The daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, and the first in her family to attend college, Jen Lara grew up in the Corona, Queens, neighborhood of New York City. A mathematics major, Jen is passionate about education and helping more minority women enter STEM fields.
Jen Lara
Jen Lara arrived at Bard intending to become a physics major with a future in engineering, but an important part of her Bard education included the realization that other interests were dearer to her heart.
“I saw that my real passion is not in the world of engineering. It doesn’t hold the sparkle for me. I've always been teaching, I have always tutored, I've always worked with nonprofits. I want to work in education in the minority community to see women in STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics]. STEM is where I can use my talents and abilities to do what I'm really passionate about, which is helping my community to do better in these subjects.”
So she is majoring in mathematics, and spent time teaching STEM at a nonprofit and at a local middle school. “Everything in my life revolves around education,” she says.
The daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, and the first in her family to attend college, Lara grew up in the Corona, Queens, neighborhood of New York City. Her adviser convinced her to look at Bard, which, she says, was “the only school” that noted her first-generation status could be empowering rather than limiting. “They said, ‘We need to make a plan and find a space for you to be able to accomplish whatever you want to do. We’ll figure it out and we’ll make it happen.’ It was the first time I thought, ‘I don't have to do things by myself.’”
Lara became a peer counselor (PC) at Bard—someone in the residence halls who is trained to deal with many of her fellow residents’ concerns—which helped bring her out of her shell. “My first year I experienced culture shock, and being a PC has made me more social. I like being a support system for students, and the students are just as much a role model for me as I am for them. I take as much as I give. I tell them, ‘Advocate for yourselves; it’s the best thing that you can do.’”
In addition to being a PC and tutoring, she holds two jobs on campus while carrying her academic load. Nevertheless, she says, “I have students in my residence who run clubs and do athletics and their academics—that’s inspiring to me.”
One surprising thing she has learned at Bard is that “I learn very differently from most students. The time and dedication the faculty invested to help me made me realize that there are many different ways to learn. The strong support system makes sure that the way they are teaching matches the way you are learning.”
She wants students who are interested in Bard to know the kind of education she is receiving in Annandale: “You really learn how to be confident in your abilities and not be hard on yourself when things go wrong,” she advises. “You should be hungry, when you get here, to build the community that you want. The fact that Bard gives you the opportunity to do that is not something you’ll find at any other school.”
“At Bard,” she adds, “you are going to do things that you never thought you were capable of doing. And they might make you feel uncomfortable, but the fact that you can create a support system means you can also create the path that you want to take.”
Teaching without an agenda is not something that concerns Kate Belin BA ’04, MAT ’05. “I do have an agenda. I want to see a national shift in how we teach math, what math is, and who has access to it,” Belin said in an interview with Chalkbeat. In their role at the Bronx’s Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, they continue to teach the mathematics of gerrymandering, “an especially relevant topic” today, and one that “will likely continue to be.”
Kate Belin BA ’04, MAT ’05, “Rock Star” Teacher, Talks Teaching Gerrymandering with Chalkbeat
Teaching without an agenda is not something that concerns Kate Belin BA ’04, MAT ’05. “I do have an agenda. I want to see a national shift in how we teach math, what math is, and who has access to it,” Belin said in an interview with Chalkbeat. In their role at the Bronx’s Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, they continue to teach the mathematics of gerrymandering, “an especially relevant topic” today, and one that “will likely continue to be.” A winner of the 2021 Math for America (MƒA) Muller Award for Professional Influence in Education, Belin says their belief in the power of education was developed while at Bard, both as an undergraduate and graduate student. “I learned in college that mathematics was about creativity, patterns, problem-solving, and many more things that aren’t necessarily taught in K-12 school,” they said. “The master’s program at Bard College gave me hope that it was possible to bring more real mathematics into schools and that more students might fall in love with it, too.”
For the third time, the American Mathematical Society has awarded Japheth Wood, director of quantitative literacy and continuing associate professor of mathematics, and the Creative and Analytical Math Programs (CAMP) of the Bard Math Circle the Epsilon Award. The award aids and promotes programs that “support and nurture mathematically talented youth in the United States,” funding existing summer programs proven to reach and support high school students.
Professor Japheth Wood Awarded the American Mathematical Society’s Epsilon Award for the Third Time
For the third time, the American Mathematical Society has awarded Japheth Wood, director of quantitative literacy and continuing associate professor of mathematics, and the Creative and Analytical Math Programs (CAMP) of the Bard Math Circle the Epsilon Award. The award aids and promotes programs that “support and nurture mathematically talented youth in the United States,” funding existing summer programs proven to reach and support high school students. CAMP will return to an in-person format this year and will serve local and regional middle school students, with a staff that includes Bard alumni/ae and current students in mathematics and computer science.
