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Mathematics students invited to present at prestigious undergraduate research conference

By Tom Roesler
Communications Coordinator

Fernando Roman and Zijian Li, both Kansas State University mathematics students in the College of Arts & Sciences, have been invited to speak at the Young Mathematicians Conference from Aug. 22-24 at Ohio State University. Joining Roman and Li as invited participants is a team of undergraduate researchers who participated in the Summer Undergraduate Mathematics Research Experience for Undergraduates in the summer of 2014.

The conference is the premier annual event for undergraduate research in mathematics. Only about 65 students are invited each year.

"The Young Mathematicians Conference is a highly competitive conference, where only about 65 students are invited each year," said Andrew Bennett, mathematics professor and department head. "Having multiple students from K-State at the conference is an outstanding accomplishment."

Roman, a senior in mathematics, is originally from Toa Alta, Puerto Rico and is a member of the K-State cross country team. He will be presenting his work on backward-shift realizations of rational discrete analytic functions, performed under the supervision of Dan Volok, mathematics associate professor and associate director of the Center for the Integration of Undergraduate, Graduate, and Postdoctoral Research, or I-Center.

"Talent and determination, these are the keys to Fernando's success," Volok said.

Li, also a senior in mathematics, is a transfer student from South China Normal University and originally from Guangzhou, China. His faculty mentor is Hrant Hakobyan, mathematics assistant professor, and together they have been writing a paper that, among other things, shows that "uniform Cantor sets are minimal for quasisymmetric mappings of the line if and only if they have Hausdorff dimension 1." The title of Li's YMC talk is "Pointwise Quasisymmetric Minimality and Uniform Cantor Sets."

"I am very impressed by Zijian's creativity and dedication," Hakobyan said. "He is a bright and talented student. It has been a pleasure having a student who is not only extremely enthusiastic about mathematics, but is also a hard worker."

Both Roman and Li are center scholars whose work has been supported by Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Research Scholarship awards. These awards provide a scholarship of $1,000 to help students conduct a one-semester research project with a faculty member within the college.

"This is a fantastic recognition for Mr. Roman and Mr. Li, as well as K-State math," said Beth Montelone, associate dean for research and director of the College of Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Research Scholarship program. "These are precisely the outcomes we are hoping for by supporting students to work with faculty members on original research and scholarly and creative activities."

The invited undergraduate research team was part of the National Science Foundation-supported undergraduate research experience program at K-State this summer. The team, comprised of Andrew Batallas, Mitchell Messmore and Andy Smith, worked under the mentorship of the center postdoctoral fellow Alex Gonzalez.

The team will present a talk based on their research at K-State, "Euler Characteristics of p-Local Compact Groups." According to their research, "The Euler characteristic is a fundamental topological invariant that has recently been defined for finite categories. We use this definition to study the Euler characteristic of certain categories related to finite groups and suggest a definition for the corresponding categories related to compact Lie groups."

"I am immensely proud and pleased with good work the center does," said Marianne Korten, professor of mathematics and director of the center and Summer Undergraduate Mathematics Research Experience for Undergraduates. "I'm passionate about helping students get to a place of advantage in their quest to become mathematicians or scientists and these students are an example of how the I-Center and the K-State Mathematics department is helping young people succeed."