Q Club

The Q-Club, which is short for "Quantitative Club," is the departmental student organization, boasting over fifty members. Students speak on their research or share their internship and summer program experiences. Scheduled events take place approximately every other Friday 1:50 - 2:30pm with pizza and beverages being served. Q-Club will meet in Valentine 205-6.

Faculty members occasionally give talks as well, on topics ranging from "Math and Horror" to "An Outrageously Brief History of Mathematics."

All are welcome to attend; please contact Mitch Joseph, club president, or Sam Vandervelde, club advisor.

If you know of students interested in giving a talk during the semester, please contact Sam Vandervelde  (Q-Club Archive Page)

Additional activities planned by the club include a Piathlon (held on or near 3/14) and Euler's Birthday Party (on 4/15).

Archive Page

Spring 2015

4/17/2015 Jenna Street
Adjusting Grade Point Average for Course Difficulty
Abstract:  Class rank is a measure of a student's performance compared to the performance of other students in his or her class. The conventional method for determining a student's grade point average involves the earned grades and the number of units or credits that the student receives from each course. However, this process does not include a way to incorporate course difficulty, which can vary due to the nature of the course material or the particular grading standards of a professor, among other defining characteristics. The purpose of this project is to analyze ten years' worth of anonymized grade history for St. Lawrence University and build a model that provides a student's grade point average after adjusting for course difficulty. By doing so, we are able to re-rank students within each class in order to more accurately provide a comparison of classmates. We find that incorporating course difficulty into the ranking process impacts the order of class rankings though the biggest factor impacting class rankings is the individual student.

4/3/2015 Colleen Bradley
"Could Your Sleep Schedule be Affecting Your Mental Health?  An Application of Mixed Effects Modeling"
Abstract:  Mixed effects modeling refers to a broad array of techniques that can be used to model data that violate the usual linear model assumptions. We will use mixed effects modeling techniques to analyze data from a sleep study previously conducted by the psychology department. The study tested the effects of changing the beginning start time of the school day for high school students to a later time through the use of self-report surveys. The current available research suggests that sleeping habits can have an influence on the mental health of an individual. It has been shown that insufficient sleep is often linked with poor mental health, especially in regards to depression, anxiety, and stress. We will use the data from the sleep study to discover if the change in start time of the school day will have an effect on the mental health of these high school students.

3/27/15 Nathaniel Shenton
"The Double Pendulum, A Case Study of Chaotic Behavior"
Abstract: The double pendulum is a dynamic system in which a second pendulum is connected to the first, allowing the second to swing freely. The motion of the resulting dynamical system will associated to the motion of the pendulum.  This system experiences both periodic and chaotic tendencies.  We will use this example to show what it means for a system to be considered chaotic.  To do this we will explore the known visual tools that can help detect chaos, including an actual built pendulum.

3/6/15 Kirby Kaylor
"Title: Old McDonald had a Sensor"
Abstract: High tunnels are gaining popularity in farming communities as they allow for vegetables to be grown all year.  When the outside temperature is too cold, the sides can be rolled down to capture the sun’s natural heat, while minimizing heat loss.  When the outside temperature is warm enough, the sides can be rolled up to prevent overheating. These countermeasures require real-time temperature data from the tunnels. Sensor motes are battery-operated devices that can read data such as temperature and humidity and also form a wireless ad hoc network to transmit sensor data. A computer can collect up-to-date sensor data from the motes and control relevant equipment to regulate the temperature in the tunnels.

2/27/15 Dr. Sam Vandervelde
"Graphing Groups in the Projective Plane"
Abstract: In this talk we will introduce a novel method for visually presenting the group law for the integers mod m, i.e. the cyclic group of order m.  Along the way we will meet the finite projective plane, arguably one of the most elegant geometric objects in existence, in which every pair of lines intersects precisely once.  We will also discover that 14 is more unlucky than 13.

2/6/15 Brandon Lustig - will be presenting some work that he did with Dr. Robin Lock last fall on the use of statistics to rank PGA golfers.
"Head-to-Head Comparison Models to Rank PGA Tour Players"
Abstract: The current rankings systems for professional golfers, such as the official world golf rankings and the Fed Ex cup standings, put emphasis on winning tournaments and finishing near the top instead of looking at every round played with equal importance. To provide alternatives that are not so heavily weighted on winning tournaments, we use models, such as Bradley-Terry, that rely on head-to-head comparisons for all pairs of players for every tournament round. We discuss the details of finding ratings using these models, estimating the probability of a player beating another in a round, and compare the results using data from the 2013-2014 PGA tour season.

