We Get the Best Jobs!

by Roland Minton on June 3, 2014


Which major prepares you for the best jobs? It partly depends on how you define “best jobs” but CareerCast ranks jobs on the basis of work environment, income, outlook, and stress. These are broken down into subcategories (for “stress” they use level of risk, toughness of deadlines, and 9 other factors), the scores are added up and the 200 jobs in the CareerCast list get ranked. And the winner is … MCSP! The number one job in the 2014 ranking is Mathematician; number three is Statistician; number four is Actuary; number seven is Software Engineer; and number eight is Computer Systems Analyst. A major in any of the MCSP disciplines lines you up for a top career! Here are some of CareerCast’s comments about what those careers entail.

Mathematicians “are the people who figure out if a decision makes sense for a company or organization, be it digging for oil or building a car. They work in a variety of sectors, including energy, transportation, and IT…. They’re hired in the public and the private sector … (and by) nonprofits.”

Statisticians “are the people who determine the statistical likelihood of things. They figure out how many people will buy that new Ipad or if that breakfast cereal is selling well due to changing demographics; basically, any kind of planning for the future. And they can work across most industries.”

Actuaries “are the people who determine how long something is going to last. Typically, they work for insurance companies estimating how long people are going to live or the statistical likelihood that they will get a particular disease. However, they’re increasingly being used for other industries, such as infrastructure.”

Software Engineers “are the people who write software code for programs that manage everything from online shopping to home heating and airport-landing schedules.”

Computer Systems Analysts “are the people who work with the actual hardware (from servers to laptops) to make sure that it’s the right equipment in the right amount, it’s doing what the company needs it to do, and there are no outages. They’re always working to increase speed and efficiency, and there’s a huge demand for what they do.”

You might be wondering what the worst jobs are. At the bottom, number 200, is lumberjack. Next to last may surprise you: newspaper reporter, partly due to an expected decline in number of jobs by 13% in the next ten years.

But, if you’re taking MCSP courses, you’re preparing for the best jobs and the best careers, and that is no surprise.



Nobody Expects the Math Inquisition

by Roland Minton on May 7, 2014

Spanish Inquisition

Our chief weapon is surprise. Yes, surprise and fear. Our two weapons are fear and surprise. And ruthless efficiency. Our three weapons … among our weapons are … Let’s start over.

In a process that we hope is more logical than the Monty Python sketch quoted above, senior mathematics majors undergo an oral examination by the mathematics faculty that we lovingly call “the Inquisition.” Each student fields questions related to the required mathematics courses in an interview that lasts about 25 minutes. Calling this an examination is misleading, in that the results are used to assess the mathematics program in general and not the individual students. In practice, this fact has done little to calm the nerves of prospective graduates who must face all of the mathematics faculty, by themselves with only a blank chalkboard for support. We admit that a kinder name than “the Inquisition” could reduce the stress levels. However, we do believe the process serves two important purposes beyond our own assessment. The students have a powerful incentive to reflect on and review the mathematics that they have learned, and it is a rite of passage for seniors.

A nice tradition that has developed is for the soon-to-be-Inquizzed seniors to band together and create a dress code. The class of 2013 came as crayons, each person a different color. The class of 2014, noting the one-to-one correspondence between students and tenure track faculty, came dressed as faculty members. From left to right in the picture, we have alternate Drs. Spielman, Saoub, Robbins, Taylor, and Minton. The disguises didn’t make the questions any easier, but we love the imagination and camaraderie that the effort represents.


Inquisition crayons 2


Roanoke College Shines at Record-Setting Meeting

by Roland Minton on May 1, 2014

maa b heather

The spring meeting of the Maryland-DC-Virginia section of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), held on April 26 at James Madison University, set records for student participation and overall participation. Roanoke College was in the thick of it. Dave Taylor finished his two-year term as Section program chair, putting together an excellent program of 54 speakers, of which 23 were student talks. Roland Minton gave the Friday evening banquet talk on A Mathematical Mystery Tour and Karin Saoub presented her research Dynamic Storage Allocation using Tolerance Graphs. Students Jon Marino (Integer Compositions Applied to the Probability Analysis of Blackjack and the Infinite Deck Assumption) and Heather Cook (Assessment of Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay by Parameter Estimation) gave well-received talks. The Math Jeopardy team of Jon Marino, Reem Zeidan, and Sam Parsons finished in second place by 1 point. The Radical Dash team of Morgan Elston, Reem Zeidan, Sam Parsons, and Justin Giguere competed well. Hannah Robbins and Karin Saoub participated in Section NeXT, which provides younger faculty with resources for success in teaching and research. The weekend was topped off with two awards, Roland Minton winning the section teaching award and Jon Marino winning the student paper competition. Roanoke College has a very visible and positive presence in our MAA section, one that promotes the college and gives us important connections in the mathematics community.

maa b karin


Marino’s Math Research Counts, Wins Award

April 30, 2014

Jon Marino, a senior mathematics major, now counts among his honors the top student research prize from the spring meeting of the Maryland-DC-Virginia section of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), held on April 26 at James Madison University. Marino earned first place in the student paper competition, which had a record number (23) of […]

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A New Smith & Minton: Roland Wins an Award!

April 29, 2014

Look out everyone, there’s a new “Smith & Minton” around, and it has nothing to do with calculus!  Well, perhaps it has something to do with calculus; this past weekend at the spring meeting of the Maryland, DC, and Virginia Section of the Mathematical Association of America, Roland was presented the John M. Smith Teaching […]

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A Traveling Salesman Story

April 24, 2014

So, there’s this traveling salesman who wants to …. Wait! This is not the prelude to a bad joke, this is a mathematical problem of current importance. The traveling salesman is headquartered in city 0, and needs to visit cities 1, 2, 3, …, n on a business trip and then return to city 0. […]

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Yes, MAM, math is fun!

April 21, 2014

April is Math Awareness Month, and this year’s theme of “Mathematics, Magic, and Mystery” has been wonderfully illustrated by videos and activities at mathaware.org. Some of these topics were previewed in the March “Pun and Taylor” magic show. On April 16, two more magical topics were covered by Dr. Karin Saoub and Dr. Hannah Robbins. […]

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MCSP Department Awards

April 10, 2014

Many of our best students were honored at the 2013-14 Roanoke College Awards Banquet on April 2. Senior Scholar awards went to TJ Kemper in Computer Science, Jon Marino in Mathematics, and Rachel Andrews in Physics. Maya Shende won the Frank Munley Physics Award, and Connor Sampson the Physics Society Award. Jon Marino won the […]

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Physics students visit local elementary school

March 29, 2014

First-year physics majors Tyler Strouth, Brandon Petersen, and Jacob Barfield (L to R in picture above) enthusiastically participated in the after-school enrichment program at West Salem Elementary School.  The trio led an interactive session to 3-5th graders primarily pertaining to fluid properties, including a classic demonstration of laminar flow involving oil and food coloring.  By all accounts, […]

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Twilight of the Walking Dead

March 26, 2014

Robert Allen of the University of Wisconsin at Lacrosse gave a very lively MCSP Conversation Series talk on March 18. This was not a surprise, as Robert is a very funny and upbeat man and had given a thoroughly entertaining talk two years ago. However, when someone gives a talk with the title “Zombies, Vampires, […]

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