High School Mathematics Teacher and Bard Alumna Kate Belin Wins 2021 Math for America Muller Award
Kate Belin BA ’04, MAT ’05, who teaches at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx, is one of two winners of the 2021 Math for America (MƒA) Muller Award for Professional Influence in Education. This honor is given to two New York City public school teachers who, during their tenure as MƒA Master Teachers, have influenced the teaching profession in exceptional ways.
“Belin brings a creative approach to pedagogy and has dramatically improved math education at their school and beyond. She is being recognized for bringing her deep understanding of mathematics to all students and taking a leadership role to improve education and educational equity everywhere and for everyone,” writes MƒA.
“I am beyond grateful to MƒA for this recognition and for providing a space for teachers to come together as learners and leaders. This award also recognizes the work of the entire Fannie Lou community which has always understood that teaching is political,” said Belin. “We aren’t simply teaching subjects. We are teaching to fight injustices. Our job is to be activists and organizers in collaboration with our students—to mobilize youth for any issues that exist in their community, country, or world, and work together to make it better.”
Belin was recognized for her impact on the teaching profession and awarded $20,000 during a virtual MƒA award ceremony on Monday, October 18. In addition, $5,000 was awarded to the school or organization of their nominator. Belin was nominated by representatives from the Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School.
Kate Belin has taught mathematics at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School for the past 17 years, transforming the mathematics curriculum of the school and mentoring student teachers. She was a recipient of the 2011 Sloan Award for Excellence in Teaching Science in Mathematics and was a Fulbright Distinguished Awards Teaching Fellow to Botswana in 2016. Belin earned their B.A. in Mathematics and M.A.T. at Bard College and has been an adjunct professor at City College of New York, Bard College, and the Bard Prison Initiative.
Professor Lauren L. Rose Selected as Association for Women in Mathematics 2022 Fellow
Associate Professor of Mathematics Lauren L. Rose has been selected as one of 13 scholars to join the Fifth Class of Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) Fellows. These individuals are extraordinary researchers, mentors, and educators whose commitment to supporting and growing women across the mathematical sciences is praised by their students and colleagues.
Rose is being honored: “For broad efforts in the professional development of women in mathematics, especially undergraduate women; for her commitment to involving people from diverse communities in mathematics, through Math Circles and outreach in prisons; and for her creative contributions to the AWM including the We Speak Series and the Card Project,” states the AWM committee.
“I am very happy to announce the 2022 list of new AWM Fellows. We recognize these individuals for their exceptional dedication to increasing the success and visibility of women in mathematics,” wrote Kathryn Leonard, AWM President. The AWM 2022 Fellows will be recognized during the AWM reception held in January.
The Executive Committee of the Association for Women in Mathematics established the AWM Fellows Program to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to the support and advancement of women in the mathematical sciences. The Fellows epitomize the mission of the AWM, which is to promote equitable opportunities and support for women and girls in the mathematical sciences.
Bard Professor Japheth Wood Receives 2021 MAA Award for Top Expository Mathematical Writing
Japheth Wood, director of quantitative literacy and continuing associate professor of mathematics at Bard College, is recognized for his article “Chords of an Ellipse, Lucas Polynomials, and Cubic Equations,” coauthored by Ben Blum-Smith and published by the American Mathematical Monthly. “We are thrilled to be recognized for this honor, and to now have our names associated with Paul Halmos and Lester Ford, as well as the long list of other excellent expositors who have been so lauded,” said Wood and Blum-Smith.
American Mathematical Society Recognizes Bard Math Circle’s CAMP Program and Its Founder, Professor Japheth Wood
The Bard Math Circle’s Creative and Analytical Math Program (CAMP) and its founder, professor Japheth Wood, have been recognized with a 2020 Epsilon Award for Young Scholars Programs. The Epsilon Awards, given annually by the American Mathematical Society, support some of the most prestigious summer math enrichment programs in the United States.
CAMP is not “summer camp.” It is a nonresidential academic program for middle school students that features mathematics in a creative learning environment. CAMP started in August 2014 with initial funding from the Dolciani Math Enrichment Grant Program, and it has grown to become a popular late-summer treat for math kids in the Mid-Hudson Valley and beyond. Experienced educators and undergraduate math majors lead classes and activities that emphasize hands-on math, teamwork, and outside-the-box thinking.
This summer, CAMP was held online for the first time. During the first week in August, 49 middle schoolers and a staff of 15—including seven Bard math and computer science majors and two Bard math alumnae—got together via Zoom. “Since cyberspace shortened the distance between us, the Bard Math Circle received numerous applications from around the country,” says Wood. “We could see students’ excitement over running into old friends and connecting with new CAMPers in Zoom classrooms.”
