Stanislaus State to Host Bay Area Math Conference for First Time

October 09, 2019


For the first time in its 39-year history, the Bay Area Discrete Math Conference will be hosted at Stanislaus State. Those involved in the conference, set for Saturday, Oct. 19, simply call it BAD Math Day.

“The acronym is kind of weird, right?” joked Jessica Se Silva, an assistant professor of mathematics at Stan State. “It grabs people’s attention though.”

What is BAD Math Day? She said don’t be fooled by the acronym.

“We use it in a different way than you would normally think,” she said.

BAD Math Days are one-day meetings designed to bring researchers and graduate students of discrete mathematics from all over the San Francisco Bay Area and now Central Valley together twice a year to talk about their work. Simply, discrete math is the study of integers, graphs and statements in logic. Stan State students are welcome to attend.

“We have four speakers who are talking about applications and one person talking about machine learning, which is a pretty popular topic in computer science right now, “said De Silva. “Math is a lot more fun when you work with a bunch of people who are just as excited about it as you are to try and solve a problem.”

De Silva admitted the term “discrete mathematics” is difficult to define, but said it can be characterized as the branch of mathematics dealing with countable sets.

“In discrete math, sometimes we study certain problems because they’re interesting in and of themselves and sometimes we study problems because they’ll help us solve something in the real world,” she added.

Research in these areas has steadily increased in the last several decades, partly because of the development of digital computers, which operate in discrete steps and store data in discrete bits.

De Silva said the concepts of discrete math are useful in studying areas of computer science such as computer algorithms, programming languages, cryptography, automated reasoning and software development.

“One of our speakers is from Hitachi America and that is really exciting to have someone in industry come and talk about how research in this area is used,” said De Silva.

De Silva said discrete math has interesting properties that can be applied to solving problems in other fields as well. 

“There are a lot of tools you use in discrete math problems that you can then apply to problems in biology or physics or even in other areas of math,” she said.

At the event, Stanislaus State Assistant Professor of Mathematics Curtis Pro will be among the six people scheduled to present their research.

The other speakers will represent Cal State East Bay, Hitachi America, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, UC Merced and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. They will tackle topics such as fractal geometry, graphical models in machine learning, computational modeling of biological phenomena and electrical networks.

“I tried really hard to have representation in the speakers to have three males and three females because in discrete math the number of females is really low,” she explained.

De Silva said she hopes the variety of topics will interest and inspire undergraduate students to go on to study discrete math in graduate school.

“Just exposing our students to this immersive type of environment where research is shared is what I’m really excited about,” she said.

She’s also hoping to build connections and relationships with other colleges and colleagues in the field.

“We’re gathering researchers from the Bay Area and Central Valley to talk about their research and to form collaborations from that,” she said. “I can get to know people in my research field that are very local so that I can potentially work with them on solving a problem.”