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Math major presents research at international conference in India

Mathematics major Jeffrey Kane and Computer Science professor Pavel Naumov work on an equation.
February 12, 2013

Jeffrey Kane’s talent for teaching showed when he used the child’s game of telephone line or whisper down the lane to explain the basics of the theoretical mathematics paper he recently delivered at an international professional conference in India.

The Mathematics major’s original research with Computer Science professor Pavel Naumov resulted in the paper, “Epistemic Logic for Communication Chains,” which is also the game of telephone line expressed mathematically.  And that was the example he used in his presentation of the paper, which mathematically describes communication in a network.

“It was nice that I had something that I could say that all these people with doctorates didn’t know off the top of their heads,” says the junior from Elkridge, Md., who has wanted to be a teacher since second grade. “To talk with people who are such experts in this field was rewarding.”  

Kane’s collaborative research with Naumov during the summer of 2012 resulted in the paper that was accepted for full presentation and publication at the 14th Conference on Theoretical Aspects of Rationality and Knowledge (TARK), which brings together researchers from a variety of fields to further understanding of interdisciplinary issues involving reasoning about rationality and knowledge. Also accepted, and presented by Naumov, was “R.E. Axionmatization of Conditional Independence,” a joint paper with senior Brittany Nicholls.

The research and travel was funded in part by The James E. Lightner Endowed Fund for Mathematics, established in 2005 by McDaniel trustee William H. Elliott, III, class of 1970.

McDaniel’s Mathematics and Computer Science faculty and students frequently present papers at professional conferences. In March, Naumov will present at the International Workshop on Strategic Reasoning in Rome the research he conducted with junior Economics-Mathematics major Kristine Harjes, who is studying this semester in Budapest, Hungary. McDaniel has also been represented in presentations at the previous two TARK conferences in the Netherlands and at Stanford University in California.

Naumov saw potential in Kane, who as a freshman in Naumov’s First Year Seminar solved complicated problems in 30 seconds flat. Kane asked Naumov his Erdős number, a reference to how closely connected Naumov is to someone who collaborated with the late Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős, know for his brilliant proofs and prolific publications with literally hundreds of collaborators.

“It’s just geekish fun,” Naumov says, comparing it to the idea of six degrees of separation.

His students say Naumov has a way of coming back from conferences brimming with ideas for research collaborations. His students are his filters, Kane says, adding that Naumov’s excitement over whatever current topic he’s promoting regularly results in luring them to signing on to do the research with him.

“Professor Naumov came back from a conference in Spain with the idea for this research saying that it would be easy and it would impress everyone,” Kane says, smiling as he glances across the table at his mentor. “Well, it wasn’t easy but it was impressive.”

Naumov grins, and adds, “I had an idea of what it would look like but it turned out differently and we discovered something else along the way. We had a productive summer with this research – we have three different results, two more are under review at other organizations. So maybe it wasn’t easy but…”