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News from the Mathematics and Computer Science Department

Read all the news about our department's accomplishments, honors and opportunities.

Students present their research at the Wheaton College Homecoming Research Poster Session

Several students majoring in Math, Applied Math and Computer Science were invited to present their research projects at the Homecoming Research Poster Session on October 9, 2015.  This yearly event is open to the public and attracts a large number of visitors, including alumni, members of the Wheaton College Board of Trustees, and members of the Wheaton College Alumni Association who contribute to funding many of the projects.  These original research projects are the result of a semester-long or summer-long collaboration between students and Wheaton College faculty. Follow this link for more information on the Applied Math research projects.  


Dr. Diedrichs Presents Research at Nonlinear Dynamics and Stochastic Methods Conference

NDSMDr. Diedrichs traveled to Pittsburgh March 10-12, 2014 to present his research on the mathematical model of the Unfolded Protein Response at the Nonlinear Dynamics and Stochastic Methods conference.  The conference, which took place on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, brought together a mix of senior and junior scientists in computational neuroscience and computational cell biology.  Dr. Diedrichs is a member of a team of computational and experimental cell biologists who have developed a mathematical predictive model to better understand the mechanisms of the unfolded protein response in the endoplasmic reticulum of mammalian cells under stress.  The well-functioning of this complex mechanism is central to preventing several diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, other neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers.  The model, a system of time-dependent nonlinear ordinary differential equations, has been calibrated by experimental data providing from Dr. Rutkowski's lab at the University of Iowa's department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and is being used as a decision-making tool for further in-vitro and in-silico experimentation.

Matthew McMillan is awarded the Marshall Scholarship

Matthew McMillanThe prestigious Marshall Scholarship is awarded annually to forty American students.  Matthew is one of only six chosen from the central Midwest region.  The scholarship provides funding for study at the graduate level in the United Kingdom for two years.  Matthew will spend next year at Cambridge studying towards the MASt in mathematics and theoretical physics in Part III of the Mathematical Tripos.  His second year will be spent studying towards the MSt in the philosophy of physics at Oxford.  Congratulations, Matthew!

Celebrating 50 Years of Distinguished Service

Bob BrabenecThe 2013-14 academic year represents Dr. Robert Brabenec’s fiftieth year of service to Wheaton College. Bob is more than appreciated by his former students. For many he is their favorite Wheaton teacher, and many know him now as a genuine friend. 

Dr. Brabenec received his bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in 1960 and his Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1964. That same year he returned to Wheaton to teach mathematics. After a two year tour of active duty as an Army captain in missile intelligence, Bob became chair of Wheaton College’s newly formed Department of Mathematics. His tenure as Department Chair extended from 1967 through 2004. During his years in leadership the department grew to eight faculty positions and eventually included a major in computer science. Many Wheaton College mathematics majors were not only instructed by Bob, but they also greatly benefitted from his textbook entitled Introduction to Real Analysis published by PWS-Kent in 1990.

Bob BrabenecA simple calculation suggests that Dr. Brabenec has taught well in excess of 3000 students and possibly as many as 6000 during his years as a distinguished Wheaton professor. Every student who has been a member of one of Bob’s classes can attest not only to his incomparable effectiveness as a teacher, but also to his extraordinary interest in each student and his commitment to mentoring each young person in multiple dimensions.

The department of Mathematics and Computer Science plans to celebrate Bob’s service at Homecoming on Saturday October 5 from 8:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. as part of our annual Homecoming breakfast in the Meyer Science Center room 184. Mark this informal event on your calendar so that you can extend your congratulations and appreciation to Bob in person as we recognize the achievement of fifty years of distinguished and exceptional service.

Dr. Lovett to Spend Fall Sabbatical in Kenya

Stephen LovettDuring the 2013 Fall semester, Dr. Lovett will be on sabbatical in Nairobi, Kenya.  While working on a textbook in abstract algebra, he will serve as a visiting scholar at Africa Nazarene University, where he will teach a course and offer talks. 

This opportunity offers many family connections for Dr. Lovett since his wife and daughter will join him and because his father taught fulltime at ANU prior to retiring this past year.

Congratulations VanDrunen Family!

VanDrunen childrenDr. VanDrunen and his wife Esther welcomed little Silas to their family on July 25, 2013.  Silas joins proud siblings Annika and Isaac. 



Here's What our 2013 Grads are Doing

This year 36 students graduated with a Mathematics and/or Computer Science degree.  Their Wheaton College education has prepared them well for graduate school and a wide variety of career options.

  • 15 of our graduating seniors will begin graduate programs in the fall. 8 of these 15 will be pursuing PhD’s in mathematics, computer science, economics, engineering, biostatistics, statistics, or physics at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Harvard, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Michigan Tech University, Penn State University or Purdue University.
  • 6 graduating seniors will be entering Wheaton’s M.A.T. (Master of Arts in Teaching) program and 1 will begin a Masters of Music at Indiana University.
  • Those entering the workforce have accepted jobs in a number of fields including finance, programming, actuarial science, and teaching. 
  • Companies employing our graduates include Logos Bible Software, First Trust Portfolios, Narchem, Acuity Insurance and McKinsey & Company.


group shot of math students


Celebrating the Class of 2013!

