2019 Washington College Mathematics Conference

Invited Speakers

Kathryn Leonard

Kathryn LeonardOn Friday evening, Kathryn Leonard from Occidental College will present a talk entitled “Getting your computer into shape: Toward automated understanding of the shape of objects in two and three dimensions.”

Kathryn Leonard’s research interests are in geometric modeling with applications to computer vision and computer graphics. Her work has been recognized with a CAREER award from NSF, the Henry L. Alder Award for Excellence in Teaching from the MAA, and a Service Award from the AWM. She became a math major in her junior year of college, after her petition to waive the university’s math GE requirement was rejected. Currently, she is professor and chair of the newly formed Computer Science department at Occidental College. She has held positions at CSU Channel Islands (where she helped build a university), Caltech, MSRI and Pomona College. She still gets no respect from her cats.

Talk abstract: Shape understanding—looking at a shape and intuitively understanding which parts comprise body, arms, legs, toes and ears—is almost effortless for humans. Training a computer to understand shapes in a similar way presents substantial challenges. This talk will discuss human shape perception and the challenges of automation. We will describe a promising shape model, the Blum medial axis. Using the Blum medial axis, we will propose a method for automatically decomposing a shape into a hierarchy of parts and determining the similarity between those parts. We will end by comparing our automated results to human perception data gathered from a massive user study.

William Asher

William AsherOn Thursday evening, William Asher, senior principal oceanographer at the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory, will present a talk titled “Belay That Nonsense: How to Not Succeed in Oceanography.”

After graduating from Reed College in 1980 with a B.A. in chemistry, William Asher received his Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering in 1987 from the Oregon Graduate Institute, where he did his doctoral research on air-water gas transfer. He later worked at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim before moving to the University of Washington in 1995. Dr. Asher’s research interests include understanding the small-scale physics and chemistry of air-sea exchange processes, applications of second-order nonlinear optical processes to chemical remote sensing, the use of microwave radiometry in remote sensing of the ocean, chemical thermodynamics of atmospheric organic particulate matter, and fate and transport of pollutants in surface waters.

Talk abstract: The high cost of conducting oceanographic measurements at sea, where charges for ship time can be on order of several tens of thousands of dollars per day , coupled with the limited availability of space for scientists on research ships, mean scientists may only get one chance to take a particular set of measurements. This makes it critical that equipment and instruments used to record data operate without problems. However, field research in oceanography can be frustrating due to the complexities involved with working on a ship, where resources are limited, and mechanical and electronic systems frequently fail due to the harsh conditions. When equipment or instruments fail they must be repaired by whoever is present with whatever is on hand, leading to a relatively high-stress environment. This talk will discuss the design and testing of an instrument that measures vertical profiles of temperature and salinity in the upper meter of the ocean, what went wrong, and how problems were corrected, as a case study in oceanography.