ornlSummerResearch2014 (1)

For senior physics students Cam Cassady (middle right) and Chris Valentine (far right), the summer was spent engaged in research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory near Knoxville, Tennessee.  Their research projects were a result of the Visiting Faculty Program funded by the US Department of Energy.  Under the direction of ORNL research scientist Matthew Blackston (middle left) and RC faculty mentor Matthew Fleenor (far left), their summer research focused on coded-aperture imaging.  Coded-aperture imaging is an indirect technique used in astronomy, medicine, and nuclear security to observe materials that emit high-energy particles.


Cam and Chris presented their research at the ORNL campus-wide student poster session, attended by over 1000 students and scientists.



Mathematicians in Portlandia

by Roland Minton on August 19, 2014


Congratulations to Roanoke College mathematics majors Jon Marino and Sam Parsons for winning prizes for their research presentations in Portland, Oregon, on August 8! Their papers on “Integer Compositions Applied to the Probability Analysis of Blackjack” and “Protecting Confidentiality and Scientific Integrity Through Synthetic Data and Mediator Servers,” respectively, were named winners in the Pi Mu Epsilon student talk competition at MathFest, a national meeting of the Mathematical Association of America.

Roanoke College made its mark at MathFest, with four professors and three students attending. Mathematics major Heather Cook gave a well-received talk on “Assessment of Water Quality in the Chesapeake by Parameter Estimation.” This was Heather’s third straight year giving a talk at MathFest, and the seventh straight year a Roanoke College student has presented work.

Jon’s research (integer compositions and blackjack) was his Honors in Mathematics project and was sponsored by Dr. David Taylor. The work explains and extends an interesting pattern that Dave discovered while working on his probability textbook. Sam’s research was her Summer Scholar project, working with Dr. Adam Childers. Her work offers a solution to the dilemma of allowing others to verify analyses of sensitive data without publishing the data. She is a rising senior and plans to continue her research. Heather’s research was also with Dr. Childers, and represents the first of many collaborations between Roanoke College students and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

MathFest is an excellent meeting at which students can interact with the mathematics community at large, network with students from around the country, gain invaluable experience presenting and answering questions about their research, and learning that the work they do at Roanoke College is of high quality. Plus, they had a good time!




by Roland Minton on August 15, 2014


Please watch this short video about a local valedictorian’s hero.

Mr. Boyer is Geoff Boyer, a Roanoke College mathematics major, class of 1998. Geoff has a great sense of humor, served as volleyball coach for several years, and has done PA and radio announcing for the Craig County football team. He is a wonderful role model.

Odds are that many of our other graduates who teach would also be named if WDBJ7 gave them the same air time. We strive for exactly the environment that Levi Helm talks about, with learning being fun. Do magic tricks and dice games and sports and history and psychology really belong in MCSP classrooms? We think so; it’s all about a love of learning.

Sadly, the national debate about education tends to focus on assessment. If a high school’s standardized test scores are not high enough, the school can lose funding and accreditation. Are the tests that accurate a measure of learning? Is removing funding the right response to a school with struggling students? The desire for accountability in our children’s schools is understandable, but education is a complicated process that is probably impossible to measure.

A new federal proposal tries to raise the ante on colleges and universities by tying funding to average salaries after graduation. The motivation is easy to understand: a college education that takes large amounts of money should help deliver a better lifestyle. But there is no reason to believe that we can compute a number to evaluate the process: “better” is dependent on where you start, and different colleges have different student profiles.

And that’s not to mention the morality of equating salary with success. A previous blog entry bragged about the high starting salaries of majors in mathematics, computer science, and physics. And we’re proud of that; it’s important.

This entry is about a different type of success, though. In how many jobs do you get to be a hero?


Singing Our Praises

August 13, 2014

One way to sing the praises of our MCSP students is to note that many of them sing in the Roanoke College Choir, the Oriana Singers, and a cappella groups such as Looking for an Echo. The Choir has a remarkable record of performances abroad and professional recordings, and has just been named a Finalist […]

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Princeton Review Ranks Roanoke as a Great School for Majors in Computer Science

August 5, 2014

The 2015 rankings from the Princeton Review are in, and Roanoke College once again finds itself among the 379 Best Colleges.  In addition to this ranking, the Princeton Review has named Roanoke College as a great school for majors in Computer Science.  This is the fourth consecutive year that the Computer Science department has received […]

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We Get the Best Jobs!

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 […]

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Nobody Expects the Math Inquisition

May 7, 2014

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 […]

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Roanoke College Shines at Record-Setting Meeting

May 1, 2014

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 […]

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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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