175! MCSP Student Research Gallery

by Roland Minton on February 15, 2018

Roanoke College recently concluded its celebration of its 175th year in existence. Another 175th  milestone has just been reached in the MCSP Department: 175 student research displays on the second floor of Trexler!

To be clear, the gallery on the second floor does not currently display all 175 frames, just the 100 or so most recent ones. Nevertheless, the frames that are there give second floor visitors an idea of the breadth and depth of research in physics, computer science, and mathematics. Each frame has a portrait of the student who did an independent project along with the project title and a picture that in some way illustrates the topic of inquiry. Due to the presence of several student overachievers in MCSP, there is a rule that no student gets more than two frames. It was tempting to waive that rule to get an infinite regression going for Scotty.

The original motivation for the Wall of Fame was to promote student research. Few students did research in MCSP in the 1980s, most simply not knowing it was a possibility. After the first few frames went up, students started asking how they could get their picture up on the wall. Success! From a modest start of 18 projects in the first five years of frames (1992-1996), student output has increased to 77 frames in the last five years (well over 80 projects, given the 2-frame rule).

The first three frames made were for Chris Hylton, Chris Assaid, and Erica Thompson. The Chrises worked together learning time series analysis and applying it to economic data. Erica investigated chaos theory and fractals from function iterations. Early frames featured photographs of computer screens, developed at K-Mart and taped to a piece of yellow paper. Images were not completely digital until 2000. You can see all of the frame images at https://webapps.roanoke.edu/mcsp/minton/IndStudies.html.

Some of the mathematics research titles include “Is It a Knot or Not?”, “Fuzzy Logic and Control”, “A Graph Theory Analysis of Food Deserts in the Roanoke Valley”, “Compositions and Counting Cards” (yes, of the Vegas type), “Assessment of Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay”, “Gothic Cathedrals and Sacred Ratios”, and “Is Streak Shooting a Cognitive Illusion?” As our students have discovered, mathematics is a very diverse field. Physics titles include “Spectroscopic Investigation of Gussev Crater, Mars”, “Origins of a Galaxy Group in Cluster A3128”, “Classic Neural Models for Small Cell Effects”, and “Growth and Characterization of Carbon Nanotubes”. Computer science titles include “Presence in an Immersive Environment”, “Accessible Accessibility”, “Maximal Snakes in Hypercubes”, and “Recursive Median Blob Detection”.


Maroon Academy

by Roland Minton on November 15, 2017

We are always delighted when we hear from alumni. A recent visit from Sarah Witt ’12 … excuse me, that would be Dr. Sarah Janse as Sarah just earned her Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Kentucky! We had a great visit with Sarah, her husband Zaan, and her parents. Sarah has already landed an excellent job that she is very excited about, becoming a Research Scientist at the Wexner Medical Center of The Ohio State University. Congratulations to Sarah and best wishes to Sarah and Zaan!

We also received a nice email from Lizzi Ciskowski about the Maroon takeover at Broadwater Academy. She attached the above picture and wrote the following.

“Nestled in Exmore, Virginia on the Eastern Shore exists a 3-division private school known as Broadwater Academy. Broadwater has many unique characteristics to claim like its small size, proximity to both the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, and the rigor of its academic courses. Broadwater Academy has one more characteristic that sets it apart from the rest: The three Upper School teachers of Mathematics and the two teachers of Physics have all graduated from Roanoke College’s MCSP Department! Reid Hall ’13 graduated with his degree in Physics and currently teaches Integrated Math I/II, Integrated Math II/III, Algebra II, and Algebra II Honors; Elizabeth (Lizzi) Ciskowski ’14 graduated with her degree in Physics with a minor in Mathematics and currently teaches AP Calculus AB, AP Physics 1, and Honors Pre-Calculus; Connor Sampson ’17 graduated with his degree in Physics with a minor in Mathematics and currently teaches Integrated Math I/II, College Prep Math, and Conceptual Physics. Dave Cameron, Dean of Academic Affairs, comments `I suppose only a math teacher (or three math teachers) would be able to accurately calculate the odds on this unique scenario. Seriously, we are thrilled to have three such capable and dedicated people to teach STEM courses and serve as great role models in our classrooms at Broadwater Academy.'”

It’s great that Reid, Lizzi, and Connor are educating the next generation (insert Bittle quote here) and we look forward to seeing some top Broadwater students headed to Salem!


