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Grant Supports Professor's Return to Dominican Republic to Mentor Math Teachers and Students

Geremías Polanco Encarnación is building on on his doctoral research while mentoring at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo

Thanks to a $164,000 grant, a Hampshire professor is sharing his approach to teaching mathematics with colleagues and students in his home country, the Dominican Republic. 

Hampshire College Professor Geremías Polanco Encarnación

The grant to Assistant Professor of Mathematics Geremías Polanco Encarnación has enabled him to mentor professors and master’s students at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo in 2016 and again this semester.

That mentoring process in mathematical research centers on an algorithm related to Sturmian sequences that he introduced in 2012, in his doctoral dissertation at the University of Illinois.

“Sturmian sequences have applications in various fields, such as computer networks and graphics, biology, gaming, and numbers theory,” says Professor Encarnación. “They have so many uses because they’re versatile. They can be defined in various ways, and each way applies to a different application.”

The research he and his team at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo is conducting may not have a practical application at first, he says, but new uses are always being developed. He cites the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Dan Shechtman for his discovery of quasicrystals using a model related to Sturmian sequences he first created in the 1950's.

“He found a use for it thirty years later,” says Professor Encarnación. “Any new visualization of a Sturmian sequence can potentially provide new ways to connect ideas and applications.”

Professor Encarnación has worked with several Hampshire students doing research related to this algorithm, and is currently coauthoring a paper with a former student, Ben Polson, who studied it as part of his Division III capstone thesis. 

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