This year’s CAMP theme was cryptography. Students explored cipher encryption (using a cipher wheel like the one at right), created artworks with encoded messages, made cryptograms, and more.
“Though [CAMP] wasn’t around during my student days at Bard, an amazing community has developed since,” says Bard alumna and CAMP senior instructor Erin Toliver ’00. “I love seeing the look on a student’s face when they’ve discovered a new pattern, found a different perspective, or made a new connection for a deeper understanding of this glorious world of mathematics.”
Bard Assistant Professor of Mathematics Matthew Junge Talks with WAMC about National Science Foundation RAPID Grant to Study COVID-19 Forecasting Models
“What’s really distinguishing [our study} from a lot of the studies that are being quoted by the national press . . . and the Administration is that we look at the local connections inside of communities, and those are usually ignored by bigger studies,” Junge tells WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne. “Our study’s taking this opposite perspective of really finally modelling person-to-person connections that come up in our day-to-day lives, like who we socialize with, where we work, connections of that sort, and we ask how the disease spreads in this sort of zoomed-in picture.”
Bard College Professors Win National Science Foundation Rapid Grant to Develop Forecasting Models that Better Capture the Geographic and Social Complexity of the COVID-19 Pandemic
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Bard College professors Matthew Junge, mathematics, and Felicia Keesing, biology; and Grinnell College professor Nicole Eikmeier, computer science, a $60,000 grant to develop network models that—by more accurately incorporating social distancing measures—better capture the geographic and social complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Awarded through the NSF’s Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program, which provides support for urgent scientific research that responds to emergencies and unexpected events, the grant includes funding for salaries, publishing costs, and several undergraduate research assistants over a six-month period.
Junge, Bard assistant professor of mathematics and lead investigator on the project, says their project aims to develop network models and mathematical theory to test the robustness of some prominent models being used by governments to justify the extreme levels of intervention we are living through. One advantage of a network model, which tries to accurately describe the face-to-face interactions each individual in a society has and how an infection might spread, is that it is relatively easy to implement social distancing into the network.
“Mathematicians are fairly adept at modeling the natural evolution of epidemics, but most ‘off the shelf’ models were not built to describe the dramatic levels of intervention—business closures, travel limitations, and social distancing—that we are living through during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Junge. “The grant brings together a biologist (Felicia), computer scientist (Nicole), and mathematician (myself) as well as a few undergrad research assistants to tackle this problem over the next six months. Felicia is an expert in infectious disease, Nicole in modeling real world networks, and I am experienced in network infection models.”
Matthew Junge, assistant professor of mathematics, comes to Bard from Duke University, where he served as William W. Elliott Research Assistant Professor. He received his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Washington, where he also earned MS, BS, and BA degrees. His areas of interest include probability, statistical physics, and mathematical biology. Junge’s research takes a probabilistic approach to particle systems from physics and biology, including models for chemical reactions, species proliferation, and epidemic outbreaks. He also studies random structures from classical mathematics and computer science, such as permutations and fragmented spaces.
Felicia Keesing, David and Rosalie Rose Distinguished Professor of Science, Mathematics, and Computing, has been on the Bard faculty since 2000. She has a B.S. from Stanford University and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1995, she has studied how African savannas function when the large, charismatic animals like elephants, buffaloes, zebras, and giraffes disappear. She also studies how interactions among species influence the probability that humans will be exposed to infectious diseases. Keesing also studies Lyme disease, another tick-borne disease. She is particularly interested in how species diversity affects disease transmission.
Nicole Elkmeier is an assistant professor of computer science at Grinnell College. She has a PhD in Mathematics from Purdue University and a BA from in mathematics and computer science from Concordia College. Her research is in the field of Network Analysis, specifically focused on studying features of real data and constructing and analyzing graph models which maintain those features. A network, in this case, is a set of nodes (people, web pages, etc.) connected by edges (physical connection, collaboration, etc). She is interested in random graph models, which are used to study how well an algorithm may do on a real-world network, and for testing properties that may further improve algorithms. Her research is at the intersection of math and computer science.
Post Date: 05-07-2020
Mathematics Events
8/16
Tuesday
Tuesday, August 16, 2022 Reem-Kayden Center, Laszlo Z. Bito ‘60 Auditorium4:00 pm – 6:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 Questions about the Math Placement? Confused about what math course to take? Japheth Wood, Director of Quantitative Literacy, will be available to answer your questions.
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 Reem-Kayden Center, Laszlo Z. Bito ‘60 Auditorium
8/17
Wednesday
Wednesday, August 17, 2022 Reem-Kayden Center Laszlo Z. Bito ‘60 Auditorium4:00 pm – 6:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 Questions about the Math Placement? Confused about what math course to take? Japheth Wood, Director of Quantitative Literacy, will be available to answer your questions.
