UD team takes top honors in math modeling contest
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8:35 a.m., April 16, 2009----For the second year in a row, a team of students from the University of Delaware has placed in the top category of the Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM), sponsored by the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP). Jeff Bosco and Zack Ulissi, both seniors in chemical engineering, and Bob Liu, also a senior, were members of the UD team receiving an “Outstanding” designation for their solution.

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Their finish placed them in the top one percent of the 1,675 teams worldwide that finished the online contest, and their solution paper will be published, along with the eight others that earned outstanding rankings, in The UMAP Journal. The publication will include commentary from the authors and other judges.

Ulissi and Liu were also on last year's UD team that received a rank of Outstanding. “This is a rare achievement,” said Lou Rossi, associate professor in UD's Department of Mathematical Sciences. Rossi and John Pelesko, also an associate professor in the math department, coached the teams in the competition.

“For the second year in a row, UD fielded three teams and attracted students across many programs including mathematics, physics, and engineering,” Rossi says.

Solution reports are scored by a distinguished panel of judges who sort the solutions into four categories: Outstanding (top 1 percent worldwide), Meritorious (next 18 percent worldwide), Honorable Mention (next 18 percent worldwide), and Successful (remaining 63 percent). Fewer than half of the teams that begin the contest finish successfully.

Rossi explains that the contest requires groups of three students to spend four days working on an open question contributed by a panel of experts. “The open questions are drawn from practical applications where the mathematical formulations are not yet established or well analyzed,” he says.

Past examples have included analysis of fingerprints, classification of insect species, and evacuation planning. Students can use any inanimate resource to develop and analyze mathematical models to solve the problem.

Contest participants choose from one of two questions. Question A in the 2009 contest asked students to develop a model for traffic circles, while Question B asked them to analyze the impact of a nation switching from land-line telephone usage to cellular telephone usage. UD's winning team answered Question B.

Two other UD teams participated and received “Successful” designations: Brendon McCracken, Camilo Perez and Frank Shen for Problem A; and Soham Gandhi, Dariusz Murakowski and Kyle Thomas for Problem B.

“In my opinion, the work of all three teams was nothing less than spectacular,” Rossi says.

Article by Diane Kukich