly convey the content and quality of their research. The winners were chosen by poster judges from UC Merced, the Naval Postgraduate School and CSU Fresno. This year, three poster prizes were awarded:

  • Third place to Keith Rhodewalt and Jorge Ruiz Gonzalez of Sonoma State University, for their joint work “Oscillatory Patterns Arising Out of Stop and Go Patterns.”
  • Second place to UC Merced graduate student Omar DeGuchy for his poster “Trust-Region Minimization Algorithm for Training Responses (TRMinATR): The Rise of Machine Learning Techniques.”
  • First place to UC Merced, graduate student Matea Alvarado for her poster “Modeling Chemical Concentrations Around Pulsating Soft Corals.”


Conference attendees in a group photo
The attendants of the fourth Central Valley Regional SIAM Student Chapter Conference

This year’s conference is considered to have been a success.

“The UC Merced SIAM Chapter has successfully planned and hosted an impressive interdisciplinary event with an extraordinarily wide appeal,” said UC Davis graduate student and SIAM Student Chapter Secretary Sam Fleischer. “Their state-of-the-art campus was a perfect place to host students and faculty from across California.”

UC Merced’s SIAM student chapter was founded in 2010 to provide students of mathematics and related STEM fields with networking and professional development opportunities. In the past year, the chapter has coordinated a weekly student-run research seminar series , offered a panel discussion on applying to academic positions, and organized the Putnam mathematics undergraduate competition and an integration bee.

Applied mathematics Professor Noemi Petra has served as the group’s faculty advisor since 2014. She attributes much of the chapter’s success to student efforts.

“These activities would not have been possible without the chapter officers’ dedication to promoting applied mathematics and computational science to undergraduate and graduate students on our campus and without excellent teamwork,” Petra said. “We are also very grateful for support from SIAM, and from the School of Natural Sciences and the Department of Applied Mathematics at UC Merced.”

Editor's note: Tucker Hartland is a graduate student and SIAM Student Chapter treasurer.