1/23/15 Boris Jukic and Joe Skufka from Clarkson University
"What's the big deal about big data?"
Abstract:  The term `big data' is most commonly understood to mean massive volumes of diverse and rapidly growing data that are not formally modeled (mostly unstructured or lightly structured), from various sources such as smart devices, social media, or sensors, in a variety of formats such as blogs, emails, tweets, or any unstructured content in digital format such as text, video, or audio.  There is a lot of hype and confusion regarding the true meaning and potential of this field and its uniquely inter-disciplinary nature. This talk will bring clarity to and debunk myths surrounding terms such as Big Data, Data Analytics and Data Science. (Such as "A data scientist is a statistician who lives in San Francisco.") The talk should be intriguing to a general audience and will hopefully inspire students to learn more about career prospects in this expanding field.

Fall 2014

12/9/2014 Abby Ross and Dave DiStefano
"The most famous numbers you've never heard of"
Abstract: In this talk, we will introduce the Catalan numbers, their formula, and discuss an example to illustrate their recurrence. A central idea of this SYE was to understand what happens when we take this set of numbers and “bump it up” to a higher dimension. We wrote code, conjectured a formula, and then proved this formula for "tri-Catalan numbers” - Catalan numbers in three dimensions. We then generalized this formula to all dimensions. We will close by discussing additional research we have done in relation to the Catalan numbers.

10/21/2014 Mitchell Joseph on the Budapest Semester in Mathematics
"The Budapest Semester in Mathematics"
Abstract:  Budapest Semesters in Mathematics is an academic program held in Budapest, Hungary for American and Canadian undergraduates. Initiated by Paul Erdős, László Lovasz, and Vera T. Sós, the program provides a unique opportunity for North American undergraduates. Through this program, mathematics and computer science majors in their junior/senior years may spend fall, spring or summer semesters in Budapest and study under the tutelage of eminent Hungarian scholar-teachers.

10/7/2014 Skyler Ng
"PHOENIX, a Helping Hand"
Abstract: With today's technological advances, people spend increasing amounts of time working on computers. To help people work efficiently, this project aims to create an intelligent software assistant that will help automate tedious commands that users often do on a desktop computer. The main task of this program is to search files or documents by the name or content. The software process can be broken down into three different sections. In the first section, the program will analyze an English command, tag each word with its part of speech, and parse it to determine its grammatical structure. The second section will focus on processing the parsed command into a command that the computer can understand. The final section will return the output to the user interface in a readable format. This program will be written in Python because it is a useful tool for string manipulation, has easy-to-read syntax, and contains the Natural Language Processing Toolkit (NLTK), which provides functions that deal with text processing.

9/9/2014 Dan Look, Associate Professor of Mathematics
"Can authorship of a contested piece be determined by statistics?"
Abstract: No, it can't.  However, statistics can provide supporting evidence.  Stylometry is the study and quantification of writing style, often using statistical methods. These techniques can be used in conjunction with more conventional analyses to suggest authorship of a contested work. Most notably, this was used to solidify the authorship attribution for the anonymous Federalist Papers and the 15th book of Oz. We'll discuss some past examples and some of the techniques involved.

9/23/2014 Danny Driscoll, Jenna Street and Son Vuong
"Careers in Actuarial Science"
Abstract:  Actuaries are leading business professionals who manage the impact of risk and uncertainty. They use mathematical and analytical skills on the job at a variety of industries to help businesses protect themselves against loss. Come learn about the process of becoming an actuary, including the exam process and the classes SLU offers to satisfy requirements. Hear about students’ experiences at actuary internships this past summer and discover this exciting but relatively unknown career path.

