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MSRI-UP 2016 People

MSRI-UP 2016: Sandpile Groups

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Suzanne L. Weekes, Site Director

Suzanne L. Weekes

Dr. Suzanne Weekes is a Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts. She received her PhD in Mathematics and Scientific Computing from the University of Michigan in 1995 and her undergraduate degree at Indiana University.  At WPI, she has also served as the Director of the Center for Industrial Mathematics and Statistics (CIMS), and has led the NSF-funded WPI REU Program in Industrial Mathematics and Statistics for many years.

Prof. Weekes is also a co-PI and co-director of the PIC Math program (Preparation for Industrial Careers in Mathematical Sciences) which is a program of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).  She encourages students and faculty to watch the PIC Math Solving Real World Problems videos that highlight some research problems that mathematicians and statisticians encounter outside of academia.

Her research interests are in numerical methods for PDES, spatio-temporal composites, industrial mathematics and modeling.  

Prof. Weekes also served as the Lead Director of the 2011 MSRI-UP.

She will be sharing this summer experience with her two daughters who are looking forward to living the west coast life.  

Luis David García Puente, Research Director

Luis David García Puente

Dr. Luis David García Puente was born and raised in Mexico City. He received his Bachelors degree in Mathematics from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in 1999 and his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Virginia Tech in 2004. He has held postdoctoral appointments at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and at Texas A&M University. In 2009, he was a New Researcher Fellow at the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute. Currently, he is Associate Professor of Mathematics at Sam Houston State University. His research focuses on computational and applied algebraic geometry. He is an associate editor for the American Mathematical Monthly and the Journal of Algebraic Statistics. His professional activities are motivated by the need to increase the number of underrepresented students that pursue advanced degrees in mathematics and the sciences. He is an active member of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science and The National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences. He has directed research projects for 15 years, involving close to 100 undergraduate students in his work. Several resulting projects have culminated in award-winning student presentations and joint research publications. He is happily married and has three young daughters. 

Ashley K. Wheeler, Post-doc

Dr. Ashley K. Wheeler is a post-doc in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the  University of Arkansas, where she is also the assistant faculty advisor for Arkansas Women in Statistics and Math (AWSM).  She received her PhD in Commutative Algebra under Mel Hochster from the University of Michigan in 2014.  In 2009, Ashley was one of the graduate assistants for the MSRI-UP: Coding Theory session.  Ashley was also a McNair Scholar at her undergraduate institution, Kansas State University, and in the summer of 2008 she was the instructor for the quantitative reasoning portion of the program’s GRE-prep course.  Her current research interests include local cohomology of Stanley-Reisner rings, and ideals generated by the principal minors of a generic matrix. 

Ashley’s hobbies include playing bridge and sewing.  She is a karaoke fanatic and also recently began learning to swing dance.

Natalie Hobson, Graduate Assistant

Natalie Hobson

Natalie Hobson is a graduate student in the Mathematics Ph.D. program and Mathematics Education Masters program at the University of Georgia. Her research interests include algebraic geometry and students' thinking and reasoning in undergraduate mathematics. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Washington in Mathematics with a minor in Education and Diversity. She has been involved in many outreach programs in mathematics and loves working with students. When not doing math Natalie can usually be found riding her bike, swing dancing, or sewing.  

Jacob Russell-Madonia, Graduate Assistant

Jacob Russell-Madonia Jacob Russell-Madonia is a second year Ph.D. student in the Department of Mathematics at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. He received his BA in Mathematics from California State University, Sacramento in 2014.  His research interests lie in geometric group theory, which aims to study the relationship between groups and the spaces that they act on.  When not contemplating poorly drawn chalk board pictures, Jacob enjoys gymnastics, martial arts, hiking and playing board games.

MSRI-UP 2016 Students


Carlos Agrinsoni Santiago Diane Christine Alar Angel Burr

Carlos Agrinsoni Santiago

Diane Christine Alar

Angel Burr

University of Puerto Rico, Cayey
San Francisco State University
University of Arizona




Ernest Castorena Jonathan Celaya Anna Comito

Ernest Castorena

Jonathan Celaya

Anna Comito

University of California, Berkeley
Rice University
Wesleyan University




Karlie Elliott Jennifer Garcia Micah Henson

Karlie Elliott

Jennifer Garcia

Micah Henson

Humboldt State University
University of California, Berkeley
Spelman College




Cecily Santiago Ruben Hurtado Tafari James

Cecily Santiago

Ruben Hurtado

Tafari James

Mount Holyoke College

California State Polytechnic University
Haverford College




Casandra Monroe Drisana Mosaphir Dominika Palinko

Casandra Monroe

Drisana Mosaphir

Dominika Palinko

Princeton University
Harvard University
University of California, Berkeley




Maleek Richardson Justin Rivera Ricardo Rojas-Echenique

Maleek Richardson

Justin Rivera

Ricardo Rojas-Echenique

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
Wentworth Institute of Technology
Reed College