Professor Po-Shen Loh Seminar

Students aptly listened Dec. 13 as Professor Po-Shen Loh described a particularly hard math problem, and from the intensity of his passion, it isn’t hard to believe that he was the head coach that led the USA Math Team to its first victory in over two decades in the 2015 International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO).

Loh, who is currently a mathematics professor at Carnegie Mellon and the co-founder of expii.com, joined with Orange County Math Circle (OCMC) for a guest lecture on decimals in Sage Hill School. High school, middle school, and a handful of exceptional elementary school students attended to listen to the nationally ranked mathematician.

“I had fun. I hope that other people had fun too. I try to talk about math to an entire audience that would be interesting to elementary school to high school, which is a challenge. But I was very impressed by the audience,” Loh said. “What I usually try to do is I try to compliment what people may have already seen from any other source. So people go to school and learn lots of things at school and I’m just trying to show some other parts of math that are elegant, surprising and will hopefully make them more interested in math.”

During the lecture, Loh, in addition to discussing math, tied the concepts with other topics like molecular biology and dropped food-for-thought statements such as: “Why do we use base 10?”

“I personally like to have some sort of impact, which was actually the entire theme of the previous talk. So I think impact is very fun and very interesting. One of the most efficient ways to have impact is to connect mathematics with things that use mathematics to do something with the world,” Loh said. “In regards to biology, a very interesting thing that many people do today is called computational biology or mathematical biology. What I’m trying to say is that the biological applications of mathematics are actually quite intense and quite real, and the reason why I brought that up in particular is it’s usually that math students don’t like biology class.”

Besides being an elite mathematician, Loh is also a math enthusiast and travels around the world giving lectures to various math circles. His last lecture was only the day before at San Diego. When asked why he gives seminars, he could only give one reply:

“Why not? I do it because it’s fun. To be perfectly honest, on the weekend, there’s nothing I like better than just going to talk to math and science students. I certainly enjoy talking about mathematics with many people. If I have an excuse to go out on the weekend and talk to people about math, this is my idea of fun. I personally am just really interested in trying to lift the global level of math and science in a way that people actually want.”

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Math for Service