About the Department
The Department of Mathematics and Statistics has 8 permanent members with a wide variety of interests and areas of study. Small class sizes (5-15 for upper level courses) make interactions between students and professors quite easy. The professors take an interest in the progress of their students and are readily available for help with courses or advising. Students interested in mathematics may choose to major in mathematics, mathematics/physics, or economics/mathematics. Although the department does not directly support a major in Statistics, students interested in statistics should speak to a member of the department. If students are looking towards Engineering, we have a long standing tradition of excellent 3-2 programs; these are also described in the Whitman College Catalog.
Students majoring in mathematics have opportunities to work with faculty on research projects; some of these projects have resulted in presentations at professional meetings and/or the Whitman Undergraduate Conference and publication in mathematics journals. Examples of such projects include research on jet engines, Java programming for the game of Hex, curvature of plane curves, location modeling problems, a study of cubic reciprocity, and radial basis problems.
The department sponsors evening help sessions for calculus students, staffed by upper level mathematics students, and a mathematics club that provides a social-recreational mathematical opportunity for any interested student. In addition to weekly informal meetings and social activities, the club organizes a campus wide math contest. On occasion, outside speakers are invited to campus to give talks on subjects of current interest in mathematics. Senior mathematics majors are known by every member of the department and receive helpful advice concerning their future careers. Each spring, the department holds a banquet for all students majoring in mathematics, thus providing yet another opportunity for students and faculty to meet in a social setting.
Computing is an important aspect of a mathematics education and students are encouraged to become skilled in the use of computers. Students begin by taking introductory programming followed by several related courses, such as Engineering Mathematics and Mathematical Modeling. The department maintains its own cluster of GNU/Linux based PCs. During the evening hours, student consultants are available in the computer lab to help others with any problems that may arise. The consultants learn the basics of Unix system administration and are part of a healthy campus community of Linux users.
Mathematics majors and combined mathematics majors have many doors open to them as quantitative reasoning skills are in high demand. Our majors have gone into a number of different areas such as business, law, medicine, engineering, telecommunications, mathematics, teaching, actuarial science, and operations research. As far as graduate school is concerned, recent graduates have attended the University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois, Carnegie Mellon, Yale, and Oregon State. Other students have gone to work for companies such as Microsoft, Deloitte Consulting, Active Voice Communication, and Safeco. The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) has some short biographies of mathematics majors online, describing their post-graduation employment.
A student interested in majoring in mathematics is welcome to consult with any member of the Mathematics and Statistics Department.