From beneath whispering maples to the Windy City…

stephenThis past year was a whirlwind for ‘13 alum Stephen Henrich. After garnering acceptances from many of the nation’s top medical schools (Harvard, Yale, and Stanford were not among the least of these) and graduating from Simpson in April with triple majors in Biochemistry, Math, and Applied Philosophy, Henrich decided to pursue an MD/PhD dual degree track at Northwestern University in Chicago. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, this 7-8 year program is designed to train students who, like Stephen, are passionate about both medicine and scientific research to become practicing physician/scientists. Henrich’s primary research interest is in the field of nanotechnology, a passion which first developed at Simpson when conducting research under former Chair of the Dept. of Chemistry, Dr. Ron Warnet. Henrich chose to attend Northwestern, in part, because it has long been considered one of the world’s hubs for research in nanotechnology.

To further support his graduate research, Henrich was awarded a Ryan Fellowship, Northwestern University’s top award for graduate students in nanotechnology. The Ryan Fellowship “supports graduate students dedicated to the exploration of fundamental nanoscale science and to advancing this knowledge into practical applications of benefit to society.” For Henrich, this means using nanoscale science to design novel medical technologies which could one day improve the lives of his patients.

While Henrich is still uncertain in precisely which medical field he would like to conduct his research, he is currently exploring laboratories. Last summer he worked in the lab of Dr. Chad Mirkin, who was predicted to be a contender for the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry ( for his work in DNA nanotechnology, and for inventing a technique called Dip-Pen Nanolithography. This summer Henrich plans to rotate in two labs, both of which are applying innovations in nanotechnology to achieve different medical purposes. The first aims to treat patients with severe spinal cord injuries using customized nanoscale scaffolds, while the second is attempting to make devices called biosensors which could detect cancer at its earliest stages. Henrich began medical school at Northwestern this past fall, and will officially start the PhD phase of his training in 2015.

Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics Conference

Juniors Hannah Longstreet, Tony Saucedo, Lauren Tirado, and Demetre Van Arsdale presented their summer research at the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics Conference held at BYU March 14-15.  This research was mentored by Drs. Heidi Berger and Clint Meyer, with field work analysis also conducted by sophomore Grace Williams.  The research was funded through an MAA NREUP grant.  More information about the project and the group can be found at

Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics Conference

Juniors Hannah Longstreet, Tony Saucedo, Lauren Tirado, and Demetre Van Arsdale presented their summer research at the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics Conference held at BYU March 14-15.  This research was mentored by Drs. Heidi Berger and Clint Meyer, with field work analysis also conducted by sophomore Grace Williams.  The research was funded through an MAA NREUP grant.  More information about the project and the group can be found at

New Data Science Course

The Simpson College Mathematics Department is excited to offer a new special topics course called Data Science during the Spring 2015 semester.  The class will be taught by Dr. Bill Schellhorn, who recently spent his sabbatical leave studying topics in the field.

What is data science?  Data science is the study of the extraction of knowledge from data.  In practice, it involves learning from data in order to gain insight and make useful predictions.  Knowledge in the field is increasingly important for Mathematics and Actuarial Science majors.

Why is data science important?  Data is being generated faster than it can be analyzed.  Many of the current challenges in science, government, industry, economics, marketing, and sports are “big data” problems.  Some examples include:

  • the Large Hadron Collider experiments;
  • the Sloan Digital Sky Survey;
  • the human genome project;
  • surveillance data collected by the National Security Agency;
  • social network data collected by Facebook;
  • marketing data collected by Amazon and NetFlix;
  • statistics from professional sports leagues.

What topics will be covered in the Math 390 Data Science course?  The course will introduce methods used in data science, including techniques in data collection, data management, exploratory data analysis, prediction, and communication of results.  Real-world examples will be used to illustrate the methods presented.  The analyses and methods will be implemented in a statistical software package (either R or JMP).

