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Finding the Zero: Science Award Winners

Story by Erin Hallissy

Seven students from Saint Mary's College were honored for their poster presentations at the annual Sigma Xi student research conference in Seattle in early November.

Judges rated math major Karl Beutner's presentation "superior," meaning it could be ublishable. He rederived a mathematical method developed by Isaac Newton to make it easier to find the zero root of polynomials.

Presentations by the other six SMC science and math majors who competed were judged "excellent." Judd Case, SMC's Dean of Science, called the awards an "unprecedented level of academic acclaim for our students."

"The faculty and staff now have come to realize that we do have a really good science program, and we're now seeing the tangible rewards," Case says. "It was as incredible as it would be for the basketball team to go into the NCAA and win the first round."

Saint Mary's took home the largest number of high-level ratings of any college. Students representing more than 100 institutions in North America competed.

Beutner, a 22-year-old senior, said the conference experience was terrific for the SMC team. They met students and professors from around the country, learned about graduate schools, and had dinner at the top of the Space Needle.

"We had a great time," he says. "It's the icing on the cake when you get an award out of the thing."

The SMC students whose presentations were recognized as "excellent" are: Barry Amos (Physics), Ashley Martin (Biology), Annie Regan (Health Science), Scott Rodriquez (Chemistry), Tom Scarry (Physics), and Steve Schluchter (Math).

Case believes the Collegiate Seminar experience at SMC helps science and math students in research competitions. "They've had lots of opportunities to state an argument and defend an argument. Part of science is the doing, and the other part is making it accessible to others."