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projects,” Dr. Xie said. “Although research is traditionally associated with graduate study, I strongly encourage undergraduate participation in original research because it exposes them to applying mathematics to solve realworld problems. It can make a huge impact on their lives as they realize all mathematics has to offer.” The Crosses’ contributions have transformed the educational experiences mathematics majors gain at Southern Miss. Instead of sticking to routine calculations and the typical assignments required for graduation, students are being challenged to analyze complex theories and solve elaborate equations through research projects, leading to findings worthy of publication in the nation’s top mathematics journals and selection for presentations at the largest mathematics conference in the world. With support from the Cross Chair Endowment and guidance from Dr. Xie, the summer 2017 Cross Scholars claim these achievements as mere undergrads. Over the course of the seven-week summer semester, these students worked full-time researching topics in applied mathematics. One group dove into determining whether it is possible to create a central configuration by placing appropriate celestial particles in certain positions, which may help to understand the structure of Saturn’s rings and the beautifully diverse orbits of celestial bodies in general. This application of classical mechanics to celestial bodies requires an advanced understanding of mathematics and the reality that undergraduate students are participating in this type of sophisticated research is incredible. For Hamas Tahir, a sophomore from Lahore, Pakistan, this was his first experience completing research of such high caliber. Through mathematical computing and the use of programming language, he gained many crossdisciplinary skills that will benefit him as a double major in mathematics and computer science. “Conducting research as a Cross Scholar has been one of the best experiences of my life. It has challenged me in a number of ways, the most important of which being my ability to think outside the box,” Tahir said. “Using differential equations and Newton’s laws of motion, I was pushed to experiment with and calculate lengthy equations to address complex variables. This allowed me to apply classroom knowledge to proposing a theorem and proving it with substantial reasoning. I learned how to make use of logical mathematics in a practical way, rather than just solving problems in my textbooks.” Although advanced research projects offered to Cross Scholars prove challenging, their hard work is rewarded as their findings are celebrated in

journals and at conferences. Any apprehension they previously held about research is replaced with confidence with each day’s new findings. “I am very thankful for the Crosses because their support makes our research and studies possible. As an international student, it is difficult and sometimes distressing to meet all of life’s demands with limited finances. Scholarship support and research funding has allowed me to concentrate on my education and motivates me to continue working hard to achieve my dreams,” Tahir said. Opportunities made available through the Wright W. and Annie Rea Cross Endowed Chair in Mathematics and Undergraduate Research are helping students become aware of the world full of possibilities they never imagined before. “Although students often have plans in mind for what they will do with their degrees, it is fun to watch those dispositions change as they experience research in this capacity. Their eyes are opened to exciting new opportunities. Now they dream of attending graduate school or one day earning a Ph.D.,” Dr. Xie said. Following completion of his degree in May 2020, Tahir plans to attend graduate school to further his education in quantum computing, a field that requires knowledge of mathematics and physics to propose new algorithms for software. “To achieve success, we must give our full effort to the things we love most, and for me, that means science and mathematics. Being a Cross Scholar has inspired me to pursue a master’s degree and explore quantum computing,” Tahir said. “The research we completed addresses one of the greatest problems of the 21st century, and many renowned mathematicians and physicists have devoted their entire lives to solving Newton’s N-body problem. Knowing that our discoveries are valuable and important for the greater good of our society brings me pride in being a Golden Eagle.” Students like Tahir are excelling not only by their talents alone, but because they are elevated by the support of “giants” who walked the hallowed halls of Southern Miss years before. “We are beyond grateful for the generosity and foresight of Bill and Annie Cross, for their support of undergraduate research has planted a seed like none other. As this seed grows, it will help students reach their full potential,” Dr. Xie said. “I am excited to be a part of that process.”

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Profile for The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation

2017 USM Foundation Impact Report  

2017 USM Foundation Impact Report  

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