SAMSI completed a two-day workshop focused on providing undergraduate students with an overview on topics of current interest in statistics and applied mathematics.
The workshop, hosted at the SAMSI Institute from Feb. 26-27, 2018, brought together nearly 30 undergraduate students from across the nation. The subject matter emphasized an overview of current and planned SAMSI research programs and primarily how Quasi-Monte Carlo and High-Dimensional Sampling Methods are used in modern day research to solve a variety of real-world problems.
“The goal of the workshop was to expose undergraduates to the broad class of computational algorithms called Monte Carlo methods in various contexts and diverse applications and it did a decent job on this given the limited amount of time,” said Elvan Ceyhan, SAMSI Deputy Director and workshop organizer.
The principles discussed in the lectures helped show how this applied mathematical research could be used across a broad spectrum of research.
“It was a nice workshop for the undergraduates to learn about Monte Carlo methods and see their applications in different contexts,” said Jianfeng Lu, professor of mathematics at Duke University and a guest lecturer at the workshop. Lu presented a talk on an Introduction to Markov chain Monte Carlo Methods to help undergraduates gain perspective on how these methods are used to develop accurate data that can be used to solve a myriad of problems in business and industry.
“The students showed genuine interest on topics that are accessible yet may not be covered in the traditional undergraduate courses, and the speakers were intentionally chosen at different levels of their careers to show students how a mathematical scientist does research,” said Ceyhan.
SAMSI Postdoctoral Fellows also presented hands on demos on using ‘R’ Software to perform Monte Carlo simulations. In addition, these young professionals also conducted a panel to speak about their experiences thus far in their academic careers and what undergraduates should consider if they are interested in pursuing math and science-based jobs.
The undergrad students overall got a lot out of the event and some will return to their schools with a new attitude about pursuing math-based careers. Students thought the lectures were informative, insightful and fun. “[The mathematical] Applications were incredibly valuable for my understanding of theories,” said an attendee. “With a natural interest in science I thought these presentations were very cool.”
Students also enjoyed the panel on applied mathematics and statistics-based career opportunities. “I enjoyed learning about how the panelists felt about their paths to graduate school,” said one student. “I got useful information about the types of research available for statistics majors.”
Students and lecturers alike enjoyed the experience and praised the workshop for its ability to speak at all levels to all types of students.
“It was very enjoyable to speak to the participants of the SAMSI Undergraduate Workshop. The students were interested and engaged and asked insightful questions during and after my lecture,” said Erik Van Vleck, a mathematics professor at the University of Kansas and a speaker at the event.
Van Vleck spoke about how Predictability and Chaos algorithms are developed to create accurate predictions on subjects like climate research. His talk was about an introduction to mathematical chaos and the consequences of chaotic behavior on predictability.
“This type of workshop is a great way to foster interactions between undergraduate students and SAMSI postdocs and visiting researchers,” said Van Vleck.
The workshop’s success was reflected in the numerous amount of positive comments provided by the undergraduate students who attended. “I think [these workshops] are a good way to meet people from outside your university and they expose you to topics that aren’t covered in traditional undergraduate courses,” said a student.
Workshops like this are in keeping with SAMSI’s focus: to help raise awareness for the importance of applied mathematics, statistics and computer science. Further, these workshops offer students a new perspective and appreciation for science and math-based curriculum and career opportunities.
To find out more about what was presented at this workshop, visit the webpage at: https://www.samsi.info/qmc-ugrad.