Holm participates in summer research program

Now in his second year in a National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates program (REU), Michael Holm, Orange City, endorses that program as the best way to combine love for math with a summer job. 

Holm is a senior mathematics major who is spending his summer participating in the University of Akron’s first-ever REU. Students were chosen from a pool of national applicants and receive a stipend and travel allowance. 

As part of a nine-student research team, Holm has worked on two projects, one of which entailed decrypting a selection of 16th century codes used between Spanish King Philip II and his ambassador to Venice, Italy. Holm says that portions of their correspondence were encoded because they contained unflattering or confidential comments about the pope, which would have damaged Philip’s political leverage with the papacy had their letters fallen into the wrong hands. 

In the second week of his research experience, after the first of these codes had been cracked, Holm began work on a number theory problem involving the Fibonacci numbers and a relating Diophantine equation.  He plans to continue working on this problem until the end of the summer. If all goes as planned, he will co-write an article containing its results, which may later be published in an academic journal.

This summer marks Holm’s second year of REU research. Last summer, he studied numerical analysis at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. When speaking about this previous experience, Holm explained that the field of mathematics is split into two branches: applied math—which is geared toward industrial application—and pure math, which is more theoretical in nature. Since he studied applied math last summer, he chose Akron’s pure math program in order to experience both sides of mathematical research.

Holm says his research experience has helped prepare him for the future. “It has exposed me to well-developed mathematicians—both professors and students—who are serious about what they do. I have learned much just by watching them.”