Math/CS Class of 2013 Luncheon

The Math/CS Department graduating seniors, faculty and staff gathered together the last week of school to enjoy a catered luncheon and celebrate the class of 2013.

Senior Adam Zarn wrote and produced a musical parody highlighting life as a student in the math department.  Those of you who have spent hours studying in the Brandt Room will appreciate his humor. View the video >> 

2013 Collaborative Published Works by Our Students and Faculty

The June-July 2013 issue of The American Mathematical Monthly features the article Strong Divisibility, Cyclotomic Polynomials, and Iterated Polynomials written by Dr. Stephen Lovett and three Wheaton College math majors, Nathan Bliss, Ben Fulan and Jeff Sommars.  The paper resulted from their work in a mentoring course.  This type of courses, unique to the Math/CS Department, gives students the opportunity to conduct original research with a faculty member.  Nathan, Ben and Jeff are recent graduates, all pursuing their PhD’s in mathematics.  Ben is at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Nathan and Jeff are attending the University of Illinois at Chicago. View abstract >>

The March 2013 issue of The College Mathematics Journal  features the article Multi-Peg Tower of Hanoi written by Dr. Paul Isihara and math major Doeke Buursma.  This paper began many years ago in Math 243 Discrete math class.  Former students Paul Best, Micah Bucy, C. J. Cohick, Andrew Dornbush, Payton Gibson, Josh Green, James Hampton, Amanda Hug, Andrew Kashian, Henry Kuo, Dan LeCoq, Peter McDonald, Wes Reynolds, Tamara VanderDoes, and John Walbaum are all acknowledged as having contributed to the project.  Doeke helped complete the paper during his 2012 summer research program. The paper gives some new insight into a classic and still unsolved problem based on a children’s game. Preview article >>

"The CWS Model of Alzheimer’s Disease" was published in the spring 2013 UMAP Journal.  This paper is the outgrowth of a Math 385 Topics in Applied Math class project by Anne Bowen, Isaac Brown, Tim Dennison, Wesley Hanna, and Kyle Williams. The paper reviews a mathematical model used in understanding various Alzheimer Disease treatment scenarios.

Budapest Semester in Mathematics

McMillan in BudapestMatthew McMillan spent his spring 2013 semester studying in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics (BSM) program in Hungary, one of the most prestigious study abroad programs for undergraduate mathematics majors.  BSM offers top math students an excellent opportunity to study advanced mathematics with top Hungarian scholars while living abroad in a fascinating city. 

Interested in graduate school, Matthew found BSM to be a valuable experience.  He explained, "At BSM, one can take nothing but math, which lets one get a clearer view of one's own interest in the subject; a taste of graduate school.  All of the other students are excited to learn math, making a great atmosphere." 

For those of you contemplating this program, Matthew highly recommends that you go, but be ready for a challenge. Doeke Buursma is up for the challenge and will be studying there in the fall of 2013. 

Department Sponsors a Girl in Bolivia

SilvinaSilvina Patzi is a 16-year-old girl who lives in Bolivia, in the twin cities of La Paz - El Alto.  Since 2012, the students of the Math & Computer Science department have sponsored Silvina through Compassion International.  Every month, students have the chance to give financially to support Silvina and her community. 

The relationship between the students and Silvina continues to grow as letters, photos and prayer requests are exchanged.  Silvina is a bright girl and an avid soccer player.  She also loves to sing and often writes about her four sisters and her school activities.

Dr. Diedrichs Places 3rd at Midwestern Sectional Figure Skating Competition

PodiumAssistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Danilo Diedrichs traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota over Spring break to compete at the U.S. Figure Skating Adult Midwestern Sectional competition.  He took the bronze medal, which qualified him for the national competition in Scottsdale, Arizona in April, where he finished 11th overall. 

Dr. Diedrichs grew up in Switzerland and started ice skating as a child.  He continues to train throughout the year at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.

Dr. Perciante to Retire

Dr. Terry PercianteAfter teaching for 40 years at Wheaton College, Dr. Perciante has announced his plans to retire at the end the 2011-2012 school year. Although no one else is in agreement with this decision, he seems adamant about it.

We will be celebrating all of his contributions to the lives of students, faculty and the College in the spring. Some of you may like to participate by writing a personal note to Dr. Perciante which we will collect, collate and give to him at that time.

Please send your note to our department secretary, Kelly Pierotti, at Math/CS Department, Wheaton College, 501 College Ave., Wheaton, IL 60187.

Applied Mathematics Major

In 2011, the department initiated a new major option for students who might be interested in joining mathematics to science in a way that could address major world issues. The objective is to engage in applied mathematics research but always in the context of ministry and outreach. In contrast to the 34 semester hours required for our long established math major, completion of the new applied major requires some 50 semester hours of mathematics work with supporting courses in science, computing, and completion of a mentored research project. Now, only one year after its initiation, seven students have already declared majors in applied mathematics.

