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Intellect

BYU receives NSF grant for summer mathematics research center

The Brigham Young University Department of Mathematics has been awarded a three-year $158,166 National Science Foundation grant to organize and operate a summer undergraduate research center for mathematics.

"The center will provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to experience mathematical research, encourage undergraduate students to attend graduate school in mathematics and prepare participants to be successful in graduate school," said Michael Dorff of the BYU mathematics faculty.

The center will offer an eight-week program June 20-Aug. 12, 2005, with two research groups, one investigating geometric optimization problems directed by Gary Lawlor and the other investigating minimal surfaces directed by Michael Dorff.

The basic problem in geometric optimization is to minimize length, area or some other quantity, among curves or surfaces satisfying a given constraint, according to Lawlor, also of the BYU mathematics faculty. " A well-known example is that a circle has least perimeter among all curves enclosing a given area," he said.

Minimal surfaces are geometric shapes that have a specific minimizing property. "The soap film that forms when a wire is dipped into soap solution is an example of a minimal surface," said Dorff.

Both of these research areas have connections to other scientific topics, such as surface tension, the formation of crystals and minerals, the shape of the universe and even the architectural design of the white coverings on the BYU baseball stadium, said Dorff.

In addition to this research, the center will provide participants with skills that will help them in their research and in graduate school, including training sessions in computers, seminars on needed research skills, and discussions on graduate school.

Student participants will be given a financial stipend, free housing during the eight-week program and a travel allowance to attend a conference during the following academic year to present their research.

More information on the center and the grant is available at www.math.byu.edu/~mdorff/SummerMathInstitute/index.htm, or by contacting Michael Dorff (mdorff@math.byu.edu).

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