What are the prerequisites for the course?  Math 152 Calculus II and CmSc 150 Introduction to Programming.

For more information:  Contact Dr. Bill Schellhorn.

Image by Calvin.Andrus (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Parliamentary League of the Upper Midwest Standings

Simpson College joined The Parliamentary League of the Upper Midwest (PLUM) this past fall, and we competed in three of their five day-long tournaments.

On Tuesday, March 5th the Parliamentary Debate Team of Tegan Jarchow, Paul Safford, and Jacy Gomez defeated Bethany Lutheran on a 3-0 decision to win the final PLUM tournament of the season.  In the final round the students debated the merits of streamlining the US military.  They had 15 minutes to prepare the topic.

Colleges and universities were then ranked based on the results of all 5 tournaments.  Below is a cumulative summary of team standings with the results of all 5 PLUM events:

Team Points

  1. Bethany Lutheran College 86
  2. St. Olaf College 77
  3. Simpson College 69
  4. St Cloud State University 29
  5. Ripon College 15
  6. South Dakota State University 6
  7. North Dakota State University 3

In a field of 44 speakers, Simpson received THREE of the top ten best speakers of the entire season:

  • 3rd Jacy Gomez
  • 8th Tegan Jarchow
  • 9th Ethan Fredrick


ISCPA visits Simpson accounting seniors

Accounting seniors had a treat on their last day of class before spring break, literally!  Leadership from the Iowa Society of CPAs visited the class to talk to students about the accounting profession and the CPA exam.  And they brought along cookies!

ISCPA president Cindy Adams spoke with students about her path in the profession starting in public accounting, moving to industry as a comptroller and into technology and now in association management.  She pointed out to students that CPAs are in higher demand now than ever, “The profession is graying.  75% of CPAs will be in retirement age in 5 years.” She also spoke of the rising percentage of CFOs who are CPAs-this designation is growing in importance in the C-suite.

Other representatives from the organization also spoke about continuing education and

Representatives from the ISCPA visited with senior accounting students

Photo courtesy of the ISCPA

the society as an organization helping professionals grow in their work.  Lance Dieleman spoke with students about his experiences taking the CPA exam and being involved professionally.  When speaking about the appeal of the accounting profession, Lance said, “I love to make the complex simple and I really like helping people.” His position at Schuring Uitermarkt allows him to both in working with his clients.

President Cindy Adams shared her philosophy and LIFE lessons: “Laugh lots; Integrity; Fess, fix and learn and then forget; Educate-Lifelong learning” as principles everyone can follow.

Professor Cox’s senior accounting seminar course has over 10 students who plan to sit for the CPA exam after graduation.  Many are interested in public accounting careers and already have job offers, and others will pursue careers in private industry.

Learning TV on the other side of the world

Steffi Lee left the US for the central European country of Poland just a couple of weeks ago.  Through the exchange agreement with The State Higher Vocational School in Krosno, Poland, two Simpson students study at the school each spring semester, while two Polish students study here in the fall.

Steffi is a sophomore Multimedia Journalism major with a focus on TV broadcasting.  She has already completed internships in the field including one at the Des Moines NBC affiliate, WHO-TV in summer 2013 where she prepared a number of packages for the station.

Since arriving in Poland, both students have settled into their new apartment close to the college and arranged their coursework.  They are taking courses in the English department with both international students and Polish students studying the language.   Part of the work the students will do this semester includes an internship experience.  Steffi has started working at a local TV station shadowing one of their reporters and doing work of her own.  Reflecting on the experience, Steffi said,

“The biggest challenge is the language barrier.  I work through an interpreter with the cameramen, but it is a challenge for me to know what is happening in the community…The approach to reporting is the same though; the reporter looks for stories that can have an impact on the community.”

Steffi recently prepared a package of her own about the international students at the college including a focus on the Muslim students and everyone’s efforts to learn English and advance their students. The story was subtitled in Polish for the local audience, but Steffi got to voice the story herself. She said the news director is excited to bring new perspectives and stories to the station.