Spring 2014

This is the last Q-Club meeting for the semester.
4/29/2014  Johnn Balderston
"Foxes, Hipsters, and The Internet Meme: A First-World Social Epidemic"
Abstract:  The Internet Meme: a fast spreading, sometimes “viral,” internet fad that is quite possibly the fastest mutating disease known to mankind. The Meme virus threatens the health and abdominal circumference of individuals everywhere. The multiple strains of the virus and its speedy mutation rate have left the grand majority of the human race perpetually infected. For this reason, we create a mathematical SIR model to demonstrate the spread of memes, where individuals can either be Susceptible (S), Addicted (A), or Rehabilitated (R). Our SAR model incorporates social impacts on the spread of this dreaded plague, including personal preference, hipster effects, boredom, and meme mutation. Observing the internet meme in this manner allows for the relevant understanding of social diseases, in which interactions within the population can result in a form of vaccination or devaccination, unseen in typical SIR modeling. Our hope is that our SARs will lend insight into combating the spread of this debilitating disease.

4/22/2014 Dan Mulcahey will provide an introduction to cluster analysis and discuss an application in Economics
"Identifying Groups of Similarly Performing Mutual Funds Using Cluster Analysis"
Abstract:   Cluster analysis is an explanatory tool used to identify groups within data.    After giving an overview of some clustering algorithms, we use recent percent returns to find clusters of similarly performing mutual funds and demonstrate how Word Clouds can be used to conveniently summarize fund descriptions and quickly identify the similarities among funds in each cluster, and the differences among funds between clusters.

4/8/2014 Brian Kane and Anton Stoychev will be talking about driving a remote control car with Raspberry Pi!
"Using Your Smartphone to Control a RC Car"
Abstract:   Computers have seen innumerable advancements over the years, the most noticeable of which being a dramatic increase in power, somewhat paradoxically paired with an equally dramatic reduction in size. The Raspberry Pi mini-computer allows us to hold the power of a desktop quite literally in the palm of our hands. The power, size, and affordability of the Raspberry Pi make it ideal for use in small electronics projects with a “DIY” flavor.   Using a bit of engineering, we were able to take advantage of the Pi’s power and size to directly attach it to a RC car. This allowed us to have easy access to the car’s motor and steering functions. We then used Python and the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) to implement a client/server architecture through which we remotely controlled the car using an Android smartphone.

3/25/2014 Eric Budge and Steve Petramale
"On Counting Triangles"
Abstract:  Algorithms for counting triangles in massive graphs have been studied intensely. This fundamental tool has been utilized in network analysis for the computation of metrics including clustering coefficients and transitivity ratios. The degree sequence S of a graph G is a list of the degrees of the vertices in G in non-increasing order. A particular degree sequence S is called graphic if and only if a graph G can be created using S. This work focuses on graphs with degree sequences containing a unique triple, a sequence which has three repeated terms and all other terms distinct. Polynomial expressions are given which count the number of triangles in realizations of such graphic unique triple sequences.

3/4/2014 Spencer Timerman
"
Teaching AI to Work Together"
Abstract: : Teamwork is hard. It's difficult for humans and its difficult for computers. In this talk we will address computer learning, particularly in the case of a team of learners. Our problem was a simple one: five locations, ten players, with the object of the game to have more of your players at a majority of the locations. We found that certain reward mechanisms worked more effectively than others to teach the learners , and that our agents could not learn against opponents that acted with a certain degree of randomness.

2/18/2014 Jack Holby
"Variations on the Euclidean Steiner Tree Problem"
Abstract: Imagine you are trying to connect a set of cities to a highway. What is the best way to do this? Further, imagine a set of cities wish to build a highway between them. Where is the best place to build it? The Euclidean Steiner Tree Problem (ESTP) attempts to create a minimal spanning network of a set of points by allowing the introduction of new points, called Steiner points. We'll discuss a variation on this classic problem by introducing a single “Steiner line” in addition to the Steiner points, whose weight is not counted in the resulting network. For small sets, we have arrived at a complete geometric solution. We'll also discuss heuristic algorithms for solving this variation on larger sets. We believe that in general, this problem is NP-hard.

2/4/2014  Sam Vandervelde, Associate Professor of Mathematics
The World's Hardest Elementary Domino Tiling Problem
Abstract: :  Tiling problems have long delighted recreational mathematicians due to their potential for elementary formulation yet unexpected difficulty and elegance. Join Dr. V for a dizzying survey (literally---have you ever seen a Prezi presentation?) of classic and less well-known tiling puzzles.  We'll try out some of these puzzles together, then conclude by examining more closely one such problem that appeared on the 2009 USA Math Olympiad, successfully solved by only a single student in the entire country.