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Math department news

Student's work published

Steven D. Smith, LSUS math major, has been published in an academic mathematics journal.

The published work, which appears in the December 2010 issue of Mathematics Magazine, was part of Smith's work in the math department's capstone course, Senior Seminar (MATH 498), in the spring semester of 2010. The full citation of the work is below.

  • Steven D. Smith and Rick Mabry, The determinant of a Kronecker Product (Solution to Problem 1833), Mathematics Magazine 83, no. 5 (Dec. 2010), 394-395.

As part of Senior Seminar (a required course for mathematics majors),  students work independently on research projects involving topics that are not typically part of their regular curriculum. "We want to see what they can do," says math professor Rick Mabry, who runs the course, "and we want them to see what they can do. These students are about to go out into the world with a degree that says they can independently do analysis and solve mathematical problems. In Senior Seminar we try to give them a taste of that."

The students in the seminar give near-weekly presentations of their progress throughout the semester, along with a final presentation near its end, to which all members of the campus community are invited. The student's research can be anything from detailed reports on specific areas of mathematics to original research. And in rare cases, such as this, the objective can be to solve a problem posed in one of the well known mathematics journals. "This is a riskier option for our seminar students," Mabry says, "since some of the problems are very difficult."

Mabry calls these problems "homework problems for professors from professors. They are posed by mathematicians all over the world, and it is usually the professional mathematicians who solve them." To ensure that the venture doesn't fall flat in the case of a problem that is too difficult to solve (or too easy), students concurrently present to the seminar an overview of the field from which the problem derives.

In this case, the student did solve the problem. "You'll notice," adds Mabry, "that my name is on the published result. This merely acknowledges my role as advisor. Steven solved the problem completely on his own; I only helped with streamlining the proof and tidying up the language. This was a very good problem and brought some nice topics to the seminar."

In the last weeks of the semester, Smith solved a second problem from a different journal. He and Mabry are still awaiting word on its acceptance. "My name won't be on that one if it is accepted, as my only suggestions were minor."

To top it off, Professor Mabry received something further from Steven Smith. "He sent me a solution to yet another problem, just to get my opinion. He had graduated months earlier! It is terrific to see students getting the problem-solving bug."