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What are employers looking for?

There are many things that call for your Math and Computer Science skills

There are many things that call for your Math and Computer Science skills

Hi everyone, it’s your career counselor Ms. Neidert here, and I wanted to give you a sense of what awaits you in the job market.  We all know it’s rough out there, but as a Math or Computer Science major, you’re better situated than most students.  Here’s some interesting data to consider.  You’ll notice that computer science is #4 on this list, and that your skills might fall under several of these other majors.

Teaching math is continually in high demand, but your skills can fit in several places here.

Teaching math is continually in high demand, but your skills can fit in several places here.

Replacement openings are another good way to look at your future working life.  The Baby Boomers may stick around a little longer because of the economy, but they can’t do it forever.

More food for thought...

More food for thought...

When you think about “what can I do with this degree?”, I ask you to think about your skills.  You’re probably pretty good at solving complex problems, and maybe even explaining them to others.  You can also navigate complex systems to get your desired outcome, as well as analyze and synthesize a lot of data.  Now, it just becomes a game of deciding where to apply those skills.  If you need guidance, feel free to stop by on the 2nd Floor of Bagby!

What do you think of some of these predictions?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

(Thanks to the National Association of Colleges and Employers for providing this data)

H-SC Students to speak on their research

On Monday, September 21 Hampden-Sydney math majors Cameron Auker ’11, Alex Smith ’10, and Christopher Tait ’10 will speak on the research they did over the summer as part of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.  The Hampden-Sydney Math Club is hosting the event, which will take place in Bagby 217.

Mr. Auker will discuss the work he did at the University of Tennessee on modeling predictors of geographic distribution of Campylobacter infections in East Tennessee.  Mr. Smith will present work he did at the University of Nebraska Lincoln on Control Theory.  Mr. Tait will present work he did at James Madison University of improving the accuracy of confidence intervals for proportions.

The event is free and open to the public.  Come and check out the fascinating research being done by some of H-SC’s best and brightest!

Research Experience at James Madison University

Hello everyone.  My name is Christopher Tait and I am a senior here at Hampden-Sydney.  I am a Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, and Mathematical Economics major.  I attended a Research Experience for Undergraduates(REU) at James Madison University this summer.  Dr. Pendergrass asked me to blog about my experience researching at JMU this summer. 

The REU included eight students with a total of four projects.  We were put into groups of two, each with a mentor.  I had the privilege of working with Dr. Nashimoto and my partner on problems with the binomial distribution.  Basically, we split the project into two parts.  The first part consisted of studying one-sample confidence intervals.  We looked at a variety of different intervals and tried to improve the overall coverage on the interval.  This coverage is difficult to obtain because of the erratic nature of the discrete binomial distribution. 

The second part of the project was enjoyable.  We studied simultaneous confidence intervals and attempted to improve the existing method’s Type I error.  First, we compared three new existing methods.  Then, we decided that it would be best to use a two-stage test in order to improve the Type I error.   The first stage of this two-staged test stayed consistent while we attempted different test statistics for the second stage.  We found that the least squares difference type test statistics worked the best.

Throughout the research, I learned new programs, which I believe will be very helpful to me as I start my senior year.  Two of the main programs I learned are R, which a free coding program offered by Microsoft, and LaTex.  LaTex is used by many professionals to write articles that are to be submitted to journals.  In doing the research this summer, I realized that I would like to pursue my PhD in Statistics.  I found the research to be extremely beneficial to my development as a mathematician and statistician. 

Concluding the research, my partner and I had to give a twenty minute presentation on what we found throughout the summer.  This part was the most difficult for me because I had to try to explain what we had done all summer through easily understandable terms to anyone who came to the talk.

Statistics In Demand

The New York Times has an article today on a hot new newly hot field – statistics:

I keep saying that the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians,” said Hal Varian, chief economist at Google. “And I’m not kidding.”

The real driver is actually a combination of analytical and computer skills.

The rising stature of statisticians, who can earn $125,000 at top companies in their first year after getting a doctorate, is a byproduct of the recent explosion of digital data. In field after field, computing and the Web are creating new realms of data to explore — sensor signals, surveillance tapes, social network chatter, public records and more. And the digital data surge only promises to accelerate, rising fivefold by 2012, according to a projection by IDC, a research firm…“We’re rapidly entering a world where everything can be monitored and measured,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Digital Business. “But the big problem is going to be the ability of humans to use, analyze and make sense of the data.”

The new breed of statisticians tackle that problem. They use powerful computers and sophisticated mathematical models to hunt for meaningful patterns and insights in vast troves of data. The applications are as diverse as improving Internet search and online advertising, culling gene sequencing information for cancer research and analyzing sensor and location data to optimize the handling of food shipments.