Tropical builders

As part of their major program, two applied math students accompanied by Dr. Paul Isihara traveled during this past summer to southwestern Mexico where they simultaneously worked at a mission station while also studying math modeling issues related to earthquakes and plate tectonics. Their research results will be submitted to refereed journals this fall for publication. Part of their mission work involved construction of an earthquake resistant camp facility.

The major portion of the cost for this trip was underwritten by a number of mathematics alumni. They not only enabled this experience for the applied math majors, but their participation in Wheaton’s ministry provides ongoing encouragement to future applied math majors who will also learn to intentionally join mathematics expertise to Christian witness. The department is very grateful to those who offered financial support for this endeavor.

Amazing Student Experiences

During the past few months, more than a few of our computer science and mathematics majors have either gained some well deserved notoriety and/or have enjoyed a variety of amazing experiences.

The front page of the September 2, 2011 edition of the Wheaton Record featured three computer science majors who created a mobile “app” for iPhone and Android device users. Drew Hannay, Andrew Wolfe, and Alisa Maas made their program in such a way that students can view the Bon Appétit menu, the chapel schedule, and a campus map. The “app” also provides mobile access to the campus intranet’s “Who’s Who” page (commonly known as Stalkernet). Additional features currently in the works include the installation of the schedule of open floor events in Fischer and Smith-Traber as well as the Graduate School chapel schedule.

While Drew, Andrew, and Alisa worked on their mobile “app”, Brian Larson spent his senior fall semester overseas at the very challenging Budapest Mathematics Semester in Hungary. This year Brian is teaching mathematics at the Hope Academy in Chicago.

Gaining admission to summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates has become incredibly competitive in the last few years. Nonetheless, Ben Fulan and Jeff Sommars gained positions for REU’s this past summer. Ben did research in the general area of Geometry at Kent State University in Ohio, while Jeff participated in an REU in Computational Algebraic Geometry at Texas A&M.

Lobster eatersAlso during this past summer, Dr. Steve Lovett led a group of students in a mentored research project in the area of Differential Geometry. In addition to their work at Wheaton, Nathan Bliss, Nate Veldt, and Gary Babatz spent an intensive two weeks working together with Dr. Lovett in Maine at Bowdoin College. They reportedly also made fast work of more than a few Maine lobsters, an apparent nourishment need required for heightened cognitive effort.

Mathematics and Computing Competitions

The William Lowell Putnam Competition in Mathematics is considered to be the most difficult mathematics contest available to undergraduate math students. This year 4,296 contestants from 546 schools participated in the test. To emphasize the difficulty of the Putnam, note that out of a possible total of 120 points, nearly 50% of all contestants do not score any points at all.

This year, Wheaton College had nine students attempt the Putnam. Our designated and pre-identified team of three individuals achieved a Putnam rank of 87 out of the 546 schools. All nine of our Wheaton College participants achieved a score of at least 10, an amazing outcome by itself. One student posted a very significant score of 40, another gained a score of 30, and a third won 19 points. Unfortunately, two of our highest scoring individuals were not registered among the 3 team members who had to be identified and registered prior to the exam. All of the scores are outstanding and the performance of these students places them among the top undergraduate math students in our country.

Student mathematics teams also participated in the Associated Colleges of the Chicagoland Area (ACCA) Calculus competitions this year. Out of a possible 96 points, two Wheaton teams scored 92, placing them in a three way tie for first place. Our third team had the next highest score of 83. The median score of all 34 participating teams was 42, indicating just how challenging the competition was and how well our teams did.

The ACCA programming competition was hosted by Wheaton College this year. In the novice division our Wheaton teams won first and second place while in the advanced division Wheaton teams finished in first and third place.

Computer Science students also participated in the ACM Programming Contest. With 138 teams competing in our region, Wheaton finished 6th and 52nd.

Students who join our competition teams are rewarded with a specially selected math book and/or software for their participation. These awards are generously provided through a gift to the department from a former math/cs graduate who contributes funds to our program for the sake of encouraging our students.

Congratulations, Dr. and Mrs. Paul Isihara

Isihara weddingThe entire department is thoroughly delighted that during the summer of 2011, Dr. Paul Isihara married a wonderful, Christian Japanese woman. Hisae is a lovely and talented lady who is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and of course her native Japanese.

In describing the event Dr. Isihira said, “We were blessed with a wonderful wedding ceremony and reception in Nagoya on June 18 (Saturday), and another wonderful reception at the Nerima Church in Tokyo on Sunday.”

Despite initiating the required visa application for Mrs. Isihara back in June, the U.S. Naturalization and Immigration Service has not yet granted a visa to Hisae. We are praying with Paul and Hisae that the process will be completed very soon. We know that God is going to bless them mightily during their life together, and we all wish them God’s very best in their new relationship.

Introducing Members of the Class of 2032

Delzell baby Van Drunen baby
Vivian Pace Delzell
January 11, 2011
Isaac Leif VanDrunen
January 23, 2011