Bing tracking

Student Research

The mathematics department at Augsburg has a strong tradition of involving undergraduate students in cutting-edge research projects. Whatever your interest, you can certainly find it in the math department. You can be deeply involved in a faculty member’s research, investigate your own ideas with a faculty mentor, or pursue an internship with some of the many companies in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Below is a sampling of some of the most recent undergraduate research projects.

Becca Freese and BiostatisticsBecca and the U of M research group

Becca Freese is a junior math and biology minor who spent her summer studying Biostatistics at the U of M.  Becca was part of the SIBS program (Summer Institute in Biostatistics), which hosts “summer schools” at several schools across the country.  As part of this program Becca spent six weeks living on campus and attending classes and labs, all paid for by the program.  The program also included field trips to Medtronic, the Mayo Clinic, and the Visible Heart Laboratory at the U (a collection of donated human and animal hearts).

Becca and her group worked on a famous data set called the MRFIT data, as well as a virtual case study about the effects of caffeine.  The subjects for the caffeine study were avatars such as the one shown.  Becca would certainly recommend this program to other students interested in the intersections between mathematics and biology, especially students with some kind of statistics background.  One nice feature of this program is that you can earn Augsburg course credit for the Biostatistics course.

Taybri Irving and Cryptography

Taybri Irving is a Music major, a Mathematics minor, and a cross-country running star.  In Summer 2016 she worked with Professor Matt Haines on a project combining Math and Music.  Here’s her description of the project:

Composers from the Baroque period and beyond occasionally used cryptography in composition in the form of cipher motifs. These motifs were not intended to be hidden, but rather a vehicle to create a melody in tribute to another composer.  The project provides history of the use of cipher motifs, a brief overview of cryptosystems, and then detail the steps taken by the composer/author/student scholar (Taybri Irving) in applying a Hill cipher to form an aesthetically pleasing composition with a secret message encoded within.

For this project the aspect of music the encrypted message was applied to was chords. Since Mod 29 is used this requires 29 different chords, which can be done if different inversions count as a different chord. Musically the chords that end up being used to encrypt the message might not make sense or follow the rules of music theory. This is where studying composers like Debussy who used harmony differently was helpful.

Taybri presented her work at the URGO presentations, and played the music that she had composed.

Duane Pomerleau and 3D PrintingDuane Pomerleau

Duane Pomerleau is a senior math major pursuing teacher certification.  Duane spent a big chunk of his summer researching how to incorporate 3D printer technology into the middle school mathematics classroom.

Duane did his research under the guidance of Professor Matt Haines, and was supported by Augsburg’s NASA Space Grant.  He ended up working mostly in June and August, taking the time in July to assist with the GEMS and GISE programs.  Summer research can be flexible to fit your schedule!

Duane’s goal is to create a lesson plan that will allow students to write a program to create a 3D object of their own design, bringing an exciting hands-on application into the mathematics classroom.  While learning to program and run the 3D printer, Duane created a 3D demonstration of the Pythagorean Theorem, as well as a part for his mountain bike.  He also met with Timothy Jump, director of a very successful high school robotics team.
Duane will be presenting his work at the Zyzzogeton poster session here at Augsburg, and is working on writing up his lesson plan this academic year.

3D printed fractals 3D printing design for a chain

Cory Haight-Nali and Dynamical Systems

Cory Haight-Nalì, a senior math major, spent his summer on an Augsburg URGO project with Professor Pavel BělíkCory and Pavel showing off their diagrams.

Cory and Pavel collaboratingTheir research topic was using Laguerre’s method to find complex roots of polynomials.  Cory began his research by learning background on numerical analysis, complex numbers, and coding in Octave.  Cory created some lovely and meaningful images by calculating the basins of attraction for the roots of various polynomials.  (The basin of attraction is the set of points that are attracted to a particular root – each basin has its own color in the pictures).  Laguerre’s method sometimes fails to find a root of the polynomial, and by looking at their results Cory and Pavel came up with a conjecture about how rotational symmetry relates to the success of the method.  They hope to follow up with these questions during the academic year.

URGO is a competitive, fully-funded, 10-week, on-campus summer research program for Augsburg undergraduates.  Cory will be presenting his work in a math colloquium on Wednesday, October 8 (4:30 pm in Old Main 105), as well as at Zyzzogeton and other venues.

Julia SetJulia Set for 5 roots


Taylor Kuramoto and Mathematical BiologyTaylor Kuramoto (right) and her research buddies

Taylor Kuramoto is a senior math major who spent the summer in Tennessee as part of the NIMBIOS program: The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis.

Network showing connections between cowsTaylor was one of only eighteen undergraduates from across the country chosen for this fully funded 8-week summer research program.  The NIMBIOS program pays a stipend in addition to travel and lodging expenses.  At NIMBIOS Taylor learned about statistics and differential equations, along with programming and disease biology. Specifically, Taylor was part of a group modeling the transmission of bovine respiratory disease among cattle herds.  She helped to produce a report on their model, and will be presenting her work at conferences in Los Angeles (SACNAS) and in Tennessee (these trips will also be fully funded).




Project title: Modeling Heat-Shrinkable Film

Faculty mentor/company/sponsor:  Dr. Pavel Belik, Mathematics Department

Project Funding: 3M and Dean’s office

Description of project: A computational model developed previously is utilized to study the behavior of a polymeric thin film that undergoes a shape change under a temperature change. In particular, an attempt is made to discover whether there are nonzero threshold values for the size of the heated region and the intensity of the heat below which the film’s shape remains unchanged.

Best part about your project? The best part of the project is the learning experience. I learned so much from the project over the summer. I am very thankful that I was given the opportunity to work on this project with Pavel Belik.


IMG_1328Project title: Modeling Carbon Fluxes in the Environment

Faculty mentor/company/sponsor:  Dr. John Zobitz, Mathematics Department

Project Funding: NASA space Grant

Description of project: By using satellite and tower based measurements, it was possible to make a multi-year model of Net Ecosystem exchange.

Best part about your project? I was able to learn new skills in Modeling using a computer.  I also gained greater knowledge of the math concepts I have learned in class and made a good relationship with a faculty member.

Words of wisdom? Research is a great way to use the knowledge you learn in class!  Doing research gives you a better understanding of concepts and also a greater appreciation for what you’ve learned.


garver_08Project title: “An Econometric Analysis of Student Achievement in Minnesota”

Faculty mentor/company/sponsor: Dr. Stella K. Hofrenning, Economics Department

Project Funding: URGO

Description of project: I investigated the impact of different variables on eighth grade students’ performance on the Minnesota Basic Skills Test.

Best part of project: My favorite part of the project was conducting an exhaustive literature review and getting a sense of all the research relating into the topic.

Words of wisdom?  The URGO summer research program was a great introduction to being part of a large research project.  I think the experience should be had be all students.


gruhlkeProject title: Modeling Learning algebra in context: MAT 105 Applied Algebra

Faculty mentor/company/sponsor:  Dr. Su Dorée, Mathematics Department

Project Funding: Summer URGO funds

Description of project: This project was a collaboration to update and rewrite the MAT 105, Applied Algebra course textbook. The main focus of the updates was the utilization and incorporation of contextual mathematics.

Best part about your project? The best part of this project was the opportunity to expand my own philosophies on mathematics education. With my research I will be able to expand on these ideas in the classroom, and in future research opportunities.

Words of wisdom? If you are even a little curious about the research possibilities you could be a part of, go for it! Doing research in this type of setting is more than worthwhile. Being a part of such a great opportunity looks good on resumes, shows that you have a drive for deeper comprehension, and you can get paid. You really can’t pass it up.