Summer REU teaches undergrads, high schoolers to solve real-world problems using math

Summer REU teaches undergrads, high schoolers to solve real-world problems using math

Summer REU teaches undergrads, high schoolers to solve real-world problems using math

Nineteen students participated in the 2023 NSA REU and YSREM summer research experience programs through UOG's math division. (Front row, from left) Dr. Raymond Paulino, Dr. Hideo Nagahashi, John Christian Sual, Dr. Hyunju Oh, Gian Paras, Isabella Palomo, Pedro Medina Jr., Ian Galang, Tabitha Abay, Randy CJ Ebilane, Dr. Leslie Aquino, and Gabriel Florencio. (Back row, from left) Billy Mann, Samuel Wheaton, Yuan-Jen Kuo, Claire Yi, Celynn Lacsina, Kangsan Yoon, Noah Elbo, Taiyo Tagami, Alex Leon Guerrero, Ivan Rosell, Kelvin Lee, and Theodore Gossett.
Kelvin Lee from St. John's School, left, works with his teammates, University of Guam undergrads Ivan Rosell and Samuel Wheaton.
(From left) Gabriel Florencio, Pedro Medina Jr., and Amber Pineda
(From left) Randy CJ Ebilane, Tabitha Abay, and Ian Galang
(From left) Noah Elbo, Theodore Gossett, Samuel Wheaton, Celynn Lacsina, Isabella Palomo, Gian Paras, Ivan Rosell, and Yuan-Jen Kuo

Nearly 20 students spent six weeks of their summer gaining a deeper appreciation for the value of mathematics in solving real-world problems. The students — 11 from UOG, six from Guam high schools, and two from stateside universities — were participants in the NSA Research Experience for Undergraduates and the Young Scholars Research Experience in Math hosted by the Division of Mathematics & Computer Science at the University of Guam and Virginia Commonwealth University. The concurrent undergraduate- and high school-level programs, respectively, focused on game theory, graph theory, and code theory.

Hands-on experience in computation research

With research topics ranging from analyzing Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome outbreak in Guam to developing an error-correcting magic trick to modeling a game-theoretic approach for disease transmission, students gained hands-on experience in theoretical and computation research while also building problem-solving, communication, and computer programming skills.

Kelvin Lee, an upcoming senior at St. John’s School, described his experience as very educational and interesting. “I met so many wonderful people and learned so many interesting new things from it,” he said. “I learned coding theory […]. With this, we were able to create a magic trick, where even if an audience member lied twice about a number they were thinking of, we could catch the error and guess the correct number.”

Challenges eased through collaboration

Usually an eight-week program, it was condensed this year to six weeks due to Typhoon Mawar, challenging students to familiarize themselves with various math concepts and new programming tools in a short period of time. Despite the rigor and complexity of the research topics assigned, students were supported by each other and the collaborative nature of the program.

Amber Pineda, an upcoming senior at the Academy of Our Lady of Guam, shared her appreciation for the group setting. “While it took a while for me to really soak in what I learned from the lecture, the group setting aspect helped me solidify my knowledge on a bunch of different topics,” she said. She enjoyed the active communication and interaction among her peers and mentors throughout the program.

Reflecting on his experience, John Christian Sual, a research assistant from the Guam EPSCoR program and a UOG alumnus, said he learned valuable lessons about the complexities of research and witnessed the students’ growth from grasping background information to developing their own focused interests as novice researchers.

Off-island student involvement

This was the first year that the funding from the National Security Agency (NSA) Mathematical Sciences Program allowed recruitment of students from off-island colleges, including Arizona State University and the University of Connecticut.

“I learned a lot more about the research process,” said Yuan-Jen Kuo, a student-researcher from the University of Connecticut. “We constantly critiqued our work, asked if what we found made sense in the real world, and used those finding to go back and adjust our model.”

Photos of Pacific STEP-UP students at Math REU Program at UOG
The I Hale'ta Scholars initiative under UOG's extension service sponsored six high school students' participation in the Young Scholars Research Experience in Math program held during Summer 2023 at UOG. (From left) Dr. Hyunju Oh, Kangsan Yoon, Kelvin Lee, Billy Mann, Kristina Sayama, Claire Yi, Taiyo Tagami, Dr. Leslie Aquino, Dr. Raymond Paulino, and Dr. Hideo Nagahashi.
The experience allowed students to network with and receive mentorship from seven different mathematics professors, and it “provided another level of interaction and sharing of college and cultural experiences among our students,” said Dr. Leslie Aquino, chair of UOG’s Division of Mathematics & Computer Science.

The research experiences are supported by the National Security Agency and the Guam EPSCoR program, in conjunction with the I Hale'ta Scholars and Pacific STEP-UP initiatives under University of Guam Cooperative Extension & Outreach, which connected local high school students with the YSREM program at UOG and funded their participation.

Students interested in next year’s summer math programs can email  

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