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back to topics2015 Graduates and Awards

This year's graduates include Louis Scott, Andre Bunton (Magna Cum Laude) and Matthew Sperber (Magna Cum Laude). All three are outgoing Pi Mu Epsilon Alaska Alpha Charter members.

Andre had an eventful year. He was the recipient of the Ron Seater Mathematics Award in the Fall of 2014, he won a Pi Mu Epsilon award for his talk at Mathfest 2014 in Portland, OR, and was named the Outstanding Mathematics Graduate upon his graduation. He sang the National Anthem at the Commencement Ceremony, and was also the Student Speaker at Commencement. He also sat for the Putnam Exam (along with Ben Malander), and was the first UAS student to score on this prestigious exam. See more about Andre below, his plans and advice to up and coming mathematics majors.

back to topicsUAS Math Major Achievements This Year

Matt successfully worked on various firefighting certifications (many courses and exams) while he wrapped up his mathematics BS to strengthen his qualifications as a member the Juneau Area Volunteer Firefighter community.

Mathematics majors Jo Anne Baranski, Andre and John Heritsko gave mathematics talks about their work for their mathematics capstone projects in one of the sessions at the UAS Art Meets Science Week.

Several interesting mathematics capstone presentations were given this year (see following photo from left to right). Charles McKenry presented his classmates with An Introduction to Fourier Series; Matt talked about Unimodular Roots of Equations of Complex Numbers; Jo Anne talked about a Development of a New Class of Inverse Functions (which she and Andrzej Piotrowski decided to call "ski-functions"); Andre talked about Laplace Transforms in the Complex Domain; and Jerry Stephens' talk, titled Divide and Conquer, addressed some interesting (and not commonly known) extensions of divisibility properties.

2015 Capstone Speakers

Finally, the NREUP Paper by Andre Bunton, Niki Jacobs, Samantha Jenkins, Charles McKenry Jr., Andrzej Piotrowski, and Louis Scott was published in the journal Involve (see

back to topicsFeatured Student

Andre Bunton

Andre is a graduate of Juneau Douglas High School, and came to UAS through the Alaska Scholar's Program. His reasons for becoming a Mathematics major were, in his words,

I remembered all the math teachers I ever had throughout my education, and I decided that I really liked the type of people they were, so I decided that I wanted to become like them.

For his immediate plans Andre said

My plans for the near future are not set in stone. As of now, I plan to take a year off from school and use my free time to travel, to work on independent research, to search for some internships,  to prepare for graduate school and take the GRE test, and to explore different schools for a grad school mathematics program that will work for me. Right now, I'm considering Oregon State University, Syracuse University, and even University of Oxford as some graduate school possibilities.

Once I have chosen a graduate program, I plan to continue my education in mathematics, hopefully by doing research in a field that is heavy in complex analysis, eventually working towards a PhD.

I also plan to perform in a few operas, to participate in some Argentine Tango dance workshops, and I will be traveling to New York with Alaskapella (see YouTube Story) to perform at Carnegie Hall next year. I will be taking it easier in my athletic endeavors this year in order to recover from the serious shoulder injury I sustained while sparring in Judo.

For his long term plans, he goes on to say

After grad school, I hope to continue doing research in mathematics, and I am also seriously considering working towards becoming a mathematics professor. I am also looking for a program that will allow me to go teach mathematics in a foreign country, preferably one that is seriously lacking in mathematics teachers due to poverty, or at a school for the deaf/Deaf, so that I can teach math in American Sign Language. I want to thank the University of Alaska Southeast and the UAS Mathematics program for giving me the skills and experience necessary to make these plans realistic and attainable goals for the near future.

When asked about what advice he would like to give to (current and future) UAS mathematics majors, he was quite specific.

