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Meet Franklin College Senior Jacob Smith

Jacob SmithA team of five undergraduate researchers, including Jacob Smith ’17, recently impressed professional mathematicians with their findings and earned one of 25 top prizes during the poster session at a national conference.  

After applying last spring, Smith, a double-major in pure- and applied-mathematics, was accepted into a competitive undergraduate summer research program at Purdue. The program paired him with peers from across the United States to work on characterizing the speed of a mathematics model known as excited random walk. The model consists of a succession of random steps on some mathematical space in which the history of the walk plays a crucial role. According to mathematical theory, the price of a fluctuating stock and the financial status of a gambler can all be approximated by random-walk-models, even though they may not be truly random in reality. 

“Excited random walk is a theory created by experts in the field of probability about 10 years ago, and there’s been little done with it since that time. It was very exciting and motivating to be part of a team exploring a relatively new area,” said Smith.

At this time, there is not enough known about excited random walk to be applicable in the real world, but Smith and Owen Levin, one of the other researchers on his team, co-presented their findings about speed at the joint meeting of the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America in Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 4 – 7. Event organizers reported that approximately 6,000 mathematics professionals and students attended, and the poster session featured more than 300 entries; only 25 of them were recognized as top tier.

Smith said, “The judges didn’t tell us where our poster ranked among the winners, but it was an honor and very encouraging just to be recognized. For me, the poster session symbolized a huge professional step forward because I had the chance to meet so many people who are involved in the work I want to be doing 20 years down the road.”

Smith’s goal is to earn a doctorate in pure mathematics and teach at the collegiate level. “Ideally, I’d join the faculty at a small, liberal arts school like Franklin College,” he said.

Smith is grateful that several faculty members in the mathematics and computing department at Franklin encouraged him to investigate summer research program opportunities.

For more information about what a degree from Franklin College can do for you, contact the Office of Admissions at (800) 852-0232.

“The whole department is very supportive of students,” said Smith. “They are always accessible and happy to help in any way, from going over class material and talking about career goals to reviewing grad school applications and writing recommendation letters.”

Smith also appreciated the chance to become acquainted with faculty and expand his professional network at Purdue, where his research team worked under the supervision of associate mathematics professor Jonathon Peterson. “He was essential to my personal development and our team’s success,” said Smith.

Smith enjoys staying in touch with Peterson and his research-team peers.

“We were lucky that we shared a strong interest in the research area and that we became such a cohesive team. They live all over the country, but we talk to each other every day,” said Smith.

“My entire REU (research experience for undergraduates) was awesome! It taught me a lot about my potential and gave me great confidence.”

For more information about what a degree from Franklin College can do for you, contact the Office of Admissions at (800) 852-0232.

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