Mathematics & Statistics Seminars
Northern Arizona University


The “Friday Afternoon Mathematics Undergraduate Seminar” (FAMUS) is a weekly event consisting of announcements, talks, and faculty interviews. FAMUS takes place most Fridays at 3:00-4:00pm in Room 164 of the Adel Mathematics Building. Typically the first half of FAMUS consists of a talk on a mathematical topic while an interview of a faculty member takes place in the second half. FAMUS is hosted by Jeff Rushall.

Come join us for some entertaining talks! Refreshments always served.

Schedule Spring 2023

Note that talks are listed in reverse chronological order.

An Undergrad Research Problem in Graph Theory

Date: Friday, April 21

Speaker: Jeff Rushall (NAU)

Abstract: I’ll explain a graph theory problem I have been working on with two undergrads, show the progress we have made on said problem, and then advertise the fact that I have been given an I2S grant to fund 1-2 undergrads next year to continue working on this project.

After the presentation we’ll watch some videos (some should be math-themed). [PDF of Flyer]

A Chicken McNugget Research Problem

Date: Friday, April 14

Speaker: Jeff Rushall (NAU)

Abstract: I’ll explain the chicken mcnugget problem (if mcnuggets are sold in contains of 6, 9 or 20 mcnuggets, what is the largest unpurchasable number?), it’s connection to numerical semigroups, and how it leads to an open problem that I hope to work on next year with a couple of undergrads.

After the presentation, we’ll watch some funny videos and call it a week. [PDF of Flyer]

Undergraduate research in mathematics

Date: Friday, April 7

Speaker: Christina Zecher (Assistant Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, NAU) and Jeff Rushall (NAU)

Abstract: This week the presenter is Christina Zecher, the Assistant Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity here at NAU. She will discuss the many reasons that undergraduate research is a valuable experience for our undergraduates, as well as the various funding opportunities that are available to undergraduates who work on undergrad research projects.

After the presentation, I will show the audience the various undergrad research projects that faculty members in our department hope to work on with undergrads next fall (there are 5-8 such projects). [PDF of Flyer]

Mertens Conjecture

Date: Friday, March 31

Speaker: Jeff Rushall (NAU)

Abstract: The Mertens Conjecture is a famous conjecture about the natural numbers which was verified up to 100,000,000,000,000 before a counterexample was shown to exist (although no one has actually FOUND a counterexample). I’ll explain and analyze the conjecture, show why it is so important (it’s connected to the Riemann Hypothesis), and tell some jokes.

The faculty guest is the recently-doctorized Samuel Harris. [PDF of Flyer]

The Cannonball Problem

Date: Friday, March 24

Speaker: Jeff Rushall (NAU)

Abstract: The Cannonball Problem is an old-ish problem about stacking cannonballs that can be asked like this: “When considering the number of identical cannonballs needed to form a perfect square pyramid, which of these numbers is ALSO perfect squares?” This is an entertaining problem: in addition to the neat math involved, it allows discussion of topics that include both wine barrels and pirates.

The faculty guest is the recently-doctorized Bianca Leudeker. [PDF of Flyer]

Why should you think about grad school in math/stat/math ed?

Date: Friday, February 17

Abstract: Robert Buscaglia will be the point person discussing our graduate programs; some other faculty and a few grad students will offer testimonials about why grad school is so rewarding; and FREE PIZZA will be served as an enticement. [PDF of Flyer]


Date: Friday, February 10

Speaker: Matt Fahy (NAU)

Abstract: A brief glimpse into combinatorial game theory. We’ll show how analyzing a simple game can lead to a number system beyond the real numbers.

Matt will also be the faculty guest. [PDF of Flyer]

A Topological Property of Fullerenes

Date: Friday, February 3

Speaker: Maddy Cox (NAU undergraduate math major)

Abstract: Maddy will present progress on her undergraduate research project (joint work with Kaylee Freudenthal). The research project involves analyzing fullerene graphs, and in particular seeing if they possess a specific topological/graph theoretic property.

Maddy will also be the “guest.” She will discuss her recent experience attending the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics. [PDF of Flyer]

What are Random Graphs?

Date: Friday, January 20

Speaker: Alyssa Whittemore (former NAU undergraduate math major, recent PhD at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, currently senior research scientist at Boston Fusion)

Abstract: Random graphs are in the magnificent intersection between graph theory and probability theory. Random Graphs were first studied in 1938. In 1959, the great Paul Erdős and Alfréd Rényi introduced one of the most famous models, the Erdős-Rényi model. Coincidentally, Edgar Gilbert introduced a graph model equivalent to the Erdős-Rényi model in 1959 independently. We will discuss both of these random graph models and some that have been studied since, including random geometric graphs.

Alyssa will also be the “faculty guest,” for which she has prepared a slide presentation. Here are her title and abstract for this second portion of FAMUS:

Title: A Random Walk with Math

Abstract: My journey with mathematics began in the fourth grade. My higher education in mathematics began as an undergraduate at NAU. Now, my career in mathematics has led me to Boston. I’ll share bits of my mathematical voyage and how it has gotten me to where I am now: a Senior Research Scientist at a government contractor in New England. [PDF of Flyer]