Dalton State Math Team Places in Top 19 Percent in International Quest

05/21/2010

A team of three math students from Dalton State that participated in the 2010 Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) placed in the top 19 percent of teams that competed internationally, College officials say.

More than 2200 teams representing institutions from 14 countries participated in the contest, which took place during spring semester. During a four-day period, teams of up to three undergraduate or high school students researched, modeled, and submitted a solution to one of two modeling programs in the online contest.

The Dalton State students, Alex Gallmon, James Murphy, and Katie Sickler, chose to work on the problem that sought mathematical models for use in geographical profiling of serial criminals.

“The students were asked to develop a method to help police officers search for serial criminals,” says Jason Schmurr, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and faculty advisor for the team.

“They were asked to make use of at least two different schemes to generate a geographical profile of where a serial killer might strike next based on the time and locations of the past crime scenes.”

The three students were given access to a mathematics lab during the contest period and worked nearly around the clock to come up with their “solution.”

“This is the first year that Dalton State had a team, and these students each brought different talents to the project,” Schmurr says, noting that excellent research, math, and writing skills were essential to creating a successful project.

“These students did extremely well in this contest,” he adds. “For comparison, our Dalton State team beat more than half of the teams from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that competed that same weekend.”

Murphy and Gallmon are physics majors and Sickler was a senior in high school last year who was enrolled at Dalton State as an ACCEL student. ACCEL is a program which allows juniors and seniors in high school to take freshman and sophomore-level courses in the college environment for which they receive both high school and college credit.

“This is the first year that we’ve had senior-level mathematics courses at Dalton State,” says Schmurr, who said that he asked students in his differential equations course to consider forming a team for competition.

The three students who ended up forming a team practiced for the event by looking at the previous years’ mathematical modeling problems and determining how those winning teams arrived at their solutions to the problem.

“During the actual contest, the three of them brainstormed intensely, tested out ideas, did a critical analysis and then tried to figure out which technique would work the best based on the data they were able to dig up,” Schmurr says.

“They then submitted their paper, which included computer graphics, online, and were notified about a month later that they had scored in the top nineteen percent of all who competed. We’re very proud of their accomplishments.”