Pitt Ranked 42nd in 2018 Putnam Competition
The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is the most important undergraduate mathematics competition in North America, which takes place on the first Saturday of December. In 2018, there were 4623 contestants from 568 universities in the USA and Canada. For more details on the winners, please consult Kedlaya's report. The list of Putnam problems can be found at the Putnam archive.
We are excited to let you know that the University of Pittsburgh's official Team (Mirabel Reid, Andrew Tindall, and Connor Schwartz) ranked 42nd nationally and one of its members, Connor Schwartz, made it to the top 500 of individual scorers. Other participating students include Fanyang Cheng, Benjamin Gardiner, Brian Popeck, Gennadi Ryan, and Haihui Zhu. Every participant scored at least one point, despite Putnam exam problems being notoriously difficult. This wonderful result reflects the dedication of the students involved as well as that of their mentors, Prof. Roman Fedorov, Prof. Piotr Hajlasz, Prof. Thomas Hales, Prof. George Sparling, and our graduate student Derek Orr.
The Pitt Math Department has recently established a prize (the Hales–Putnam prize) that gives 500 US Dollars to any student at Pitt that places among the top 500 students in the competition. Connor Schwartz will be the first recipient of the prize. (The prize will also give 1,000 US Dollars to any Pitt student in the top 100.)
The Math Department will be offering the Putnam seminar again this fall. The aim of the seminar is not just to help students train for the 2019 competition but to hone their problem-solving skills.
Daniel Crawford, a junior undergraduate mathematics major, was awarded the SMART Scholarship research award from the Department of Defense. For more information on the SMART Scholarship follow this link. We reached out to Daniel to ask him about his experience and how it will help him in future endeavors.
1. What interested you in applying for this scholarship?
My family has a strong history of service, and I wanted to follow that in some capacity. Also, a passion for research and determination to help others meant that I was also bound to try for a meaningful research experience. So, this internship is the best of both worlds. A perfect match for both my professional and personal interests!
2. What are two to three ways your experience at Pitt prepared you for this scholarship?
Certainly, the rigor and expectations of classes and professors armed me with the academic background needed for such a position. I have also been fortunate enough to have multiple research
experiences here on campus and the ability to learn and grow from these has been crucial. Though, I would say that the most important and helpful thing Pitt has done for me, and many other students, is to create an environment in which we can thrive and succeed.
3. Do you have a word of wisdom for current students or students considering the STEM field?
Work ethic should always be on the forefront of your minds. This will get you much farther than just about any other quality you have. And, with that, comes the fact that if you are serious about pursuing STEM, you must, must, must, stay motivated. You cannot let the rough days, the hard classes, or failed experiments to bring you down. Find your self-motivation and cultivate your work ethic. If you do this, nothing will stand in your way.
4. In what ways did the experience with the scholarship prepare you for graduation from the University of Pittsburgh? Work ethic should always be on the forefront of your minds. This will get you much farther than just about any other quality you have. And, with that, comes the fact that if you are serious about pursuing STEM, you must, must, must, stay motivated. You cannot let the rough days, the hard classes, or failed experiments to bring you down. Find your self-motivation and cultivate your work ethic. If you do this, nothing will stand in your way.
BIG Problems – Pirates Presentation
On April 23, two teams from Dr. Wheeler's BIG Problems class presented their work to the analytics team of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Stephan Cha, Daniel Crawford, and Tyra Pitts presented their work titled "Natural Language Processing for Smart Baseball Scouting." The students were tasked with creating a way to turn media and other reports on professional baseball players into scored scouting reports. The team's approach was to employ natural language processing used by Siri, Alexa, etc. and test different machine learning models.
A second team consisting of Andrew Klang, Aaron Chumsky, Donald Falk, Jason Miller, Justin Carter, Karthik Chinnappan, and Kyle Benbrook presented their work attempting to create an advantage for a batter by predicting what type of pitch a pitcher would throw next. The team had data on the 2.1 million pitches thrown in the Major Leagues from 2016-2018 and used different machine learning models to accomplish this.
Both teams' presentations were excellent, and their work was well received by professional sports analysts.
Earlier in April, a BIG Problems team presented their work at Gecko Robotics of Pittsburgh. Gecko utilizes robotics to perform industrial infrastructure inspections with their robots consisting of an array of eight sensors to collect data. The team was asked to analyze what would be an optimal number of sensors robots. Their work included understanding the nuances of what the robots inspected, modeling the situation, and using optimization techniques as well as machine learning models to find a solution.
The students work and presentation at the company headquarters were very well received.
Pictured (left to right) Ed Bryner (Gecko), Inna Reznitchenko Luke Sneeringer, Mohit Jain, James Hahn, Joel Valentino (all of Pitt BIG Problems), and Ben Guise (Gecko)
On Thursday, April 25, BIG Problems students presented their work to Republic Airlines. Corey Manton of Republic Airlines observed the students explain their approach to create an effective scheduling program. Mathematically speaking, scheduling problems are largely a graph coloring problem and these problems are NP-hard. The BIG students approach involved borrowing ideas from algorithms used to solve sudoku puzzles.
Corey Manton of Republic Airlines, his son Derek, and BIG Problems students Sam Ressin, Valeri Natole, Claire Hickey, and Max Chis
2019 Culver Prize Recipients
- Leo Corman
- Yangxin Fan
- Justin Maier
- Cassandra Maz
- Mirabel Reid
- Connor Schwartz
- Zac Yu
2019 Hales-Putnam Prize
- Connor Schwartz