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Matthew Stamps has accomplished a lot during four years at Grand Valley. Besides taking almost every mathematics course offered for majors, Matthew has completed two summer research projects, spent a semester studying mathematics in Budapest, and worked as a tutor in the Math Lab and as a student assistant for students in Math 110. Now that he is graduating, Matthew’s efforts are being officially recognized: he is this year’s Outstanding Graduate in the mathematics department, and he has been awarded the Niemeyer Award, a prestigious university-wide award made annually to only two students for excellence both in their coursework and their extra-curricular activities.
The son of Christen Pearson, a professor in Grand Valley’s English department, Matthew graduated from Jenison High School, where his enthusiasm and talent for mathematics earned him the affectionate nickname “Cosine.” By his sophomore year, he was already taking senior-level courses like Numerical Analysis and Complex Analysis. At the end of that year, he spent the summer at Valparaiso University in northern Indiana working in the Valparaiso Experience in Research for Undergraduates in Mathematics program. Along with a few other students, Matthew investigated a problem in applied mathematics that asked how tollbooths could best be placed in traffic networks so as to even out traffic flow.
The following summer, Matthew was awarded a grant through Grand Valley’s Summer Student Scholars program to work with faculty mentor David Austin on a more theoretical problem in the subject of circle packings. After developing some software to compute and display circle packings, Matthew proved an interesting theorem about packings that come from Penrose tilings. A presentation he gave on this work at the Joint Meetings of the American Mathematical Society and Mathematical Association of America won a prize last January.
Matthew spent the Fall 2006 semester in Hungary as a part of the Budapest Semester in Mathematics program. This highly selective program supports about fifty talented undergraduates from around North America as they study mathematics with Hungarian research mathematicians. Besides studying the Hungarian language, Matthew took the courses Conjecture and Proof, Graph Theory, and Number Theory. These courses place a particular emphasis on problem-solving; many of the problems can be simply stated but require a really creative idea to solve. Here is a typical problem: “Consider a set of thirteen real numbers with this property: If you remove any one of them, the remaining twelve can be divided into two groups of six having the same sum. Must all thirteen numbers be equal?” Matthew did a superb job in this competitive environment. For instance, while 44 students started Conjecture and Proof, only 12, including Matthew, completed the course. Besides studying mathematics, Matthew also enjoyed experiencing a new culture and traveling around the Hungarian countryside on his bicycle.
In addition to his studies, Matthew served as president of the Math & Stats Club last year and is currently the president of the local chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honor society. He has worked with students in Math 110 (Algebra) as part of the Structure Learning Assistance Program, in which students with relatively low grades attended a special hour of instruction led by Matthew.
Matthew enjoys outdoor activities such as running, rock climbing, and kayaking. Last summer, he worked as a student assistant in a kayaking course, and he has been a member of the staff at the Climbing Center for some time.
Graduate study in mathematics awaits Matthew now. He has offers from Indiana University and the University of California at Davis, both of which look very attractive.
Matthew is the fourth mathematics major to win the Niemeyer Award in the past five years, the others being Chris Frayer, John Skukalek, and Kris Lund. We are proud to have such talented and dedicated majors.