Monday, March 19, 2012

Intel Science Talent Search

Last week I went to the Intel Science Talent Search Awards Ceremony in DC, probably the most prestigious math and science competition for American high school students.

I mentored one of the finalists, Adam Kalinich, of the Illinois Math and Science Academy. Adam studied poset games, where each player takes turns picking an element x of a finite poset and removes all y ≥ x. First one to empty the poset wins. The complexity of deciding who wins a poset game is wide open. Adam showed how to convert a game where one players wins to a game where the other wins, a surprisingly tricky task. His paper appeared in IPL (also on ArXiv).

Lots of math and computer science among the finalists and winners. The other Illinois finalist, Jordan Cutler, worked on practical implementations of quantum cryptography with Prem Kumar, another professor in my department. Jordan, who is a cousin of complexity theorist Steve Homer, came in 10th place.

Anirudh Prabhu had the coolest math result on perfect numbers. It's been conjectured that there are no odd perfect numbers. Anirudh showed a non-constant lower bound for odd perfect numbers (if they exist) as a function of the number of factors. Only constant lower bounds were known before. Anirudh came in 7th place.

David Ding got 4th place for his work on representation theory of Cherednik algebras. I don't know what those are either.

First place went to Nitin Tumma for work related to cancer.

The ceremony itself was a great scene. I'm a sucker for the pomp and circumstance. Walter Isaacson gave the keynote address and we all got autographed copies of his biography of Steve Jobs. Great fun was had by all.

I've seen the future of American science and it is awesome.


  1. Nitin Tumma, who came in first at Intel for his work on Cancer has also worked with me on
    Rado's theorem (we have a paper, together with
    my grad student, which should be ready soon).

    Will his future work be in Cancer Research or in
    Ramsey Theory? Or will be apply Ramsey Theory to
    Cancer Research? Or will he apply Cancer Research
    to Ramsey Theory?

    Only time will tell.

  2. Prabhu's result sounds fascinating. Does anyone have a reference?

  3. I did not know Lance was there - I was there as well. My student,
    Frederic Koehler, from Blair High School was a finalist and I had
    dinner there with his family. He did not do research in cancer or other
    such important things, but he did develop a fast algorithm for a very
    interesting scheduling problem. We have submitted the work for publication now.