Williams Professor Susan Loepp received the national Haimo teaching award of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) from President Paul Zorn at the joint annual mathematics meetings in Boston on Thursday, January 5. The press releases (Williams and MAA) praise Loepp’s high standards (including notorious problem sets), mentoring, energy, and remarkable work with undergraduates on research in commutative algebra. Students call her “amazing, organized, caring and clear,” “awesome,” “passionate.” Other faculty speak of her “crystal clear” lectures of “rare power,” her inspiring presence, her “aplomb,” and her “rapport” with students. Loepp and Physics Professor William K. Wootters developed a course and text, “Protecting Information: From Classical Error Correction to Quantum Cryptography.” One student found this the “best course ever…I have learned more here this semester than ever before and not just facts but I felt my neurons developing and my thinking improving.” Another student wrote, “Loepp’s influence and encouragement are the reasons I became a math major. … Loepp empowered her students in the field of mathematics, especially women. In my graduating class of approximately 500 students, there were 44 math majors, 20 of whom were women,…due in large part to Susan.”
In her response Loepp thanked her colleagues, including Olga R. Beaver, her PhD advisor Raymond C. Heitmann, her college professors Arnold Wedel and Frank Brenneman, her students, and her family and friends.
Loepp spoke Friday at the math meetings on “Teaching, Mentoring, and Advising Undergraduate Research: Lessons Learned On the Streets,” thanking the full “gang” of colleagues from her years in the Williams mathematics department:
Her lessons included:
1. Help students discover their passions (even if not mathematics).
2. It’s OK to treat different students differently.
3. Set the bar high.
4. Embrace your geekdom (crediting Robert Bell).
5. Find reasons to like [all] students and colleagues (crediting Frank Morgan).
She described how her colleague Satyan Devadoss deals with difficult conversations by suddenly changing the subject (“Nice shirt!”).
The Boston joint mathematics meetings broke all records with 7200 registrants and 2700 talks, including many Williams and SMALL faculty and alums (see our news headline). Professor Colin Adams presented his “Mathematically Bent Theater” to an appreciate audience of 600, including a piece on Hardy (Adams) and Ramanujan (Satyan Devadoss):
In a 4-minute NPR piece on the meeting, Adams said that “…sometimes people get turned off easily because they just get bored, and the goal has always been to keep their interest long enough to see the beauty of the mathematics.” YouTube videos include Prof. Adams on his humorous theater and the student poster session including footage of Jared Hallett ’14 and Prof. Morgan. Enjoy the following album of Williams and SMALL faculty, students, and alums at the meetings.