RC Home for Sports Analytics

by Roland Minton on September 21, 2017

Roanoke College hosted the Virginia Sports Analytics Meeting (VSAM) on Saturday 9/16 in the Cregger Center. VSAM is a direct offspring of Furman University’s Carolina Sports Analytics Meeting, which was the first regional sports analytics meeting in the country. Two important goals of the conferences are student involvement and the promotion of sports analytics.

Five student posters, including two from Roanoke College, and three student speakers brought a variety of research ideas to the meeting. In all, twelve students participated in the conference, networking with each other, the faculty in attendance, and representatives from professional lacrosse and hockey.

The meeting featured ten diverse talks of high quality, including keynote addresses by Drew Pasteur (Fantastic 50 ratings) and Kenneth Massey (shown above, of Massey Ratings and BCS fame). Sports covered included major sports like football, basketball and baseball, but also bowling, hockey, lacrosse, and tennis (given by Roanoke College’s Adam Childers). A variety of mathematical and statistical models were presented. A new way of modeling sports is pure gold for researchers, as techniques can often be applied to multiple sports.

Here are some of my takeaways from the conference. Standard football punting statistics are worse than useless. Markov models can be very sophisticated and measure “hot hands” and other phenomena. Graph theory provides a nice way of measuring the importance of an upset, and this improves March Madness predictions. There is good evidence that increased 3-point shooting improves NBA offenses. The unusual scoring system in tennis (love it or not) increases both the likelihood that the better player wins and the excitement level of matches. Multiple divisions in the NFL and massive conferences in college drastically reduce the chance that the best teams make the playoffs. And many more …

How can the success of a conference be measured? For VSAM, the groups of participants excitedly sharing ideas thirty minutes after the conference officially ended is a strong indicator of success. Participants from South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia left impressed with Roanoke College, the Cregger Center, and the quality of sports analytics work done in this region.


RC Students Present Statistics Work

September 21, 2017

David Moreau and Lexi Denning had a busy week. David is a junior Physics major from Connecticut and Lexi is a junior Mathematics major from Connecticut. Tuesday evening (9/12) David and Lexi were co-presenters at the MCSP Conversation Series. Then on Saturday they ran the registration table and presented posters at the Virginia Sports Analytics […]

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ECLIPSE 2017: RC Students Serve as Eclipse Ambassadors in Smoky Mountain National Park

August 24, 2017

An adventurous group of Roanoke students and guests, as well as two Roanoke physics professors (Matt Fleenor and Dan Robb) took a trip to western North Carolina for the weekend of Aug. 19-21, culminating in an observation of the eclipse within the path of totality.  The end goal was to serve as the science ambassadors […]

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Breaking the Stereotype: A spotlight on 2017 RC female physics graduates

June 14, 2017

The 2017 graduation year is special one for a variety of reasons. It is the 175th year of Roanoke College. The Physics Group at Roanoke College saw one of its largest group of graduating students ever, and more importantly, nearly 30% of those graduating physics students were from underrepresented groups: females and minorities. According to […]

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RC Physics students visit Green Bank Observatory

May 12, 2017

A group of RC physics students (left to right above, Jacob Barfield, Eve Allen, Duncan Maclean, Gretchen Michaels and Lydia Tung) visited the site of the largest, steerable radio telescope in the world, which is only three hours drive from Roanoke.  In Green Bank, WV, there are over 10 different radio telescopes in operation, including the […]

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RC Sophomore Liam Lambert receives Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention

May 3, 2017

Roanoke College sophomore and physics and mathematics double major, Liam Lambert, has received an Honorable mention in the prestigious Goldwater scholarship competition. He has worked on research on iron oxide nanoparticles with Dr. Rama Bala for the past year and a half. He has shown important results on the transformation and growth of these nanoparticles, […]

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MCSP Physics majors attend SPS PhysCon meeting in San Francisco

April 4, 2017

This happened back in November 2016, but is so neat that it needs to be written about on the blog! MCSP Physics Majors Josh Carr, April Raab, Jacob Barfield, Taylor Ferebee, Hanna Lyle and Connor Sampson (left to right in the picture above) attended PhysCon 2016, a quadrennial meeting sponsored by the National Society for Physics […]

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MCSP Students = Bakers?

March 15, 2017

How are Math and Baking related? Well, Tuesday, March 14, 2017 was Pi Day, a day entirely devoted to Pi = π ≈ 3.14. And, as mathematicians can also be quite “punny”, we relate “pi” to “pie”. I mean, typically they are both related to circles. Anyway, to celebrate Pi Day, the Roanoke College Math Club has […]

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