Mathematics conference equals insight into career possibilities for student researchers

Kristine Harjes and Meg Protzman
February 25, 2014

Senior Kristine Harjes and junior Meg Protzman went to the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics to share their student-faculty research with 260 students from all over the country. When the Jan. 31-Feb. 2 gathering was over, the Honors students each had a network of peers, experience presenting and a better sense of where they were headed with their majors.

Protzman of Elkridge, Md. has ruled out graduate school and is inspired to jump right in to a career.  She appreciates the opportunity “to interact with all these people who share the same interests and passions. It really just opened up all the possibilities that are out there.”

A double major in Mathematics and Computer Science, Protzman presented on functional dependence between Boolean variables, fundamental research she conducted with associate professor Pavel Naumov the year before.

This summer, she and Naumov worked together on a paper about Nash Equilibria and Game Theory. Each year, students conduct about 300 hands-on research projects with professors, often becoming co-authors on published journal articles or traveling to conferences to present their work.

For Harjes, the most valuable conference experiences were her research presentation and the exposure to different research fields within mathematics. The Economics-Mathematics dual major from Rumson, N.J., is now leaning toward a career in business intelligence and finance.

“My research is relevant to the larger field of game theory and has applications to economics and computer science,” she said. “I’m very grateful that I had the support that I did and was able to get the experience.”

One of three papers she coauthored with Naumov, “Functional Dependence in Strategic Games,” has been published in the conference proceedings of the First International Workshop on Strategic Reasoning held in Rome in 2013 and accepted in the Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic. Another paper, “Cellular Games, Nash Equilibria, and Fibonacci Numbers” was published in the conference proceedings of the Fourth International Workshop on Logic, Rationality, and Interaction in Hangzhou in 2013.

Their professor has published 16 peer-reviewed papers with eight McDaniel students.

“The research that we have done with (Kristine Harjes and Meg Protzman) is of a fundamental nature,” says Naumov. “We pursue it out of natural human curiosity and because we have fun in doing intellectual explorations.”