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Mathematics at the 2008 National SACNAS Conference

The 2008 National Conference of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 9-12. The theme was International Polar Year: Global Change in Our Communities. The conference featured keynote speakers, sessions and symposia, awards, undergraduate poster presentations, graduate oral presentations, mentoring, and social events--and mathematics was a significant component of the program. Dr. Juan Meza (head of the High Performance Computing Research Department, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) was given the 2008 SACNAS Distinguished Scientist Award. Meza oversees work in computational science and mathematics, computer science and future technologies, scientific data management, visualization, numerical algorithms and application development.


The American Mathematical Society (AMS) was among the conference session sponsors and was among the over 200 exhibitors--institutes, colleges, universities, associations, hospitals, government agencies--that provided information about educational programs and career opportunities in the sciences. Generous support from the National Security Agency (NSA) allowed many math students to attend the conference.

Ken Golden


Kenneth Golden (University of Utah) gave an engaging talk, "Mathematics of Sea Ice to Help Predict Climate Change," about his travels, work with undergraduate mathematics majors, and research involving percolation theory to explain how salt water travels through sea ice. (Golden is chair of the advisory committee on "Mathematics and Climate," the theme of Mathematics Awareness Month, April 2009. Stay tuned for more information in January.)


The CONVERSATIONS WITH SCIENTISTS - MATHEMATICS SECTION on Thursday evening drew over 100 students and mentors (left). Both undergraduates and graduates from colleges and universities around the country gathered to discuss mathematics, courses, graduate programs and careers in the mathematical sciences. There was a mentor at each table to answer questions and guide the discussions. It was at this gathering that over 40 students opted to take the qualifying test for the Who Wants to Be a Mathematician game that was held on Saturday.

one of the math poster aisles

one of the math poster aisles

The UNDERGRADUATE AND GRADUATE STUDENT POSTER PRESENTATIONS IN MATHEMATICS were a highlight of the conference. See the list of posters, presenters and photos. The following students received awards for mathematics posters:

  • Gina Maria Pomann, College of New Jersey (award sponsored by the Society for Industrial & Applied Mathematics)
  • Alex Washburne, University of New Mexico (award sponsored by the Society for Industrial & Applied Mathematics)
  • Justin Walbeck & Timothy Clinton, Tulane University (Marta Contreras Memorial Award

Many of the mathematicians at the conference served as mentors and poster judges at the 2008 National SACNAS Conference, and several are part of the SACNAS Biography Project.

The AMS gave each student poster presenter a bag with Five-Minute Mathematics, a book by Ehrhard Behrends, the most recent issue of Notices of the AMS, Assistantships & Graduate Fellowships in the Mathematical Sciences, and some small gifts in appreciation of their work.

There were GRADUATE STUDENT ORAL RESEARCH PRESENTATIONS IN MATHEMATICS as well. The graduate student Oral Presentation award winner was Rosalyn Rael, University of Arizona (Marta Contreras Memorial Award). The Oral Presentations in Mathematics and Statistics (presenter names in bold) were:

  • Tanglesove. Jennifer Lopez (San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA), Mariel Vazquez (San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA), Yuki Saka (Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL), Wenjing Zheng (University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA)
  • Exploring DNA Unknotting by Type II Topoisomerases. Juliet Portillo, Trevor Blackstone, Reuben Brasher (San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA), Nathan Shayefar, Itmar Landau, Janella Slaga (University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA), Mariel Vazquez (San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA)
  • Comparison of Techniques Used to Estimate Time-Frequency Distributions of Surface Electromyographic Signals in the Assessment of Muscle Fatigue. Cristhian Potes, Ricardo von Borries, Cristiano Jacques Miosso (University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX)
  • Food Web Evolution and Patterns in Ecosystem Structure. Rosalyn Rael, Jim Cushing (University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ), Neo Martinez (Pacific Ecoinformatics and Computational Ecology Lab, Berkeley, CA), Tom Vincent (University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ)
  • A New Lower Bound for the Ropelength of a Trefoil Knot. Teresita Ramirez-Rosas (University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA)


at the AMS exhibit booth

The AMS EXHIBIT drew undergraduate and graduate students, mathematicians, and teachers. AMS Public Awareness Officers Mike Breen and Annette Emerson answered questions about the Society's programs and services, graduate school programs and careers in mathematics.

The AMS also provided visitors with materials including:

MATHEMATICS SESSIONS and EVENTS on the program included:
* The State of the Planet: How Mathematics Can Help (Mini-Course)
* Math Institutes Modern Mathematics Workshop
* Clearing Up Common Misperceptions in Statistics
* Who Wants to Be a Mathematician game
* Statistical Perspectives on Health Disparities in the Hispanic Population
* Mathematics Institutes Reception and the REU Open Forum
* Promoting Excellence in Mathematics for Latina/o and Native American Students

MORE PHOTOS from the 2008 National SACNAS Conference

The AMS exhibit
In the AMS exhibit area.
Conversations with Mathematicians
At the Conversations with Mathematicians session.


Who Wnats to Be a Mathematician contestants
Who Wants to Be a Mathematician contestants.
The AMS exhibit
Gathering for lunch and Keynote Talk.
The AMS exhibit
Student mathematics posters.
The AMS exhibit
One of over 30 math poster presenters.

The AMS thanks all the mathematicians who organized the mathematics sessions, gave talks, served as mentors, and judged posters at the 2008 National SACNAS Conference.

Read Highlights of the 2007 SACNAS National Conference.

--- Annette Emerson, AMS Public Awareness Officer