Archive for the ‘girls and math’ Category

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s contest held at MIT:

  1. Victoria Xia, VA
  2. Danielle Wang, CA
  3. Julia Huang, CA
  4. JungYoon (Sara) Kim, VA
  5. Frances Ding, TN
  6. Sheela Devadas, MA
  7. Christina Chen, MA
  8. Megan Chen, IL
  9. Angela Gu, CA
  10. DiYun (Susan) Sun, Canada

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The Mathematical Association of America awarded Dr. Zvezdelina Stankova the Haimo Award for distinguished college teaching of math.  Dr. Stankova spoke to the Metroplex Math Circle last month and she is the founder and director of the excellent, Berkeley Math Circle.

Please take the time to read the article and watch the video above which speak to the positive impact realized by Zvezdelina and math circles in her native Bulgaria and in the US.

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Amy Chyao was also recently interviewed by D Magazine.

How a Plano Student Uses Light to Fight Cancer

Amy Chyao is a self-taught chemistry superstar and certifiable genius. But it’s not a big deal.

Q: In May, you won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with a project titled “Lights, Quantum Dots, Action!” Can you explain the project in a way that even I will understand?

A: It’s really not that complicated, in essence. It’s for a cancer treatment. Chemotherapy attacks healthy cells. And surgery can cause infections. So the good thing about this treatment, photodynamic therapy, or PDT, is that it doesn’t have either of these problems. The only real reason that we don’t use it today is because it’s activated by light, and it’s hard to penetrate deeper into the skin to reach the deeper tumors. What we were working on was making a drug that will allow us to reach deeper tumors with PDT. It’s an existing treatment. We’re just trying to design a new drug that will help it be even better.


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Our own Amy Chyao is receiving a great honor tonight as she has been invited to sit with the First Lady during the State of the Union speech:

PLANO (January 25, 2011)—Among First Lady Michelle Obama’s guests Tuesday night during the State of the Union address will be Plano East High School junior Amy Chyao, 16, and her father.

Chyao was chosen after meeting President Barack Obama at the White House Science Fair, where she presented a design for a cancer-treating photo-sensitizer.

Mr. Obama later called her an example of America’s potential in one of his speeches.

Chyao said she’s honored by the invitation.

She met then first lady Laura Bush in 2007 after she won the Scripps National Spelling Bee.


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Anticipating our upcoming lecture on Mathematics and Music from Dr. Carol Reynolds, here is a video from a self-described mathemusician, Vi Hart.  The video captures some of the playfulness and innovation that I see in the best math circles.


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On December 4th we will have a very special holiday lecture from Dr. Carol Reynolds.  Her talk will explore the intersections between mathematics and music:

Music and numbers?  How interrelated are they?  Everyone knows about rhythm and counting 1-2-3-4.  And you probably know that math figures into music theory, (primarily the study of harmony and form).  But what about acoustics, the science of sound?  And music notation (the historical systems for writing music down on paper)?  How about the composition itself?  Could numbers be a factor?

Using sound and visual images, Dr. Reynolds will travel through the many ways that numbers, math, and symbols occur in music, both in today’s practice, and in musical systems of the past.

About Dr. Reynolds

For more than 20 years, Dr. Carol Reynolds was Associate Professor of Music History at the Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

Carol also is a uniquely talented and much sought-after speaker for arts venues and general audiences. Never dull or superficial, Carol brings to her audiences a unique mix of humor, substance, and skilled piano performance to make the arts more accessible and meaningful to all.Carol portrait

Carol has led arts tours to Russia, Austria, Germany, San Francisco, and Broadway on behalf of several arts organizations. Her enthusiasm and boundless energy give tour participants an unforgettable experience.

She makes her home on a farm near Bowie, Texas, where, with her husband and teenage daughter, she raises La Mancha goats and soaks up the rich cultural heritage of rural America. She maintains a second residence in Weimar, Germany — the home of Goethe, Schiller, Bach, and Liszt, and the focal point of much of Europe’s artistic heritage.



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Here are more details about our own Amy Chyao’s amazing accomplishment in the Intel Science fair for her work at UT Dallas.

NanoExplorer Wins Top Prize in Intel Science Fair

High School Student’s Work at UT Dallas Holds Promise for Cancer Research

May. 24, 2010

Research aimed at increasing the depths to which therapeutic light can penetrate the body and attack cancer cells has netted UT Dallas  NanoExplorer Amy Chyao the top prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, Calif.

Chyao, a sophomore at Williams High School in Plano, Texas, won the competition’s Gordon E. Moore award.  The award is accompanied by a $75,000 prize, which Chyao one day hopes to apply toward medical school.

In the Media

CBS-11 TV: She May Be 16, But She’s Advancing Cancer Research

Fox Business News: Intel Inspiring Students to Study Science

More than 1,600 high school students from 59 countries around the world competed in 19 categories.  Each participant had to win at the local, regional, state and national levels to compete in the Intel competition.  Chyao was grilled for 10 hours by more than 40 judges during the event.