In regards to life in a small Polish city, Steffi has great things to say.  The town is bigger than Simpson’s home in Indianola, but smaller than Des Moines.  There are plenty of places to go eat and explore in addition to the planned trips to Krakow and other big cities.

We’ll catch up with the other Simpson student in Poland, Kristin Richert, in a few weeks!

Plain Apache vs. Moodle

Below are two input/output (IO) graphs created by a Wireshark packet trace. The first is a file downloaded from a web server program called Moodle, which is the software our “Scholar” site runs and serves out class information. The second is a packet trace of a download from a, which only runs through Apache. The websites are on different machines, but in the same room.



I created the graphs as part of my notes for CIS 340 Networking. I was surprised at the difference between the downloads.

3/25/2014: Followup

In class, we were guessing the difference had to do with server load, encryption, or the overhead of the Moodle software. We didn’t have an easy way to find out for certain.

Thankfully, one of our networking engineers was willing to work with me and try and figure out what the difference was. Demonstrating the transient nature of these types of problems, I wasn’t able to recreate the slow throughput at all.

Below is a capture with the plain web server.


Below is the same web server, but encrypted.


Below is the same encrypted web server, but using Moodle.


In each case, the traces look about the same. This means that encryption and the Moodle software by themselves will not cause this slow down.

Perhaps back when the original tests were done trace the server had a high CPU or I/O load. Unfortunately there isn’t any way to know for certain without being able to reproduce the results.

Professional leadership development as a sophomore

If you are interested in studying accounting, Simpson should be your number one choice.  With opportunities to do individual research, internships,  participate in the Accounting Club, and perhaps most important of all, the ability to gain the credits needed to sit for the CPA exam in just four years, Simpson College offers the opportunities needed to find success in a career in accounting.

Sophomore Andria Harper is a shining example of this.  As just a sophomore, Andria has been invited to participate in the KPMG (one of the big 4 accounting firms) Summer Leadership Program.  Andria will spend two very busy days in downtown Des Moines this summer learning about the accounting profession, opportunities at KPMG and informally interviewing for Spring 2015 internships and post-graduation jobs!

Andria is originally from the Martensdale, IA community.  She is involved on campus in Accounting Club, the entrepreneurial student organization, Enactus and participates in intramurals (that’s Andria playing lacrosse).  Looking for professional development opportunities, she first learned about the summer leadership program from accounting professor Shane Cox, himself a former KPMG intern and employee.  After sitting in on presentations about the organization here on campus, Andria decided to pursue the opportunity.  About the work, she said,

“This is my dream job.  At big firms like KPMG, I can start broad in auditing and then specialize.  There are so many different ways to go in accounting and I know there are development and advancement options as well.”

Each year a few Simpson students are invited to participate in the KPMG summer leadership program and earn a spring internship and eventually land a full-time position at the firm after graduation.  We’ll feature a few students working in these internships in a few weeks!


Midwest Undergraduate Mathematics Symposium at Simpson College

The eleventh annual Midwest Undergraduate Mathematics Symposium (MUMS) will be held on Friday and Saturday, April 11 and 12, 2014, in the Carver Science Center at Simpson College.  The conference will include numerous contributed presentations by undergraduate students from colleges and universities throughout the region along with two plenary talks.  The first plenary talk on Friday night will be given by Dr. Jitka Stehnova from Mount Mercy University; it is called The Beauty of Math and she will explore the aesthetic nature of mathematics.  The second plenary talk on Saturday morning will be given by Dr. Kathryn Leonard from California State University Channel Islands; it is called Shape Modeling with Industry and Undergraduates and she will discuss automated object recognition.

For more information, visit the MUMS 2014 website.

Funding for MUMS 2014 is provided by NSF grant DMS-0846477 through the MAA Regional Undergraduate Mathematics Conferences program (  Additional funding is provided by the Simpson College Mathematics Department (