Rensselear students performed extremely well in the 2016 Mathematical and Interdisciplinary Contests in Modeling (MCM/ICM). Professor Pete Kramer organizes the students and mentors for this activity and is pleased to report the following acheivments:
1) The team of Alex Norman (math/physics junior), Madison Wyatt (math/physics junior), and James Flamino (physics junior) have been awarded not one, but two top prizes in the Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling for their outstanding paper regarding the evolution of society's information networks. Their paper developed a multifactor network model for characterizing the spread of a news item through a population, accounting for connectivity of a society, its subdivision into interest groups, and various characteristics of the news item. The team calibrated the model against historical newspaper databases, compared it against the real world mentions of Alan Rickman after his death in January 2016, and used it to predict how entertainment news like Kim Kardashian's pregnancy would have spread through a social network corresponding to 1880. Their work was awarded the following two prizes.
(a) The Leonhard Euler Award, which is presented to one team selected by the head judge of the problem on network science (864 international teams competing). The criteria are: 1) a paper in the Meritorious/Finalist/Outstanding rating; 2) contains especially creative and innovative modeling; and 3) shows good understanding of interdisciplinary science.
(b) The Two Sigma Scholarship Award, awarded to two top MCM/ICM US teams (out of 480 competing teams from the US over all 6 contest problems). This award is accompanied by a scholarship prize to each student on the winning teams.
No other team in this year's MCM/ICM competition was awarded two separate prizes, which are selected by various judges and organizations. This is also the first time that a Rensselaer team has won either of these two awards, not to mention two prizes in the same year. So this will clearly stand as a landmark achievement.
2) The team of Benjamin Walker, Andrew Horning, and Thomas Merkh, all math/physics seniors, received a meritorious distinction (top 10% out of 1453 international teams competing) for their paper on modeling strategies for coping with space debris. No other US team received a higher ranking on this problem; other universities sharing the meritorious distinction with the Rensselaer team include UC Berkeley, James Madison University, the University of Illinois, the University of Wisconsin, and the perennially strong University of Colorado at Boulder.
3) The team of Matt Poegel, Thomas Wagner, and Andrew Batbouta earned an honorable mention (top 44% of 1874 international teams) on the inaugural "Data Insights" problem, concerning how a philanthropical organization for undergraduate education should allocate their resources to minimize duplication of effort.