Award-winning math professor visits WSU

An award-winning professor of mathematics, Francis Su, presented to students at Weber State University in the Lind Lecture Hall on Thursday. His lecture was on “Voting in an Agreeable Society,” or how voting can work within a group of people.

Su, who teaches at Harvey Mudd College, won the Merten M. Hasse Prize for expository writing in 2001, the Henry L. Alder Award for distinguished teaching in 2004, and was named the James R.C. Leitzel Lecturer in 2006, according to the press release on WSU’s website. His lecture was not about politics, but about showing potential in the study of mathematics, what can be done with it and how far it can be taken.

“Mathematics is not just about numbers,” Su said. “Mathematics is about patterns and understanding the patterns that form all around us.”

Through demonstrations of mathematical equations, Su was able to show how, when a majority exists in a group, the geometry of the political spectrum influences the outcome, and how people behave within a voting group.

Mitch Siegel, a programmer and WSU student, said he attended because he was interested in learning more about how to simplify math.

“I’m looking to solve a problem in the most indirect way, because any programing from a perspective of interactivity, the least linear you can make it, the more interesting it is,” Siegel said.

WSU student Erik McKinney said Su did a good job of presenting proofs on an understandable level. McKinney said he was looking to do some undergraduate research, which drove him to attend the lecture in hopes it would help him with simplifying his research.

Su’s lecture is part of the Richards Math Lecture Series, a biennial event that takes place on the WSU campus. The lecture series for mathematics has been taking place since March of 2010. The series is intended to increase awareness of mathematics both at WSU and throughout Northern Utah.

“The purpose is to inform people of the beauty of mathematics,” said Paul Talaga, department of mathematics chair. “The utility (of math) is what we teach more about.”

Talaga explained that math can be taken as a major with the different types of fields certain majors can apply in.

“A regular major is someone who is just interested in math,” Talaga said. The courses these majors take are the traditional courses of math.

Applied math is areas such as programming, engineering, science or even life science.

“Many of our applied math majors are working somewhere in the area (of study),” Talaga said. “Some have gone to Hewlett-Packard, some are working statistics in the medical area of the University of Utah, and some are working in Hill Fields.”

The third major area is math teaching. Talaga said this degree qualifies the graduate to teach math all the way up to high school. The math department follows the courses selected by the state to qualify a math teacher.

For students who don’t like the utilities of math classes, the Richards Math Lecture Series is an explanatory way to help expand the possibilities of math. Additional information on the Richards Math Lecture Series is available at