New wave

First students graduate in NMU math masters of science program


MARQUETTE — The first wave of students completing their studies in Northern Michigan University’s new mathematics graduate program have been announced.

The graduates are Erik Flinn, whose research project is “Algebraic Structures and Variations: From Latin Squares to Lie Quasigroups”; Ellie Soper, “Passed Actuarial Exams P (probability) and FM (financial mathematics)”; Andrea Clark, “Visualizing Geometric Structures on Topological Surfaces”; Chad Leisenring, “Computable Functions in Group Theory”; and Josiah Schmidt, “Computable Functions in Group Theory.”

This is from the NMU website: “Mathematics is one of the oldest and most fundamental sciences. Mathematicians use mathematical theory, computational techniques, algorithms and the latest computer technology to solve economic, scientific, engineering, financial and business problems.

“Mathematical skills are in greater and greater demand in today’s workforce. The government, private industry, health and environmental fields, all areas of engineering and the academic world all require sophisticated mathematical skills to help solve various problems.”

Apparently there’s been a reasonable amount of attention paid to this field at NMU.


J.D. Phillips, professor and head of the NMU Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, said the program evolved from a “keen interest” over the years in such a program from undergraduate mathematics majors.

“We finally arrived at the right mix of faculty members — for example, enough mathematics professors excited about the prospects of building a graduate program,” Phillips said in an email. “We now have the critical mass of people to make it work.

“We think this program provides a great service to the people of the Upper Peninsula. There are a lot of smart and talented people in rural places. Our new master’s program is a great opportunity for them.”

Phillips said he grew up in a rural place, specifically, a Nebraska town with a population of 720, so he has a “deep appreciation of what opportunities like this can mean to people who are otherwise hundreds of miles, and tens of thousands of dollars — which is to say an entire world — away from a graduate degree in mathematics.”

Daniel Rowe, an assistant professor of mathematics at NMU, said in an email that the master of science degree at Northern was conceptualized and passed through the university’s institutional approval process during the 2018-19 academic year, with the program officially starting in fall 2019.


Rowe said the program, which currently has 12 students, is expected to grow continually over the next few years to reach a sustainable size of about 20 enrolled students per year.

The MS math degree is a 32-credit program — four academic semesters at eight credits per semester — featuring the core subjects of topology, advanced linear algebra and real/complex analysis as well as various electives in advanced math, he said.

Rowe said there are three possible tracks for students’ research projects:

≤ traditional thesis: The student completes a publishable manuscript between 50 and 75 pages under the direction of a faculty member within a subject area of advanced mathematics. The student also must give an oral defense in front of a committee of three faculty members.

≤ project in mathematics: The student completes a significant project such as designing and writing a computer program or statistically analyzing a large batch of data, which could be an interdisciplinary project with computer science or biology, for example. The student also must give an oral defense in front of a committee of three faculty members.


≤ project in actuarial science: The student studies for and passes two professional actuarial exams not already passed. These actuarial society exams are important for getting jobs in and moving up through the ranks in the insurance industry.

“The master’s program has been a great opportunity to further my education and allow me to do what I love, which is teaching,” Soper said in an email. “I have also made such great friends along the way. We’re practically family.”

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.



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