Midwest Undergraduate Mathematics Symposium

The 14th annual Midwest Undergraduate Mathematics Symposium (MUMS) and the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics (CURM) Student Research Conference will be held on Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1, 2017, at Simpson College. The conference will feature contributed talks and poster presentations by undergraduates, a career panel session, and plenary talks by Dr. Colin Adams of Williams College and DaNel Hogan, director of The STEMAZing Project.



  • Promote student engagement in the mathematical sciences, including projects and research (completed individually or in groups).
  • Provide students the opportunity to share and celebrate the work they have completed in the mathematical sciences.
  • Introduce students to topics and applications of mathematics that are new to them.
  • Inform students about research programs and study abroad opportunities in the mathematical sciences.
  • Inform students about career and graduate school opportunities in the mathematical sciences.


Friday, March 31

CURM Sessions (West Des Moines Campus)
9:00AM Plenary talk by DaNel Hogan
10:00AM Student talks
12:00PM Lunch
1:00PM Student talks
2:00PM Plenary talk by Colin Adams
3:00PM Transportation will be provided from the West Des Moines campus to the Indianola Campus
4:00PM Student talks (Indianola Campus, Carse 171/172)

MUMS/CURM Sessions (Kent Campus Center, Indianola Campus)
5:00PM Pizza dinner (Black Box)
6:00PM Plenary talk by DaNel Hogan (Hubbell I)
7:00PM Board games (Black Box)

Saturday, April 1

MUMS/CURM Sessions (Kent Campus Center, Indianola Campus)
8:30AM Registration (Upper Atrium); Poster session set-up (Black Box)
9:00AM Plenary talk by Colin Adams (Hubbell I)
10:00AM Student talks (Carse 171/172, Carse 173/174, and Hubbell II)
11:00AM Career panel (Hubbell I)
12:00PM Lunch (Great Hall)
1:15PM Poster Session (Black Box)
2:00PM Student talks (Carse 171/172, Carse 173/174, and Hubbell II)
4:00PM Closing remarks (Hubbell I)

CURM Session
6:00PM Banquet

Plenary Talks

Learning as a Lifestyle – How to Use Your Passion to Positively Impact the World

6:00-7:00 PM, Friday, March 31, Hubbell 

Through the lens of her STEM Story, learn how research experiences at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa launched a lifetime of learning for DaNel Hogan and took her all over the world. With a commitment to lifelong learning, DaNel continues to positively impact the world around her and you can too. Learn how to leverage your passion to make a difference and inspire others! ACADEMIC WARNING: this talk will include at least one math puzzle, which may lead to continued investigation for an extended period of time beyond the conference. Any loss of sleep and free time spent on this investigation is not the fault of the presenter but rather your own curiosity.


Biography for DaNel Hogan:  

DaNel Hogan is a professional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) educator. DaNel served as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, DC. While in DC, DaNel was involved in national level STEM issues and particularly focused on K-Gray Energy Literacy. Prior to her Einstein Fellowship, DaNel was a high school/middle school physics teacher for nine years. In her current position as the Director of The STEMAZing Project, she finds herself teaching PreK-8th grade teachers how to better engage students using STEM content. DaNel finds her creativity and imagination focused on #STEMontheCheap hacks – using inexpensive materials to teach STEM lessons.

Turning knots into flowers: Undergraduate Research

2:00-3:00 PM, Friday, March 31, West Des Moines Campus

Knot theory provides fertile ground for undergraduate research. There are pretty pictures, students can work on explicit examples immediately, and there is deep and beautiful mathematics embedded in the subject. In this talk, we will see how one can generalize the concept of crossing number of knots to obtain a bucketful of open questions, many of which have been answered by undergraduates. Moreover, we can define petal number (least number of petals in a flower-like diagram that represents the knot) and come up with many more fascinating questions.


Blown Away: What Knot to Do When Sailing

by Sir Randolph Bacon III, cousin-in-law to Colin Adams, Williams College

9:00-10:00 AM, Saturday, April 1, Hubbell

Being a tale of adventure on the high seas involving great risk to the tale teller, and how an understanding of the mathematical theory of knots saved his bacon. No nautical or mathematical background assumed. 


Biography for Colin Adams:

Colin Adams is the Thomas T. Read Professor of Mathematics at Williams College. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983. He is particularly interested in the mathematical theory of knots, their applications and their connections with hyperbolic geometry. He is the author of "The Knot Book", an elementary introduction to the mathematical theory of knots and co-author with Joel Hass and Abigail Thompson of "How to Ace Calculus: The Streetwise Guide," and "How to Ace the Rest of Calculus: the Streetwise Guide," humorous supplements to calculus. Having authored a variety of research articles on knot theory and hyperbolic 3-manifolds, he is also known for giving mathematical lectures in the guise of Mel Slugbate, a sleazy real estate agent. A recipient of the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Distinguished Teaching Award from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) in 1998, he was a Polya Lecturer for the MAA for 1998-2000 and a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer for 2000-2002. He is also the author of mathematical humor column called "Mathematically Bent" which appears in the Mathematical Intelligencer.


There is no registration fee, but we do request that you register in advance by March 17.  Registration includes dinner on Friday and lunch on Saturday for all participants, and lunch on Friday and the banquet Saturday evening for CURM participants.


Travel stipends are available for all students. The $1350 in total travel funding for MUMS 2017 is provided by the Simpson College Mathematics Department. We encourage students to first seek full or partial reimbursement for travel expenses from their home institutions. If you are a student, talk with a professor from your school about the availability of travel funds. MUMS travel stipends are only awarded when home institutions are unable to cover the full travel costs for students. For more information and to request funding, go to MUMS Travel Stipends.

Call for Presentations

Undergraduate students are invited and encouraged to make presentations in any mathematics-related field. Possible topics for talks and posters include, but are not limited to:

  • results of class projects;
  • solutions to contest problems (Putnam Exam, modeling competitions, etc.);
  • results from undergraduate research projects (summer programs, capstone courses, etc.);
  • expository talks on interesting topics in mathematics;
  • papers on the history of mathematics;
  • mathematics education projects; and
  • independent work in mathematics, statistics, computer science, or related disciplines.

Abstract Submission

Abstracts are due by Friday, March 17, 2016.  Abstract submissions must include the following information:

  • names of all presenters and their schools;
  • title of the presentation;
  • brief abstract (one paragraph);
  • your preference for a talk or poster presentation; and
  • faculty sponsor(s).

We have a limited number of time slots available for student talks, but a larger capacity for poster presentations.  Please submit your title and abstract by filling out our registration form (link above).  To see abstracts from previous years, click on "MUMS 2015 Abstracts" and "MUMS 2014 Abstracts" below. If you have any questions, contact Dr. Katherine Vance or Dr. Heidi Berger.


Funding for MUMS 2017 is provided through the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics (CURM). CURM is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant #DMS-0636648 / #DMS-1148695, by Brigham Young University (BYU), and by sponsors.