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Students Participate in Conservation Laws, Applications Program at UW

July 28, 2010

Undergraduate students from around the country, including five from the University of Wyoming, are learning about conservation laws and applications during a summer program at UW.

The students are part of the Mathematics REU, (Research Experience for Undergraduates), funded by the National Science Foundation and UW. Bryan Shader, UW Department of Mathematics professor and REU co-director, says the goal is to create an environment where undergraduates can research mathematical problems in depth. Students spend at least 40 hours a week conducting research work.

Team members are from California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

From UW are mathematics professors Long Lee and Victor Ginting, graduate students Michael Basden, Pani Fernando, Colin Garnet, Xin Li and Andrea Alvarez, REU coordinator.

Conservation laws (or balance laws) are systems of equations that arise naturally as models for a variety of physical phenomena, such as fluid dynamics, magneto-hydrodynamics, combustion, oil recovery and nonlinear elasticity, says Greg Lyng, UW Department of Mathematics professor and co-director of the REU.

"This is an important area of mathematics that involves mathematical analysis and the interfaces between mathematics and scientific computing and also mathematics and physics," Lyng says. "To tackle problems of this complexity, the students have been divided into two teams that work closely with graduate students and math professors to explore a different aspect of a central problem. The results are quite amazing, and will result in two high-quality publications in refereed journals."

Shader hopes that the students' experience will inspire them to pursue graduate studies and careers in mathematics or engineering.

The program also strengthens ties between educational and research institutions. This is accomplished through participation in various activities, such as the Rocky Mountain Mathematics Consortium Summer School, a field trip to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a lecture series featuring leading mathematicians and scientists from the National Security Agency and other organizations, Shader says.

Students are:

North Carolina -- Tim Dannenhoffer, North Carolina State University.
Iowa -- Ashley Beck, Central College.
Massachusetts -- Elliot Schrock, Williams College.
Montana -- Kelly Spendlove, Montana State University.
California -- Derek DeSantis, California State University.
North Carolina -- Nitin Krishnan, University of North Carolina; Tim Dannenhoffer, North Carolina State University.
Pennsylvania -- Emilie Naccarato, Bryan Mawr College. 

For more information about the Mathematics REU program, visit the Web site at or e-mail Shader or Lyng at


University of Wyoming Department of Mathematics Professor Victor Ginting lectures students in the Mathematics REU, (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program. (UW Photo)



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