Two teams from Rensselaer recently received recognition at the Mathematical and Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (MCM/ICM).
A team of three students—Alex Norman ’18 and Madison Wyatt ’18, both math/physics majors, and James Flamino ’18, physics—received two top prizes in the Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling for their outstanding paper regarding the evolution of society’s information networks. Their paper developed a multifactor network model for characterizing the spread of a news item through a population, accounting for connectivity of a society, its subdivision into interest groups, and various characteristics of the news item. The team calibrated the model against historical newspaper databases, compared it against the real-world mentions of Alan Rickman after his death in January 2016, and used it to predict how entertainment news like Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy would have spread through a social network corresponding to 1880.
Their work was awarded the following two prizes:
The Leonhard Euler Award, which is presented to one team selected by the head judge of the problem on network science (864 international teams competing)
The Two Sigma Scholarship Award, awarded to two top MCM/ICM U.S. teams (out of 480 competing teams from the United States over all six contest problems). This award is accompanied by a scholarship prize to each student on the winning teams.
“Rensselaer teams have previously, in 2005 and 2010, won SIAM prizes in the MCM/ICM contest. This is the first time, however, that a Rensselaer team has not only won the top award for their problem, but also a Two Sigma Scholarship Prize, which is independently selected across papers for all six contest problems. This team’s performance also culminates Rensselaer’s recent run of excellence on the network science problem in this competition, placing in the top 2 percent in three of the last four years,” said Peter Kramer, professor of mathematical sciences and the team’s faculty adviser.
In addition, the team of Benjamin Walker ’16, Andrew Horning ’16, and Thomas Merkh ’16, all math/physics seniors, received a meritorious distinction (top 10 percent out of 1,453 international teams competing) for their paper on modeling strategies for coping with space debris. No other U.S. team received a higher ranking on this problem; other universities sharing the meritorious distinction with the Rensselaer team include UC Berkeley, James Madison University, the University of Illinois, the University of Wisconsin, and the perennially strong University of Colorado at Boulder.
Training for the competition was facilitated by graduate student and postdoc coaches Anthony Trubiano (sharing his expertise as a member of a finalist team for the 2015 network science problem), Michael Jenkinson, and Jennifer Kile, as well as continuing support for the contest training by the mathematical sciences department and a National Science Foundation research training grant.