Opportunities in Mathematics and Statistics

Mathematics and Statistics Student Seminars (MASSS)

The Mathematics and Statistics Student Seminar series is a forum for undergraduates to present talks on topics of general interest in mathematics and statistics.

  • Weekly seminars are typically held at 11 a.m. or 4 p.m. on Thursdays in Noyce Science Center, Room 2517,  during the academic year.
  • Seminars are open to everyone in the Grinnell College community.
  • Each seminar is typically a talk of forty to sixty minutes, including questions from the audience.
  • The faculty sponsors and organizers of the Mathematics and Statistics Student Seminar series is currently Chris French and Pratima Hebbar.

Explore Academic Opportunities and Scholarships

  • Park City Mathematics Institute Summer Program, run by the Institute for Advanced Study, conducts a themed program every summer which includes an introductory and advanced undergraduate summer school. Additionally, they list future programs.
  • Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) is a program "with the goal of strengthening the ability of women students to successfully complete graduate programs in the mathematical sciences, with particular inclusion of women from minority groups."

Information for many scholarships can be found on GrinnellShare (login required), including Gates Cambridge, Gilman, Marshall, Mitchell, and Rhodes Scholarships. 

The Budapest Semester in Mathematics program operates on the College International Campus of the Technical University of Budapest, located near the historic city center of Budapest, a city of two million and the nation's capital. Hungary has a long tradition of excellence in mathematics education, and the Budapest Semester provides students of mathematics a unique opportunity to study under the tutelage of eminent Hungarian scholar-teachers from Eotvos University and the Mathematical Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. More than 40 Grinnell College students have participated in this program since 1985.

All courses are taught in English in small groups and comprise a wide selection in mathematics, along with non-mathematical options including European History, Film and Drama, and three levels of Hungarian language. Students take three or four math courses and two intercultural courses including intensive Hungarian. Housing options include either a homestay or renting a furnished apartment shared with other program participants. The cost of living is very low, and students normally find the extensive cultural life of Budapest, including music and theatre as well as restaurant meals, to be easily affordable. Budapest is well situated for travel throughout Eastern and Central Europe and students are encouraged to avail themselves of the reasonable fares and opportunity to travel throughout Hungary and neighboring countries.

A full list of off-campus study options is available through the Off-Campus Study office.

Pamela Ferguson was appointed president of Grinnell College in 1991 and served in that position until 1997. After stepping down from the presidency, she continued to teach as a professor of mathematics. In 2003, she was appointed the Breid-McFarland Professor of Science. Though she is best remembered at Grinnell College as a former president, Pam Ferguson has been described as a lover of mathematics. She published over forty papers in her area of group theory, most appearing in the highly regarded Journal of Algebra. Her work was strongly connected to the classification of finite simple groups, one of the landmark results of twentieth-century mathematics. The endowment supporting this prize was established by her husband, D. Roger Ferguson.

The goal of this merit prize is to recognize and encourage mathematical potential among students of both genders, particularly among women, who are traditionally under-represented in the discipline.

Up to two prizes will be awarded annually to the mathematics or statistics majors entering their senior year who are judged by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics to have demonstrated the greatest achievement and promise, as measured by such criteria as performance in mathematics or statistics courses (particularly upper-level courses), independent research projects, posters and other presentations, publications, competitions, etc.

Recipient list for the Pamela Ferguson Endowed Prize in Mathematics

Larned Linn Smith (known as Linn Smith) was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on October 17, 1899, to Effie and Elias E. Smith. He graduated from Sioux City High School in June, 1916, and was accepted to Grinnell College, which he attended from 1916 to 1920. At Grinnell, Linn Smith was a scholarship holder and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate with a major in mathematics and a minor in physics. Debate was a strong interest of his both at Grinnell and in high school. At Grinnell, he was Secretary of the Debating Union and tied for second in the Hill Contest in Extemporaneous Speaking. He was also on the staff of the 1920 Cyclone (Grinnell College's yearbook) and a sergeant in Grinnell College's Student's Army Training Corps. Particularly remarkable is the fact that Linn Smith published a mathematics paper while still an undergraduate. "A Construction of the Regular Polygon of Seventeen Sides" appeared in the July-September, 1920, issue of the American Mathematical Monthly (volume 27, pages 322-323).

After Grinnell, Linn Smith went to Harvard University on a Charles Elliott Perkins scholarship for graduate study in mathematics. However, he completed only one year of graduate study; his untimely death on August 9, 1921, cut short a promising career. He was spending the summer of 1921 in Peterborough, New Hampshire, watching over the two young sons on Mr. and Mrs. Edward Burling. Edward Burling Jr. recalls him as "an unusually attractive young man." He also remembers the day: "Linn was swimming around the boat ... Suddenly I noticed that Linn was no longer in sight. ... I called out in terror." The official cause of death was listed as heart failure, not drowning. A sister, Genevieve (Mrs. Radford Dove), recalls "those hot August days" at the time of their brother's "enormous funeral and lines of flower cars, reporters, etc."

The Linn Smith Prize for Excellence in Mathematics was first awarded in 1924, although the original name of the award was the "Linn Smith Scholarship for Excellency in Mathematical Study." College records indicate that the prize was established by an anonymous gift of $1000, but Edward Burling Jr. remembers his father making the gift: "Dad would whip off another anonymous gift to Grinnell at the drop of a hat." A much larger contribution from Mr. Burling went for Burling Library.

Recipient list for the Linn Smith 1920 Prize for Excellence in Mathematics

Robert Norton Noyce, scientist, engineer, and entrepreneur, was born on December 12, 1927, in Burlington, Iowa. He received a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics from Grinnell College in 1949 and a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953. On April 25, 1960, Dr. Noyce was granted a patent for his invention of a "Semiconductor Device-and-Lead Structure" -- an integrated circuit. This discovery made the microchip possible and launched the modern electronics revolution. For his scientific achievements he received the National Medal of Science from President Carter in 1980, the National Medal of Technology from President Reagan in 1987, and the Charles Draper Prize of the National Academy of Engineering in 1990. Grinnell College's computer center was named in his honor in 1984.

Dr. Noyce was co-founder and president of Intel Corporation. In 1988, he was appointed chief executive of Sematech, a consortium linking government and private electronic manufacturers. He also served for many years as a trustee of Grinnell College and as chair of the Board of Trustees. Robert N. Noyce died on June 3, 1990, in Austin, Texas, at the age of 62.

The Robert N. Noyce Senior Student Award was presented to the senior student who, in the judgment of the Selection Committee, made the greatest contribution to the use of computer-based technology while a Grinnell student. It recognized not only individual accomplishment, but the breadth and depth of the student's contribution. Beginning in 1984, the Noyce Award was given annually at first, then irregularly. In 2002, the fund supporting this award was diverted to the development of technology-related curricular projects at the College.

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