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Led by co-organizers Lou Rossi and David Edwards (front row from
right), 23 students from 16 states and 19 higher education institutions
around the country participated in the 16th annual Graduate Student
Mathematical Modeling Camp followed by the 37th annual workshop on
Mathematical Problems in Industry.
A research study that considered the ways popular cultural images of
math and mathematicians influence the relationship that young people
form with the subject found that students believe mathematicians lack
social skills and have no personal lives outside of math. Though the
report, “Mathematical Images and Identities: Education, Entertainment, Social Justice,”
was based on a survey of students in the United Kingdom, George Mason
University graduate student Wyatt Rush admits that similar perceptions
exist on this side of the Atlantic Ocean and were on his mind when he
headed to the University of Delaware to participate in the 16th annual Graduate Student Mathematical Modeling Camp (GSMMC) followed by the 37th annual workshop on Mathematical Problems in Industry (MPI).
“When you attend something like this, don’t fall into the stereotype
that all mathematicians are silent and don’t want to talk or socialize;
it’s an old stereotype,” said Rush. “I am a mathematician, and I was
worried about that, but everyone was super nice. I made a lot of
friends, had a lot of great conversations and enjoyed just hanging out
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Rush had one of the shorter trips to the two-week experience that
welcomed 23 students from 16 states and 19 higher education institutions
around the country — including schools as far away as Oregon State
University and San Diego State University — chosen via a competitive
selection process based on transcripts, mathematical experience and
recommendation letters. Locally, Delaware State University sent one
student, and UD was represented by two students, Andrea Weaver and
Lindsey Jacobs, who Rush said were very welcoming and helpful hosts.
“The overall experience was great,” said Jacobs. “The other students
were all very nice, so I felt very comfortable right from the start.”
After learning about mathematical modeling with hypothetical problems
at the in-person Graduate Student Mathematical Modeling Camp (and while
following the University of Delaware’s social distancing protocols),
the students remained at UD to put the lessons to work over the next
week on real-world, research-level problems in the much larger, virtual
Mathematical Problems in Industry workshop. Conducted by the University
of Vermont, MPI annually attracts leading applied mathematicians and
scientists from universities, industry and national laboratories.
According to GSMMC co-organizer David A. Edwards, UD professor of
mathematical sciences and a regular MPI participant for over 25 years,
the camp experience equips students with the confidence to actively
participate on MPI teams with faculty and postdocs. In return, MPI
benefits by having a cadre of well-trained, energetic students to
collaborate with the other academic participants.
“Though there are other summer student training camps like GSMMC and
other industrial study groups like MPI, GSMMC-MPI is the only program
that ties the two together,” said Edwards. “MPI is the longest running
industrial study group in the United States, having started in the
mid-80s. In the mid-2000s, the organizers realized that graduate
students would benefit from having some mathematical modeling training
before launching into the real-world, research-level problems at MPI,
and so the camp was born.”
Edwards’ fellow co-organizer, Lou Rossi, professor of mathematical sciences and dean of UD’s Graduate College,
said UD has a trailblazing history of innovative graduate experiences
like GSMMC-MPI. These initiatives include UD being an early adopter of
4+1 programs that allow advanced undergraduates to participate in
articulated graduate experiences and having a nationally ranked Online
MBA program that adopted its web-based delivery mode to make the program
available to a much wider audience. Like Edwards, Rossi has a lengthy
history with GSMMC-MPI and he credited it with being well ahead of its
time and preparing participants for in-demand employment opportunities.
“With the number of math Ph.D.s finding jobs in academia
monotonically decreasing for decades, there is a recognized need for us
to do more to prepare these highly educated, highly skilled graduate
students to thrive outside of academia,” said Rossi. “Private industry
and government agencies have real mathematical needs that can be met by
graduate students and faculty who can cross disciplinary lines and
communicate effectively in teams. This program has long been a
successful and cost-effective model for providing needed career
preparation as well as a fertile recruiting ground for the sponsors.”
The GSMMC-MPI participants quickly found out that math proficiency
was only part of the problem-solving equation that could not be
completed without social skills.
“My biggest takeaway is that communication is key when working on a
team,” said Jacobs. “It’s also important to not be shy and speak up if
you do not understand something and to help others struggling if you
Along with connecting with mathematicians, the students were reminded
of the importance of interacting with subject matter experts from the
disciplines that mathematical modeling is being applied to. Working
virtually with group members in other locations and time zones during
MPI, they also had to compose daily write-ups to keep everyone on the
“There was a lot of writing and communications outside of just math,”
said Rush, who described his overall experience as a lot of intense
problem-solving. “Most problems in industry are not just strictly math
for the sake of doing math. I had to learn about tree biology the first
week and COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] the second week,
so there was a lot of interdisciplinary learning.”
Having spent so much time at home since March 2020, like much of the
rest of the world, the participants relished the opportunity to work
with other students in person and do some socializing. Rush said he made
some really good friends he intends to stay in contact with, and he
benefited from collaborating with students from other colleges who bring
different perspectives because every department runs differently and
has its own ethos, processes and hierarchies.
“It’s really nice to be able to meet somebody who says ‘as far as
this problem goes, I’ve actually seen something similar and we did this,
this and this,’ ’’ said Rush. “Just getting a broad idea of how people
take different approaches to the same topic is really helpful.”
Jacobs was happy to return to UD, engage with the visitors and help them navigate the campus and surrounding area.
“It was so nice to work with people from schools all around the
country,” said Jacobs. “It was interesting to learn what everybody’s
research interests are and what their respective math departments are
like. It was beneficial to work with students from other colleges
because everyone had a different math background and coursework, so it
really helped in brainstorming ideas and figuring out how to solve the
Despite growing up in nearby Northern Virginia, Rush had not
previously been to the First State and was impressed by the UD campus
and its historical architecture. He encourages other students to jump at
the chance to take part in GSMMC-MPI or a similar activity, wherever it
“Anyone who has the opportunity should definitely try to do a camp or
conference like this,” said Rush. “Go meet people, learn about the
industry, learn what is being talked about and researched, and just go
learn and have a good time.”