Talk Physics to Me !

by Bala on April 21, 2020

Sigma Pi Sigma celebrations. 

These unusual times call for unsual ways to do things. One this is certain; fun and physics dont change, even in these uncertain times. This year, the physics group found a way to carry on the tradition of celebrating our students’ induction to the Sigma Pi Sigma honor society. It retained  all elements of an oncampus event such as welcome address (by Dr. Dan Robb, and yes he wore a tie for the event!), initiation (by Dr. Rama Bala) , induction and charge (Mr. Duncan Maclean), Sigma Pi Sigma address (Dr. Matt Fleenor) and a toast (by Dr. Bala).  Instead of a served dinner, the inductees were served, a quirky and unusal ‘feast’ in the form of a physics themed slide show. 

Here is a link to the slide show posted on YouTube 

 

This year’s the Sigma-Pi-Sigma address was a motivational speech, titled ‘What’s in A P-H-Y-S-I-C-I-S-T?’. In his address, Dr. Fleenor talked about the qualities that characterizes a physicist. Here is a snap shot of his address. 

I am so proud of all our students, an excellent group of women and men. As they pursue their aspirations and dreams, we, the physics group faculty, are honored to teach and guide them to discover and reach for their own stars.

-Rama Bala

 

PS: Here is a link to the post on RC webpage on connecting with students during COVID. 

https://www.roanoke.edu/about/news/stories_of_connection_end_of_year_celebrations

 

 

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On Heroes

by minton on April 3, 2020

A conjunction of events provoked me to think about the role of heroes in our lives. Spoiler alert: in what follows there are no Marvel* heroes or even a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

To me, an interesting article is a great gift. RC History professor John Selby came across two items in quick succession that he thought I would want to see (he was right). They were about mathematics professors Francis Su and Tim Chartier. The same day a colleague invited me to VMI to chat with John Urschel. All three are worthy of being called heroes.

For young people, heroes are magical and perfect beings. As experience adds shading to our initial black-and-white view of the world, we risk growing cynical and closing the door to potential heroes. If “hero” means someone who inspires us, adding a little magic to the daily grind, we can draw important psychic benefits from heroes while acknowledging that they are imperfect humans like us.

Francis Su is a mathematics professor at Harvey Mudd College in California, where my son graduated. He is kind and generous, taking time to chat when we visited Mudd and when we run into each other at mathematics meetings. Francis was in the news as the author of a moving ode to mathematics, Mathematics for Human Flourishing. Francis articulates, in a style best described as lyrical, the benefits of seeing the world mathematically. If this strikes you as a narrow world view, get the book and discover how your best thinking is more mathematical than you realize.

Tim Chartier is a computer science and mathematics professor at Davidson College. He supervises Cats Stats, a student group that provides analytics to athletic teams at Davidson. His appearance in the news was through the sports-oriented Only a Game podcast. Tim is quick to introduce colleagues to each other when he sees connections they could explore. Afterwards, he will send a quick email asking, “Was that helpful?” It always is. If you are wondering how Cats Stats relates to Roanoke College’s Stat Crew, I stole the idea directly from Tim, and continue to get new (and very helpful) ideas from him.

John Urschel is a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics at MIT, scheduled to graduate in May. This is impressive, but his fame comes from his previous job as offensive lineman for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. John is thoughtful and unassuming, and a very strong mathematician. When one of the VMI people referred to some software he had not heard about, John quickly stepped in and asked for an explanation of the software. This was not a rude interruption, it was gathering information to fully participate in the conversation. He is getting a lot of publicity, but John says his immediate goal is to establish himself as a competent mathematician. His list of publications says he is already there.

When I was thinking about writing about John, I came up with the opening line, “In the end, I decided to not ask him to autograph my copy of his book.” In the magical world of childhood heroes, I would cherish that autograph. However, it felt like a more appropriate response to a high-level conversation about mathematics and life to shake his hand and thank him for his time.

So, what is a hero? Here are three people who are likable and inspirational: Francis and his love of mathematics, Tim and his amazing work with his students, and John with his work ethic and intelligence. They all make me a little more excited about the life I have. And that’s pretty magical.

(* Note: This is not exactly true. John Urschel has been working with Marvel on a video series “Marvel University” on Marvel’s YouTube channel.)

