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College’s teams place in global math contest

Ashley Charnley | Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Two teams of Saint Mary’s women proved the College has a competitive math department when they were recognized at the “The Mathematical Contest in Modeling,” held by the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP).

The teams competed from Feb. 18 through Feb. 22 on campus over and submitted their answers online.

The results of the international contest were recently announced, and both of the teams representing Saint Mary’s received recognition.

The rankings for the competition are Outstanding Winner, Finalist, Meritorious Winner, Honorable Mention, Successful Participant and Unsuccessful Participant, respectively.

Senior Mary Zahm and juniors Emily Gore and Ashley Crish were each recognized as a “Meritorious Winner.” Only about 19 percent of teams received this honor this year, Zahm said.

She said this was only the third time Saint Mary’s students have been awarded this title since they began competing in this contest. The last time a team received this recognition was in 1998.

“Most participants receive a standing of either Successful Participant or Honorable Mention, so to receive the ranking of Meritorious is quite an honor,” Zahm said.

Zahm said the contest began when COMAP posted two mathematical questions on its Web site Friday evening, and the teams were given until 8 p.m. the following Monday to send in their answers.

“It was largely a team effort,” Zahm said. “One of the main contributions I made was making a trip to the library to pick up some print sources and crunching some of the numbers using our mathematical model. We all helped contribute to the brain work and the writing of the report, and all of our work was done while we were together.”

Juniors Meg Griffin and Grace McClurkin and senior Renee Wolbert were designated “Successful Participants.”

The students spent the six weeks leading up to the weekend in a course taught by an advisor, Saint Mary’s math professor Bogdan Vajiac.

“In this course our advisor, Bogdan Vajiac, reviewed with us various techniques and mathematical topics that might come up in the problems,” Zahm said.

Vajiac said he was impressed by his students’ accomplishments.

“This competition is international, with more than 2,500 teams participating from all over the world — more than 400 from the U.S.,” Vajiac said. “We are very proud of our students.”

Zahm said it was a large effort, but paid off in the end.

“It’s a lot of time and effort over one weekend, but I think that I would definitely give it another shot,” Zahm said. “It was certainly rewarding in the end.”