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Invited Speakers 2019-20

Alumni Day

March 16, 2020

Big Data and the Secret Lives of Mathematicians”

Ashleigh Craig, Data Scientist, U.S. Department of Defense

3:30–4:30 p.m., Stright 226

Abstract:  Mathematics can be more than just a subject in school; it can be a vast, ever-evolving career. The U.S. Government is the number one single employer of mathematicians in the country, where they can find careers in research, cyber security, cryptanalysis, data science and more. This talk will give an introduction to the roles of mathematicians in government and illuminate a few sample problems with particular applications in machine learning and statistics. 

"Polytopes: A Friendly Introduction”

Derek Hanely, PhD Student, Mathematics Department, University of Kentucky

3:30–4:30 p.m., Stright 229

Abstract: In this talk, we will explore the foundations of discrete geometry through an approachable discussion of polytopes—geometric objects that are the generalization of polygons with which we are familiar from elementary geometry. We will motivate two definitions for polytopes, discuss strategies for verifying that they are equivalent, and define some basic polytopal properties. Then, we will define lattice polytopes, and I will give you a taste of the beginning stages of one of my current research projects. Namely, my advisor and I have devised a construction (which we have coined “rounding”) for obtaining new lattice polytopes from old ones. While this construction is very cool, my ultimate goal, however, is to convince you that polytopes are polydope.

Career Panel

Panelists: Ashleigh Craig, Data Scientist, U.S. Department of Defense, Derek Hanely, Ph. D. Student, Mathematics Department, University of Kentucky, and Lisa Vatavuk, DevOps Engineer, Risk Focus.

6:30–7:30 p.m., HUB Susquehanna Room

Ashleigh Craig is a 2014 graduate of IUP with degrees in Applied Mathematics and Economics. She is also a graduate of the Robert E. Cook Honors College. After graduating from IUP, Ashleigh attended Clemson University where she earned her Master’s in Mathematical Sciences with a concentration in Operations Research. While earning her degrees, Ashleigh completed internships with Goldman Sachs as a summer analyst, The Walt Disney Company as a decision science intern and the U.S. Department of Defense as an operations researcher. She is currently employed as a data scientist for the U.S. Department of Defense. 

Derek Hanely attended IUP from 2012 to 2017, obtaining a BS in Mathematics, a BA in Economics, and a MS in Applied Mathematics as part of the 4+1 accelerated Master's program. He completed a thesis project in graph theory with professor Shelly Bouchat for his Master’s degree and worked as a Graduate Assistant in the Applied Research Lab. Currently, Derek is a third-year PhD student in the Mathematics Department at the University of Kentucky. He is working with Dr. Benjamin Braun, and his research interests lie in the realm of algebraic/geometric combinatorics. More specifically, Derek studies properties of lattice polytopes, i.e., polytopes whose 0-dimensional faces (called vertices) have integer coordinates.

Lisa Vatavuk is a DevOps Engineer for Risk Focus, a company located in Pittsburgh's North Shore that provides consulting in Financial Services as well as DevOps and Cloud Infrastructure. She graduated from IUP in 2015 with a degree in Computer Science, Languages and Systems Track and a minor in Mathematics. Her time at IUP gave her the foundation to build a career in technology. In her current role she works with various companies to help them migrate their on-premise infrastructure to the cloud. In the past she worked in traditional infrastructure as  a Linux Administrator, but has made the switch to cloud technologies. She has her AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate certification and is studying to obtain the professional level certification. 

SIAM Visiting Lecture

September 9, 2019

Dr. Stephanie Fitchett
Data Scientist, Transamerica

Open Session

Come and meet with Dr. Fitchett

  • 10:00–11:00 a.m., Stright 205

“Data Science, Machine Learning, and Some Examples from Life Insurance Underwriting”

  • 3:30–4:30 p.m., Stright 226/229
  • (Suggested Background: some math and statistics understanding)


Machine learning models are becoming ubiquitous, as are data science positions for those who build them. This talk will start with a general discussion of machine learning, then focus on some specific machine learning models under development for life insurance underwriting. We will discuss how one or two models work at a high level, some of the challenges in building useful models, and the safeguards that are in place to prevent unintended negative consequences. If there is interest, we can also talk about data science as a career path.

“What Could I Do in Industry? A handful of statistics and mathematics projects where science and business drive the questions”


There are many opportunities in industry for students with strong statistical and mathematical backgrounds—not necessarily majors. This talk will share a handful of projects that have a statistical or mathematical component and are driven by science or business needs. The projects include tracking the effects of landfill contaminants on fish over time; detecting anomalies in “pattern or life” transportation routes using imagery from synthetic aperture radar; estimating the extent of music piracy among an internet provider’s customers; and modeling the spread of avian influenza in Southeast Asia.


Stephanie Fitchett holds a PhD in mathematics from the University of Nebraska and an MS in statistics from Colorado State University. Following a postdoctoral position, she spent 12 years as a faculty member at Florida Atlantic University’s Honors College and at the University of Northern Colorado. She has worked as a statistician in industry for the past seven years, first at Sandia National Laboratories, and later at Neptune, a small environmental consulting firm. In her current position as a data scientist at Transamerica, a life insurance company, she builds statistical models that leverage corporate and external data to facilitate underwriting of life insurance policies. Steph lives in Boulder, Colorado, and is an avid whitewater kayaker.