Three new members inducted into math honors society
The twenty-second Pi Mu Epsilon Lecture and Induction Ceremony took place on Friday, October 20 at Saint Michael’s.
Amir Barghi, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, welcomed dozens of audience members in Cheray 101. First, Professor Barghi invited Camille Gallagher ’24, President of the Saint Michael’s chapter, to introduce this year’s speaker, Dr. Cornelia Mihaila, who is the Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Saint Michael’s College.
Then the three new members were inducted into the Vermont Pi Mu Epsilon chapter were Patrick Gahan ’25, Diane Ingalls ’25 and Alessandro Pescina Liberale ’25.
After Gallagher’s introduction, Professor Mihaila began her presentation.
“We’re going to do a little bit of light math to warm up the mood before we honor all of our new Pi Mu Epsilon inductees,” Mihaila said from the podium.
She led the group in audience-participation exercises to solve different equations with the same theme: How to Measure a Fractal.
“A fractal is an object which appears self-similar under varying degrees of magnification. There’s actually no perfect definition of a fractal,” Mihaila said.
A string has one dimension, a piece of paper has two dimensions, and a box has three dimensions. Mihaila asked the audience to take dimensions into consideration when measuring the size of these objects and to consider how we measure the sizes of objects with dimensions in between whole numbers. She introduced fractals, which often have dimensions that are fractions. Mihaila taught the audience how to recognize the dimension of a fractal and introduced a way to measure the size of objects with unusual dimensions. She used the Sierpiński triangle, and the Canter set to teach, and passed out worksheets to each member of the audience to try it themselves.
Following Professor Mihaila’s presentation, Michael Larsen, Chair and Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Saint Michael’s, led the induction ceremony. Larsen explained that the annual Pi Mu Epsilon induction ceremony traces back to 2003.
“Every year we’ve had students inducted into this,” Larsen said. “Today you are joining a large group of students that have gone on to teaching, work in mathematics…. We are very excited to honor your success and the general success of our community.”
George Ashline, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics is the sole faculty member remaining at Saint Michael’s who was part of the original group who set up the college’s Pi Mu Epsilon Alpha Chapter. Ashline has attended all twenty-two induction ceremonies.
Gallagher ’24 gave a deeper history about Pi Mu Epsilon. It was founded as a mathematics club at Syracuse University in 1903 and was officially incorporated at Albany in 1914. Ryan Braeger, Assistant Dean for Advising and Student Development also spoke and congratulated the new members on their success.
After the three new members who were inducted into the Vermont Pi Mu Epsilon chapter, Gahan ’25, Ingalls ’25 and Pescina Liberale ’25 were called up separately to sign the chapter book and accept their certificates.
Larsen explained that the students being inducted had earned the honor by their hard work and outstanding performance in at least four semesters of mathematics and statistics courses. This included taking at least three semesters of calculus in at least two additional advanced mathematics and statistics courses where they achieved a grade point average of at least 3.5 in those courses.
The event closed with all members reciting the Pi Mu Epsilon pledge and was followed by a reception.
Pi Mu Epsilon is a national mathematics honorary society. The Saint Michael’s chapter is Vermont’s Alpha Chapter, which means Saint Michael’s was the first chapter formed in the state in 2003.