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Physics Students Attend Conferences

by minton on April 3, 2020

(submitted by Rama Bala)

Fall 2019 was a busy and exciting semester for physics students. Three of our Maroons, Morgan Hale (’22), Sophie Martin (’21), Rosie Hamed (’21), attended a 3-day long national conference for physics students. According to the conference organizers ‘PhysCon 2019 brought together over a thousand students of physics and astronomy with mentors, alumni and renowned scientists in Providence, RI for a life-changing experience to explore how we all have the capacity to Make Waves & Break Boundaries.’ Attendees had the opportunity to hear from luminaries in the field, go on tours, engage in workshops, and build our community.

These outstanding young women were also delighted to meet one of our accomplished graduates Dr. Jake Bennett (2008), currently an assistant professor at Mississippi. According to Jake “It was really great to see Roanoke College well represented at the national conference!”

Morgan Hale presented results of her research on Mars data analysis project, that she worked during the summer under the supervision of Dr. Rama Bala, at the conference. While a student at Roanoke, Jake had participated in several research projects working with professors in our department.

Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP 2020).

This year saw a record number of participants, 6 female students and 2 women faculty, from Roanoke College Physics at CUWiP. Roanoke has a steady increase in participant every year since 2015. CUWiP is a 3 day long conference, organized by the American Physical Society . This conference is organized at multiple locations throughout the country, so that students can go to a location closest to their home institution. “The goal of APS CUWiP is to help undergraduate women continue in physics by providing them with the opportunity to experience a professional conference, information about graduate school and professions in physics, and access to other women in physics of all ages with whom they can share experiences, advice, and ideas. The national and local organizing committees of APS CUWiP strive to create a welcoming environment for all, including undergraduate women and gender minorities.”

The Roanoke delegation, (L to R) Razan ‘Rosie’ Hamed, Jean Getz, Rachel Lindsay, Sophie Martin, Adrienne Springs, Morgan Hale along with physics faulty member, Dr. Hiba Assi (who took this picture), participated at the Maryland location.

Physics faculty member Dr. Rama Bala organized a session on experiences in transitioning to a four year college for physics, at the CUWiP at the Pittsburgh location.

Even before the ‘Zoom’ mania took over college campuses in recent weeks, as a default tool for remote teaching, our Roanoke women in physics attending the Pittsburgh and Maryland sites, connected with each other via zoom during the conference plenary talk.

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Stat Crew Records Double-Double

February 25, 2020

Chicago Cubs baseball legend Ernie Banks was known for enthusiastically saying, “Let’s Play Two!” On a date such as Saturday’s 2-22-2020 you almost have to do exactly that. The Roanoke College baseball team opened its home schedule with a doubleheader against Elizabethtown. Stat Crew members Luke Elder and Warren Payne were there to operate Track […]

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Passing Remarks

February 4, 2020

Eric Lee, a junior Actuarial Science major at Roanoke College, has passed both Exam P (Probability) and Exam FM (Financial Mathematics) offered by the Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society. These two exams along with the courses Eric is taking for the Actuarial Science major put him in excellent position to gain a […]

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Things to Do in Denver

January 24, 2020

Adam Childers and Dave Taylor received a national award at the Joint Mathematics Meeting in Denver on January 17, 2020. They were honored with the Outstanding Contributed Paper in Statistics Education award for 2019. In their award-winning talk, Adam and Dave presented their Classroom Stats app and several of its potential uses in a statistics […]

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Concentrate! On Sports Analytics

November 8, 2019

Roanoke College has a sports analytics program! The recently approved concentration in sports analytics is a six-course program giving students a broad background in important skills as well as practical experience in the field. Details can be found at roanoke.edu/mcsp/minton/Sports Analytics.html. The concentration builds on the success of Stat Crew. With over twenty students (and […]

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Getting to Know: Dave Taylor

August 30, 2019

Mathematics major and Honors student Olivia Long wondered about the profession of mathematics professor at a small college like Roanoke. She asked us several questions about the present and the future of our job. Here are the edited results, so that you can get to know us and our job. Dave Taylor has published a […]

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Getting to Know: Roland Minton

August 30, 2019

Mathematics major and Honors student Olivia Long wondered about the profession of mathematics professor at a small college like Roanoke. She asked us several questions about the present and the future of our job. Here are the edited results, so that you can get to know us and our job. Roland Minton enjoys levitating light […]

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Getting to Know: Karin Saoub

August 30, 2019

Mathematics major and Honors student Olivia Long wondered about the profession of mathematics professor at a small college like Roanoke. She asked us several questions about the present and the future of our job. Here are the edited results, so that you can get to know us and our job. Karin Saoub has published a […]

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