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Department of Mathematics

2019-20 Academic Year News Archive


Photo of graduate procession at MU Summer 2020 Graduation


It was great to see several members of the Class of 2020 on a picture perfect late August day, as the university was able to hold small, socially-distanced graduation ceremonies.  As we prepare to welcome new students to campus for a very different academic year, we don’t want to forget these graduates whose senior year was cut short.




Congratulations Class of 2020!

Without a May commencement ceremony to mark the occasion, the Class of 2020 gathered via Zoom to celebrate their achievement with each other and faculty.  It was great to hear of a couple students who already had jobs, some with summer internships or going to grad school, and others waiting for job markets to open up when the quarantine loosens up.  Class of 2020, your perseverance, grit, and resilience are inspiring!  We are proud of you.

Adjunct Dona Coffey Retiring

Photo of Dona Coffey

Though we won’t have the chance to say goodbye in person, we wanted to use this forum to say thank you to Dona Coffey, a local retired high school teacher who has spent the last five years as a valued part-time faculty member in our department.  Dona taught a wide range of courses for us and was always willing to step in wherever needed.  We wish her all the best for her “second” retirement!

Senior Awards, Zoom Style

According to tradition, mathematics department seniors who have distinguished themselves both in and out of the classroom are invited to the April department meeting to receive awards.  This year was no different in that there was a stellar group to be recognized, however we invited them to join us via Zoom.  Scroll through the pictures below to see the accolades as announced by Dr. Coyle.  Congratulations to Brooke Attardi, Ryan Greenstone, Victoria Hancheck, and Jett Vernaci!

In His Own Words:  Ryan Greenstone, Class of 2020, Aspiring Actuary

Photo of Ryan Greenstone, Class of 2020

Ryan Greenstone, Class of 2020

Aspiring actuaries must take and pass a series of examinations, usually around ten, to obtain their FSA (Fellow of the Society of Actuaries) designation. Although the minimum requirement for an entry-level position is to take and pass only one exam, Exam P, to become a more competitive job applicant, you need to pass multiple exams and/or work through at least one actuarial internship. While I was able to pass Exam P last July, I decided to study for and take Exam FM in December to make myself a more competitive job applicant when I graduate in May 2020.

After I found out I passed Exam P, the decision to study for Exam FM was difficult to make because I knew that it would be stressful. I had spent 383 hours studying for Exam P and knew that I would need to spend at least 300 hours studying for Exam FM if I wanted to follow the guidelines recommended by the Society of Actuaries (SOA). With only one month of the summer remaining, I knew that I would need to spend some portion of the Fall semester studying. Despite knowing how busy I would be, I made the decision to take Exam FM anyway.

In general, something that helped me stay motivated was keeping track of my studying hours on Excel (figure 1). The 300-hour rule is mostly arbitrary, but it helped give me a sense of my studying progress. To learn the material, I signed up for a service called Coaching Actuaries. While learning the material, I took screenshots of their online study manual so that I could create spaced-repetition flash cards with them. On the back of the card (figure 2) would be a screenshot of the manual and on the front (figure 3) would be an edited version that censored formulas and concepts with white and black rectangles. I was introduced to spaced-repetition flash cards by Dr. Darmon when he taught Probability Methods for Actuarial Science last Spring. Since I found his flash cards helpful for Exam P, I decided to make my own flash cards for Exam FM.*

After finishing the Coaching Actuaries course, I solved all the practice problems offered by the SOA. After solving these, I took practice exams offered on the Coaching Actuaries website and worked on additional problems based on topics that I was weak in. I was not able to commit to as much studying over the semester that I had hoped, but I was persistent with my flash cards. As a result, I was able to retain information that I had already learned and was able to make the most out of the four days between the ending of the semester and my Exam. After studying for a total of 321 hours (figure 4), I was able to pass.

*MA 380–Probability Methods for Actuarial Science will be offered in Spring 2021.

Math & Cookies

How does one count to infinity?  Dr. Torrey Gallagher, Assistant Professor, answered this question at our first Math & Cookies talk of the semester.

Annual Holiday Party

Students, faculty, and retired faculty and staff gathered in the Math Learning Center in December for a holiday celebration.  Delicious food and games contributed to a festive atmosphere as the semester came to an end.

Photo of MU Senior Nathaniel Rodriguez with his Outstanding Scholarship in Mathematics award plaque

Senior Spotlight

At the final department meeting of the year, we stopped to recognize Nathaniel Rodriguez, one of our five seniors completing his degree in December. Nate has many accolades to his name, including Honor Student, Summer Scholar, Math Tutor, and now recipient of our Outstanding Scholarship in Mathematics award.

All our faculty will miss having him in class, but most of all we will miss his presence in the department every day.  Good luck, Nate!

November Math & Cookies

Dr. Coyle gave an interesting talk to students and faculty from across the School of Science about Inverse Problems on November 13.

Career Choices Roundtable Gives Math Students Options

Photo of participants and students at the annual School of Science Career Choices Roundtable

On November 12, 2019, students gathered for the School of Science’s annual Career Choices Roundtable series, organized and run by Peer Mentors from each department.  Math peer mentors Brenda Dreisbach and Jett Vernaci brought in an interesting panel that included three MU graduates–two who are now teaching high school mathematics and one who just recently completed a Master’s in Applied Statistics from Villanova.  The fourth panelist is using his mathematics degree as an actuary in the re-insurance industry.

Dr. Susan Marshall Honored at MAA-NJ Annual Meeting

Dr. Susan Marshall (center) accepts her award at the Mathematical Association of America-New Jersey (MAA-NJ) Annual Meeting. Click image to read more about the honor.

On October 26, 2019, our colleague Dr. Susan Marshall was presented with the 2019 sectional award for Distinguished  College or University Teaching by the New Jersey Section of the Mathematical Association of America.  The entire department, students and faculty alike, would like to congratulate her on this well-deserved accolade! Read more about the award.

Halloween Comes to Howard Hall

Click image for larger photo version

Students vs. Faculty Volleyball Game

Thank you Math Club for organizing such a fun event!  The faculty won this time around, and is looking forward to a rematch in the spring!

Math & Cookies

Dr. Francis Valiquette, organizer of Math & Cookies, kicked off this year’s series of talks with a presentation of his own.  An attentive group of math scholars, faculty and students, enjoyed learning about “Makimon’s Visual Calculus.”


Math Department Faculty & Staff 2019-20

Dr. Susan Marshall is on sabbatical this academic year.  We are pleased to welcome Dr. Torrey Gallagher (back row, third from right) as Assistant Professor.

Group photo of Math Department Faculty and Staff for the 2019-2020 academic year

Welcome Back Fall 2019!

We are excited to have all our math students and faculty back for the fall semester!  It was great to see everyone at our annual Pizza Party!