Gustie Math and Science Majors Take Top Competition Honors Posted on May 10th, 2016 by

Viet Dao Tuan ’18, Charlie Fossey ’17 (math, biochemistry), and Zach Brown ’17 (math and biology).

Viet Dao ’17 (statistics, computer science), Charlie Fossey ’17 (math, biochemistry), and Zach Brown ’18 (math and biology).

A team of Gustavus Adolphus College math and science majors placed higher than any other liberal arts college in the nation in a recent international math competition. The students were the only team from a liberal arts college to earn a “meritorious winner” designation.

Zach Brown ’18 (math, biology), Charlie Fossey ’17 (math, biochemistry), and Viet Dao ’17 (statistics, computer science) entered the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling as part of a January Interim Experience course taught by professors Tom LoFaro and Marian Frazier. The competition is open to high school and college teams around the world.

Teams choose one of six problems—posted on the competition’s website—and attempt to solve it. The problem the Gustie team chose to tackle is highly applicable in the rapidly changing information economy: “Measuring the Evolution and Influence in Society’s Information Networks.”

The team worked 12 hours a day for four days, with each member tackling a different aspect of the mathematical modeling while remaining in near-constant contact with each other. “First we had to define what information is,” said Brown. “The question was, essentially, how does information flow through people?”

“The way we approached the problem was very interesting,” said Dao. “We brought organic chemistry and biology into another discipline. We used a theta-logistic equation.” Most often used to measure growth rate among populations in an area (like rabbits on a prairie), the equation can calculate how long it will take an area to reach max capacity. “Information does flow and move and grow through populations, as if it were a population,” Brown said. Said Fossey, “We took a non-mathematical idea and made it mathematical.”

The Gustavus team was among the top 20 percent of the more than 5,000 teams competing in all four problems. In the problem they worked on, the team was one of only six high-scoring teams from the U.S. The other U.S. schools receiving a “meritorious” ranking or above were Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (New York); University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; University of Colorado, Boulder; North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics; and James Madison University.

For more information on the Mathematical Contest in Modeling visit



Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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