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A Model For Vertical Integration Of Real World Problems In Mathematics

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Project and Model-Based Mathematics

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.67.1 - 12.67.12



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Paper Authors

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Dennis Berkey Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Bogdan Vernescu Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Bogdan Vernescu earned his B.S./M.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Bucharest, Romania in 1982. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Institute of Mathematics, Bucharest, in 1989. His research interests include partial differential equations, phase transitions and free boundaries, viscous flow in porous media, and asymptotic methods and homogenization. He joined WPI in 1991 and between 1997 and 2003 he served as Director of the Center for Industrial Mathematics and Statistics. He has also held visiting positions at MIT and in France at the University of Metz, University of Nancy and University of Savoie. He currently serves as Department Head of Mathematical Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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Traditionally, mathematics has served as a tool for engineers, entering the undergraduate curriculum as something acquired by engineering students in their university tour outside the engineering units. While this strengthens the engineering student's intellectual arsenal, it makes little impression on the mathematics student not naturally inclined toward engineering. To stimulate the flow in the opposite direction, WPI has developed opportunities for students and teachers of mathematics to gain experience with the applications of mathematics in real world settings, in particular in industrial problems typical of those in which engineers would depend upon mathematics for solutions. This approach is based upon WPI's project-based style of education, one that employs the engineering approach to problem solving broadly across the sciences and mathematics. This project oriented curriculum, introduced over 30 years ago at WPI, has facilitated a major change in mathematics education. In the past ten years WPI faculty have developed a successful model that introduces real-world, industrial, projects in mathematics education, at all levels from middle school to the Ph.D. program and faculty research. The faculty and students affiliated with the Center for Industrial Mathematics and Statistics have developed project collaborations with over 30 companies, businesses, and government labs. These projects serve to motivate students to study mathematics and prepare them for interdisciplinary work in their careers. With funding from NSF, SIAM, the GE Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Intel, several vertically integrated educational programs have been developed.


The demand for professionals capable of modeling and simulating emerging technologies has dramatically increased in recent years. As mathematics becomes more complex, and the numerical modeling more sophisticated, the need for mathematically trained professionals is increasing. Modeling, analysis, and computations performed by mathematicians in collaboration with other professionals can provide technical advantages and cost savings, important for a company’s competitive edge.

Survey data from the CBMS 2000 report13 concerning four-year college and university undergraduate mathematics programs describe troublesome findings: since 1995 the number of mathematics bachelor’s degrees has dropped by about 14%. And the numbers are more dramatic if we compare them with those of 30 years ago. In today's ever more challenging environment, it is necessary to find new ways to attract students to mathematics. There is a need to prepare them to become successful professionals in a society that is very much different from the one 30 years ago.

Berkey, D., & Vernescu, B. (2007, June), A Model For Vertical Integration Of Real World Problems In Mathematics Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2592

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