The 2022 spring semester was a success for the mathematics department.
Students gained plentiful knowledge and experience under Dr. Ngoc Do’s wing in her new course: Preparation for Industrial Careers in Mathematical Sciences (PIC Math).
A course of action
MTH596/696 was part of a nationwide program called PIC Math. It contained a mix of both undergraduate and graduate students.
It is a program of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)’s PIC math program, with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The course aims to prepare mathematical science students for industrial careers by engaging them in research problems that come directly from the industry.
“A strong component of the class is students working in teams on a semester-long research project that comes directly from a partner organization in business, government or industry, facilitated by the instructor,” Do said.
This past semester was a successful first one for the course.
“There is still a lot of room for improvement,” Do said. “But teaching PIC Math was a great experience for me, and I can proudly say that together with the students, we have achieved all the proposed course objectives.”
The goals for the course included:
- Increased awareness of career options in the industry.
- Undergraduate/graduate research experience working on a problem from a business, industry and/or government.
- Experience working as a team with fellow students and an industrial consultant.
- Improved communication skills.
- Increased preparedness for applying for industrial jobs.
Do sees this course being taught again in future semesters.
“I’d like to continue teaching this course in the future, especially with what the students have already accomplished in just one semester,” Do said.
Bringing success home
MSU had one graduate student team and two undergraduate student teams with 3-4 students each.
- Team 1 used turning movement counts at major intersections in the city of Springfield to improve the currently used traffic signal system.
- Team 2 and team 3 used the influent flow rate and water quality parameters data of the Southwest Wastewater Treatment plan, groundwater, stream and rain gauges data to explore the correlation between these data.
- In addition, team 2 forecasted future influent flow while team 3 predicted future water quality parameters.
One team from each university offering the PIC Math course will be invited to give an oral presentation or a poster presentation in the MAA PIC Math Showcase at MathFest.
Team 2’s presentation made the cut for oral presentation.
One student on the team, Nathan Obert, traveled to Philadelphia to present at this past August’s MAA PIC Showcase.
“The presentation was well received, both by the faculty and other teams there,” Obert said.
Opportunities like this is what Do loves about teaching the course.
“The most exciting aspect of the course for me is that it gives the students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in not just this course, but other math and stat classes,” Do said. “Not only that, students got to learn new knowledge and skills on their own to solve the problem – just like what they will do in their future workplace. And at the end of the day, I love seeing their hard work pay off.”
Watch Obert’s presentation below:
This new course could not have been this successful without some important people.
“I am really thankful for Dr. William Bray’s enormous help since day zero with my application to MAA PIC Math program, recruiting students and finding industrial partners,” Do said,
“And also Dr. Tamera Jahnke and Dr. Doug Carroll for finding our industrial partners.”
Local partners also played an important role in this course.
“I am also thankful for the Southwest Waste Water Treatment Plant and City of Springfield Department of Transportation and the industrial liaisons for providing data, helping with formulating the problems, and supporting our students throughout the semester,” Do said.
“Last but not least, I am grateful for the staff of the MSU Career Center, especially Dustin Braddish, for preparing students for their future industrial career, and finally, all students in the class who were brave enough to take up the challenge!”