  1. This may sound like common sense, but DO NOT PROCRASTINATE! Waiting to do an assignment or project is a bad idea. Start working on it as early as possible and finish it early. It will save you a lot of stress and heartache.
  2. Check your UASOnline email often. This will keep you updated on assignments, responsibilities, and opportunities. If you do not, this may cause you to miss vital information that may cost you a letter grade or even a great chance for a scholarship, internship, job, or research opportunity.
  3. Realize that you can do it. One of the most beautiful things about studying mathematics is that it is possible to get 100% on every homework assignment and every test! It is one of the few subjects where if you do not know the answer, given enough time, you can work it out and derive it. It does not rely on memorization, but rather, understanding. This realization was very helpful to me, as it gave me great confidence and it transformed stressful homework and tests into a type of fun game.
  4. Make learning and discovery your goal. Although grades are important in their own way, they should not be the focus of your studying at this university. Instead, just do your best and strive for experiences that will enrich your understanding in the subject material, and allow these experiences to develop your interest and curiosity in whatever you may be studying. Ask many questions and engage in discussions in class. Learn from any and every source available, be it your professors, your textbooks, your classmates, the library, or online. With greater interest and understanding, good grades will inevitably follow.

We wish Andre all the best, and plenty of fun for his upcoming year.

back to topicsUAS Math Club and Alaska Alpha

The UAS Math Club (now combined with Alaska Alpha Chapter of PME) continued to have regular meetings this year. Activities included a talk by Brian Blitz about the Mandelbrot Set, the traditional and lively semester-end BBQ's at "Auke Rec," and a gathering to celebrate Pi Day - which ended with an exuberant countdown to Pi Instant (9:26:53.58979…).

With respect to Alaska Alpha, outgoing majors Louis, Andre and Matt will be replaced by Ben Malander, Ashlynn Kay and Michael Bushey. The induction ceremony will be held early in Fall 2015. Be sure to see the What's New notices on the Math Homepage for the date and time, in case you are able and want to attend. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, no one will be able to participate in PME activities at the upcoming Mathfest Meeting, to be held in Washington DC in August.

back to topicsAn Update on Past Graduates

Very recent news is that Stephen Ellison got admitted to, and will be attending the University of Washington School of Medicine MD program starting Fall 2015. He had some words of advice for UAS math (or potential) students:

... first remember that there is no substitute for (quality) time put in. It may not be a linear relationship, but nevertheless the more of yourself that you give, the more you'll get out of anything. Secondly, keep things in perspective. Education is a highly dynamic process to which you have to adapt at each new level. Don't get too down on yourself when you hit rough patches or struggle out of the gate - just keep your head down (i.e in the books) and don't be afraid to ask for help. Finally, try to keep a positive attitude - It's important to enjoy yourself along the way. Keeping a bright outlook is conducive to confidence, and confidence is conducive to success.

We wish Stephen the very best on his journey into the world of medicine.

Patti Gerdes plans to continue working at the Juneau Campus Learning Center and as a Juneau Area Volunteer Firefighter, and Gabe Wechter is planning to move on to graduate studies in mathematics in Fall 2015. He is wrapping up his second year as mathematics and testing specialist at the Learning Center. All indications are that Auguste (aka Augie) will be staying with us for a while longer.

Lai Hinckle decided he is not busy enough teaching at Thunder Mountain High School. This past year he also taught night classes at UAS on developmental mathematics, and appears to have had fun doing it.

News about others include: Niki Jacobs is finishing up a second Bachelors degree in Biochemistry and is planning to begin graduate studies in the Fall; Erin Rausch VanHouten is pursuing graduate studies in mathematics at UAF; and Tara Greenwood is pursuing a career in engineering and construction in Seattle.

If any other past graduates out there wish to share their latest news, or experiences/thoughts/advice to up-and-coming (or potential) UAS math majors, please drop Chris a line.

back to topicsFaculty and MAA Related News

Brian Blitz is wrapping up his second (and final) year as Chair of the Pacific Northwest Section of the Mathematical Association of America (PNW MAA). He will serve as past Chair in the upcoming year.

Andrzej Piotrowski coauthored a paper, titled Hermite Multiplier Sequences and Their Associated Operators, with T. Forgacs of CSU Fresno, which was published in the journal Constructive Approximation (see He also submitted a proposal for an AMS Special Session, titled Distributions of Zeros of Entire Functions,  at the January 2016 Joint Mathematics Meetings, to be held in Seattle. The proposal was accepted, and he will be organizing this session along with Matthew Chase of Rochester Institute of Technology and Tamas Forgacs of California State University, Fresno.

Megan Buzby, along with Chris Black of Central Washington University gave a presentation (titled The Common Core State Standards - What do they mean for College Students?) at the April 2016 meeting of the PNW Section of Project NeXt. This was held in Tacoma at the start of the April 2016 PNW Section Meeting of the MAA.


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