Leading up to her stunning showings in nearly half a dozen science fairs,  Chyao spent the summer between her freshman and sophomore year in the George A. Jeffrey NanoExplorer program.  She conducted research under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Balkus, professor of chemistry.  Founded by Dr. Ray Baughman, director of the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute, the program hosts more than 30 high school students in labs across campus each summer.

“Last June, I joined the NanoExplorer program and found I was interested in projects in the Balkus Lab,” Chyao said.  “I looked into different projects and had to learn a lot about chemistry.”

Chyao created semiconducting nanoparticles that, when exposed to certain wavelengths of light, generate a highly reactive form of oxygen that proves deadly to cancer cells.  Once injected, the nanoparticles could travel through the bloodstream or stay localized in tumor sites.  Exposure to a targeted beam of light, like a laser, could catalyze the reaction specifically where the cancer cells are growing.

This photodynamic therapy, treating superficial skin cancers with light, is an established technique to treat skin cancers, but the particles developed by Chyao may allow targeted light therapy to penetrate even deeper into the body, creating the possibility of treating a wider variety of cancers beneath the skin.

“I’m so proud of Amy,” Balkus said.  “With her discoveries, we can possibly treat cancers that were previously inaccessible.  I’m delighted she’s returning to my lab this summer.”

Chyao joins a growing and impressive list of previous NanoExplorers who have published in major journals, won prestigious fellowships and placed highly in international competitions.

A new group of NanoExplorers will be joining UT Dallas in June to conduct research and possibly create discoveries like Chyao’s.

Chyao’s research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is part of the Balkus Lab’s overall effort to develop novel photocatalysts.

“I’ll be working in the Balkus Lab again as a researcher this summer,” Chyao said.  “I like it here.”

When not in the lab this summer, Chyao plans to complete Calculus II as part of an opportunity from the Office of the Provost that supports tuition and fees for a small number of students each year who have completed the mathematics courses available in public schools and community colleges.  The support gives students a head start on mathematics at the university level while they finish their remaining high school coursework.

In a letter to Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education Cathie Alexander, Chyao’s father acknowledged the variety of opportunities his daughter has had to accelerate her education at UT Dallas.

“The UT Dallas outreach programs for high school students are the best for local students like Amy,” said Mr. Tim Chyao.  “Amy has benefited a great deal from programs like the Awesome Math summer camp, the Metroplex Math Circle, and especially the NanoExplorers.  We could not imagine all her achievements without the help from UT Dallas.”

Media Contact: Brandon V. Webb, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, Brandon.webb@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Almost two years ago many of us were fortunate enough to hear Richard Rusczyk, the founder of The Art of Problem Solving speak here at our Math Circle.  Now for those who may have missed that memorable talk or for those who would like to share it with others, there is a video of  a very similar talk given by Richard at the prestigious Math Prize for Girls.

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Here is an interesting article from MIT on patterns in high math achievement based on a study of AMC data.  This research follows on the heels of the paper written by Dr. Andreescu and his colleagues last year.  The study seems to conclude that girls (and presumably also boys) thrive when they are able to study math in a community that reinforces their interests and encourages their talents.

Here are some key excerpts from the article:

Ellison and Swanson arrived at their findings by using a novel source of data: the American Mathematics Competitions (AMC), a 60-year-old annual contest involving 125,000 exceptional high-school students. A select group of students who do especially well on the AMC compete in a series of annual competitions, the U.S. Mathematical Olympiad and the International Mathematical Olympiad. This focus on standout students differs from most studies about math and gender in schools…

The numbers Ellison and Swanson scrutinized indicate that the gender disparity among star math students widens as performance levels increase. In 2007, about 800,000 girls took the math SAT, compared to about 700,000 boys. Yet at the 99th percentile of the math SATs, boys outnumber girls two to one. In their research, Ellison and Swanson divide that upper tier into even smaller segments, using AMC results. Among students in the 94th percentile of the AMC tests, they found, the top boys outnumbered the top girls four to one; at the 99th AMC percentile, six to one; and at the 99.9th AMC percentile, 12 to one…

Ellison thinks this huge gender disparity is linked to another fact: Among those students scoring so highly on the AMC and participating in the math Olympiads, the range of high schools represented is much greater for boys than for girls. “The top boys in the Olympiads come from all over the United States,” says Ellison. “Some of them are from big powerhouse schools, and some are from schools where they’re the only student who’s really good at math. But it’s these 20 high schools where the majority of the girls are coming from.” Those institutions range from Phillips Exeter Academy, an elite New England prep school, to a fistful of public high schools in Northern California, from Palo Alto to San Jose. By contrast, Ellison and Swanson note, half of the boys in the Olympiads come from about 200 high schools…

O’Keeffe, who has a daughter who competed in the math Olympiad, is inclined to agree. “Anecdotally, I do think the difference a community makes is enormous,” she says. “If you’re lucky enough to be at a school with a math club, you might be the only girl in it. At Exeter or Stuyvesant [a prominent Manhattan public high school], you might be in a minority, but you won’t be alone.” To be more rigorous, though, Ellison wants to track many individual students over time…

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