Science workshop this friday: Can you fish better than a robot?


Matthew Holden will talk about his research on the management of renewable resources, using fish as an example. Can mathematical models be used to improve the management of fisheries? As a baseline for comparison, we will play an interactive web-game, where you fish a hypothetical sockeye salmon population (so bring your laptops/tablets!). We will discuss the strategies you use and I will demonstrate some of the quantitative tools economists, fishery scientists and mathematicians have developed to maximize revenue and keep a sustainable number of fish in the ocean. How well can you manage the fishery using your intuition compared to a robot using only math? Come to Science Workshop this friday and find out!

Science workshops are fridays from 1 pm – 2 pm in Dickinson 148.

Welcome to Bennington, Katie Montovan!

If you happen to stroll over to our faculty list this coming Fall, you’ll see a new name. Katie Montovan, an applied mathematician currently in the process of finishing her Ph. D. at Cornell University’s Center for Applied Math, will be joining us as our new full-time mathematics faculty member, teaming up with current mathematician Andrew McIntyre to offer a rich, innovative math curriculum. After accepting Bennington’s offer, Katie visited campus in early February to get acquainted with the area a bit and to meet with her soon-to-be colleagues. Ecology faculty member Kerry Woods and his wife Cas hosted an old-fashioned Vermont potluck (at their home in nearby Cambridge, New York) to welcome Katie and her partner Maggie to our community.

Katie Montovan (second from right) is welcomed at a mid-winter potluck by, among others not shown, Kerry and Cas Woods (far right and left) and Karen Schroeder (second from left).

Her mentors at Cornell enthusiastically praise her skills as a teacher. In addition to teaching foundation courses at Bennington, such as calculus, Katie proposed several novel offerings that will reach out to students beyond Dickinson. For example, there’s The Art of Mathematics, in which students “will investigate the connections between math and art by studying artworks that address mathematical concepts and learning mathematics through art”.

Ms. Montovan’s current research work is in using modeling, particularly game
theory and dynamical systems,to understand the evolutionary ecology of a parasite.The parasitic wasp she studies lays its eggs in eggs of its butterfly host—but never in more than 30% of the available eggs. Why? Ms. Montovan develops
mathematical models for a number of proposed biological answers, and compares
their results to experimental data. She discussed this work in a fascinating seminar in December and will no doubt continue to find interesting and accessible problems on which to practice her craft.

Katie wants to be not only a mathematician, but an active mentor and member of a
community, and we have the greatest confidence that she will be an ideal addition to the Bennington College community. Please feel free to leave a comment offering your own welcome to Katie. We’re all thrilled she’ll be joining us.


Science Workshop: Satellite Navigation and the Three-Body Problem

Please join us for our next Science Workshop on Friday, November 30th when visiting mathematician Michael Reardon will discuss his work in the area of satellite navigation. The abstract of his talk is presented below.

Lunar Transfers and the Circular Restricted Three-Body Problem

The Vermont Lunar Lander CubeSat Program is a collaborative effort by students and faculty from four VT colleges and universities with the goal of navigating a small (~10 cm3 ) satellite to lunar orbit. In the first part of this talk I will discuss my role in the project, which was to investigate the feasibility of lunar transfer methods for both low and high thrust propulsion systems. The second part will focus on the mathematical model used to describe the trajectories of satellites in the presence of two gravitating bodies: the Circular Restricted Three-Body Problem (CRTBP). As we will see, the CRTBP provides valuable insight into the problem of lunar transfer trajectory design. Furthermore, the CRTBP is also possessed of a rich dynamical structure whose study provides a window into the world of nonlinear dynamics and chaos.