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 Reem-Kayden Center Laszlo Z. Bito ‘60 Auditorium
Andrew Schultz, Wellesley College Hegeman 204A12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 Binomial coefficients are a staple in the world of combinatorics. Their usefulness in enumeration is nearly unparalleled, but their humble beginnings belie intricate structure and surprising depth. In the pursuit of understanding binomial coefficients more completely, one can encode them in a family of polynomials called Gaussian coefficients. Do these Gaussian coefficients have their own structure and depth? In this talk we'll introduce the Gaussian coefficients and see some surprising ways in which they are (almost!) as nice as their more famous brethren (and maybe a way or two in which they are even nicer).
Monday, May 9, 2022
Matt Kerr Washington University-St. Louis Hegeman 204A12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 Then first you'll have to construct the table, which game regulations insist must pass through five given points. When you're done with that I’ll pick N<10, and to beat me you have to shoot the ball (from wherever I put it) so it returns in exactly N steps to where it started.
If you're not put off by a vector space of polynomials, you can make the elliptic table; and if you know how to spot a complex torus, then (with practice and foci) you can win. This is how I trap unsuspecting students into learning a bit of algebraic geometry.
Because the real title of this talk is: two theorems on conics in the plane!
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Shira Zerbib, Iowa State University Hegeman 204A12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 The KKM theorem, due to Knaster, Kuratowski and Mazurkiewicz in 1929, is a topological lemma reminiscent of Sperner's lemma and Brouwer's fixed point theorem. It has numerous applications in combinatorics, discrete geometry, economics, game theory and other areas. Generalizations of this lemma, in several different directions, were proved over the years (e.g., by Shapley, Gale, Komiya, Soberon) and have been widely applied as well. We will discuss a recent common generalization of all these theorems. We will also show two very different applications of KKM-type theorems: one is a proof of a conjecture of Eckhoff from 1993 on the line piercing numbers in certain families of convex sets in the plane, and the other is a theorem on fair division of multiple cakes among players with subjective preferences.
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
Marcus Michelen, University of Illinois-Chicago Hegeman 204A12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 Consider a polynomial of degree n whose coefficients are -1 or 1 independently and randomly chosen. What do its roots typically look like? It turns out that random polynomials are an example of a very common phenomenon: large random structures typically exhibit a lot of predictable behavior. I'll discuss some common examples of this phenomenon, discuss the case of random polynomials, and also explain some applications of these random objects to other fields of math and computer science. No experience in probability will be expected or required; the goal is to give a gentle introduction to some deep facts.
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Natalie Frank, Vassar College Hegeman 204A12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 "Aperiodic order" is the study of highly ordered structures that fall just short of being periodic. Geometric questions in mathematics and decidability questions in logic provided early theoretical models of such structures. The Nobel Prize-winning discovery of physical quasicrystals in the 1980s led to the wider interest in aperiodically ordered structures. This talk will describe the mathematics of symmetry, the central role symmetry played in the discovery of quasicrystals, and the mathematical models that are used to describe quasicrystals today.
Wednesday, February 23, 2022
Caitlin Leverson, Math Program Hegeman 204A12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EST/GMT-5 Knots, which you can think of as a string knotted up with the ends glued together, are simple to define but are challenging to tell the difference between. We will discuss a few interesting invariants, algorithms to associate a number to a knot, which we can use to help differentiate between knots. We will also talk about a related notion of knots, called Legendrian knots, where we add a geometric condition. No previous knowledge of knots will be assumed.
Friday, February 11, 2022
Andrew Harder, Lehigh University Hegeman 10712:00 pm – 1:00 pm EST/GMT-5 An elliptic Lefschetz fibration is a smooth 4-manifold M (possibly with boundary) which admits a map to a surface S (possibly with boundary), and so that all but a finite number of fibers are diffeomorphic to a 2-torus, and the rest are homeomorphic to a “pinched” 2-torus. The classification of elliptic Lefschetz fibrations can be reduced to a (hard) problem in linear algebra whose solution is known in several cases — for instance, a theorem of Moishezon and Livné says that if S is just the 2-sphere then it is known that any elliptic Lefschetz fibration has 12n fibres which are pinched 2-tori for some integer n, and that the topology of M is completely determined by n.
Surprisingly, the situation where S is a 2-dimensional disc, despite being well studied, is not completely understood. In this talk, I will discuss an answer to this problem under certain conditions on the boundary of M and on the number of fibres which are singular. We reduce this problem to a question about linear algebraic objects called pseudo-lattices and apply a theorem of Kuznetsov to give a concrete description of a class of elliptic Lefschetz fibrations. Finally I will discuss my motivation for considering this problem and how this classification theorem reflects the numerical classification of weak del Pezzo surfaces in algebraic geometry. This is based on joint work with Alan Thompson.