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College to hold Hypatia Day

Katlyn Smith | Friday, February 22, 2008

Saint Mary’s College will welcome over 90 seventh-grade girls from Michiana Saturday for the 18th annual Hypatia Day this Saturday in Madeleva Hall.

The event is named for the first female mathematician, Hypatia of Alexandria, and celebrates accomplishments of Saint Mary’s students in math.

Saint Mary’s professor of mathematics and director of the event, Ewa Misiolek, emphasized the need for women to pursue math and science-orientated curriculum, despite the fact that students may find those classes more difficult.

“There is a temptation in high school for students to choose unchallenging classes to maintain a high GPA,” Misiolek said. “We want them to meet other women interested in math and science and encourage them to stay with math their four years of high school.”

Saint Mary’s professor of mathematics, Mary Connolly, has been involved with the event since its inception. She said Hypatia Day has been very successful in the past.

“Girls leave Saint Mary’s bubbling over what they have developed and constructed in the lab. We want to encourage them to hang on to that excitement over math,” Connolly said.

Close to 30 Saint Mary’s math students are involved, along with representation from the math, science, nursing and chemistry clubs.

This year’s participants were specifically selected by their local math and science teachers. They had to demonstrate their abilities and mathematical talents and as a result, Misiolek has high expectations for the event.

“After meeting in our classrooms and labs with our students who have succeeded in math and science, we hope these younger students will feel confident that they can do it too,” Misiolek said.

Jessica Brinker, president of the math club and a math major, highlighted the event’s significance.

“Hypatia Day is a great opportunity for local girls to get a glimpse of college life and become more excited in math and science,” Brinker said.

The day begins with a keynote speaker, typically a female figure in the math or science field. This year’s speaker is Professor Joan F. Brennecke, professor of chemical engineering at Notre Dame and the director of the Notre Dame Energy Center.

The seventh graders will work alongside Saint Mary’s students in the college’s laboratories. Immersion activities include working with Fibonacci numbers and decoding messages.

In addition, the day will involve a role-playing activity, featuring dressed-up Saint Mary’s students portraying historical scientists and mathematicians. The seventh graders will also partake in a campus tour.

The Saint Mary’s financial aid office will offer presentations on financial preparation for college for parents.