Undergrad students named outstanding winners at international MathFest
October 3, 2018
Two Virginia Tech College of Science students were named Outstanding Winners in the 2018 Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP) Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM). They were recognized at the recent Mathematical Association of America’s MathFest in Denver, Colorado, along with scholarships from COMAP.
Winning the awards were Aimee Maurais of Wake Forest, North Carolina, a senior double majoring in the computational modeling and data analytics program, part of the College of Science’s Academy of Integrated Science, and mathematics; and Arianna Krinos, a senior triple majoring in biological sciences, computational modeling and data analytics, and computer science in the College of Engineering.
Maurais and Krinos were among only 16 teams from a field of 10,670 to be selected as Outstanding Winners of the international Mathematical Contest in Modeling. Only two U.S.-based teams were among the final 16 winners. The team won a prize from the Mathematical Association of America and will split a $10,000 scholarship, given to the top four teams in the combined Mathematical Contest in Modeling and Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling competitions. (In total, roughly 20,600 teams representing 1,440 institutions, and more than 61,200 students participated in the separate MCM and ICM contests.)
Sponsored by the nonprofit Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications, the Mathematical Contest in Modeling is a four-day undergraduate math modeling challenge that requireas participating students to use mathematical tools to solve one of three scenarios based on real-world problems.
Maurais and Krinos chose a problem based on a large set of data representing 50 years of energy use in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas summarized in 605 variables. The duo built a mathematical model to characterize an "energy profile" for each state, from which they assessed which state was most energy healthy in 2009 and made projections for 2025 and 2050.
“We chose to tackle Problem C, because at the time we were taking a data analytics class that had prepared us with some useful skills, and the premise — developing energy profiles for the U.S. border states based off a massive amount of data — was intriguing,” said Maurais, who is a Virginia Tech Stamps Scholar.
“The MCM ended up being better than I could have imagined: Aimee and I worked together very effectively on the challenge, and being roommates, we were able to really immerse ourselves in the multiple-day process,” Krinos said. “We work well together because we span a useful range of fields, and Aimee is often able to really develop and polish some of the ideas that I generate from my research background, particularly when we are lucky enough to be able to work on such relevant problems.”
John Rossi, a professor of mathematics served as faculty advisor to Maurais and Krinos.
“Within the math world, this is a very impressive feat,” said Mark Embree, a professor of mathematics and director of the computational modeling and data analytics program. Further, the Virginia Tech team’s solution has been selected for publication in the Undergraduate Mathematics and its Applications Journal, as the representative for Problem C from among more than 4,000 submitted papers, according to COMAP.
Maurais and Krinos were not the only Virginia Tech students attending MathFest this year. Will Craig IV, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a senior majoring in math, presented a paper on polynomials based upon research work he did with Mark Shimozono, a professor in the Department of Mathematics. The presentation earned Craig the Pi Mu Epsilon Student Speaker Award.
Both Maurais and Krinos also attended the Sept. 26-28 Grace Hopper Celebration in Houston, Texas, along with three other Virginia Tech students majoring in computational modeling and data analytics and several students from the Department of Computer Science. The event – named after the famed computer scientist and U.S. Navy rear admiral – is touted as the world’s largest gathering of women technologists.
“I was excited to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration because it is an opportunity to meet and be inspired by thousands of other women in computing,” Maurais said.
"The conference included an open source day and other challenges to tackle that will give Aimee and me further exposure to real-world problems and equip us with additional tools to solve those problems,” Krinos added.
Krinos recently learned she won the Astronaut Scholarship for the second consecutive year, an honor that comes on the heels of winning a 2018 Goldwater Scholarship in April. Her summer included an internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey. She is now applying to graduate schools, with the intention of pursuing research in oceanography related to environmental change.
Maurais is planning to work in research and development for one or two years before entering graduate school to study applied mathematics. Earlier this year, she won the Patricia A. Caldwell Scholarship in Mathematics from the Department of Mathematics.