And you don’t need a PhD to get into this exciting new field:

Though at the fore, statisticians are only a small part of an army of experts using modern statistical techniques for data analysis. Computing and numerical skills, experts say, matter far more than degrees. So the new data sleuths come from backgrounds like economics, computer science and mathematics.

Interesting.  This article is one of a number we have highlighted here recently that point to the exciting career opportunities available to math, computer science, and related “knowledge workers”.  Looks like a trend.

Time Magazine Lists Top 10 Jobs for the Recession

The recession is affecting everyone.  But pockets of opportunity remain for those with the right skills and motivation.  Prof. Paul Hemler sends along this item from Time magazine on “Finding a New Boom Amid the Bust”.  A quote:

America remains a land of opportunity and will continue to reward go-getters chasing dreams of wealth. But increasingly, our job market will also reward those who place a higher value on intangibles, and it will do so without relegating those people to a life of need. Certainly, jobs are scarce. Our economy has been shedding more than half a million positions a month. Yet even now there are pockets of employment, both for new grads and midlifers reinventing themselves, that offer decent pay with great benefits and security.

The article goes on to list several fields in which these pockets of opportunity to exist (here).  Scan down the list, you might see something that looks good.  Like this.

H-SC Math majors accepted into NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs

This just in:  H-SC Math majors Cameron Auker and Alex Smith have been accepted into the National Science Foundation‘s Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs.  These programs provide the opportunity for undergraduates to work with talented peers from across the country on research in mathematics under the supervision of an experienced researcher.

More details to follow.  In the meantime, congratulations to Cameron and Alex!

UPDATE:  I asked Cameron and Alex what they hoped to get out of their REU experiences.  Here’s what they had to say:

Cameron: I’m hoping to get some real world experience, because people are always asking me “math degree – what can you do with that?”  Also, I’m thinking about graduate school, and I’ve heard it involves a lot of research, so I think the REU will help me decide whether or not I want to go to graduate school.  That’s the mean reason, just to get my hands dirty, and find out how math may apply to me after school.

Alex: I’m trying to decide between law school and graduate school in math.  If this is a good experience, and I enjoy the work, I’ll probably be leaning a little more towards mathematics – which means I’ll probably have to study more for the GRE.

We will check back with them this Fall to see how their REU experiences actually went.

The Equation that Killed Wall Street

\LARGE \displaystyle P = \Phi(A,B, \gamma)

Wired magazine has an excellent article about what went wrong on Wall Street, leading to the current recession. One large factor was the reliance on dubious mathematical models to manage risk. The article focuses on a formula that was at the heart of many of these models. You can find the article at

What I Like About Mathematics

This, among other things…


Mathematica talk on February 9th

On Monday, February 9th,  Andy Dorsett of Wolfram Research will give a talk on “Mathematica 7 in Education and Research”.  The talk will be from 4pm to 5:30 pm in Bagby Hall, Room 217, and will include time for questions. Mr. Dorsett’s abstract for the talk follows:

To support the Hampden Sydney College site license, I will be on campus to give a Mathematica 7 technical talk Monday, February 9, 2009. The seminar will be given 100% in Mathematica to show common uses in mathematics, engineering, the physical sciences, computer science, and economics/business.  “Attendees will not only see the new features of Version 7, but will also receive examples of this functionality to begin using immediately. No Mathematica experience is required, and students are encouraged to attend. Please feel free to send me any specific topics you’d like to cover, and I’ll do my best to address them in the talk.

Andy Dorsett has degrees in mathematics and mathematics education from University of Southern Indiana (in Evansville, Indiana)  and Indiana State University (in Terre Haute ).  He taught junior high and high school math for 8 years. From 2005 to 2008, he was an adjunct professor at Indiana State University. He joined Wolfram Research in June 2008 as an Academic Relationship Executive.

A Culture of Inquiry

When Marcus and I first talked about starting a newsletter for the Math and CS department we were looking for ways to foster a culture of mathematical inquiry within the department. Our goal is that this blog should be a place where interesting ideas, problems, and questions can be raised and discussed. Keep this blog in mind whenever you read an interesting article or see a neat problem. If you think it is interesting, someone else probably will too, so post it! I’ll end this post with a link to an article which I think captures the idea of the mathematical culture perfectly. The article is even more relevant for computer scientists, since the author Brian Hayes is celebrating the joys of inquisitive programming. Brian Hayes is a fantastic writer, and I really enjoyed this article. Maybe you will too.

Calculemus! Celebrating 25 years of celebrating computation