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Math+Computer Science=New Solutions

02/13/2013

A double major in computer science and math, Mike Wheelock '13 of Pittsfield, Mass., aims for a career in mathematical modeling and simulation.

"I believe the two together are a powerful combination: mathematics can describe the real world, but descriptions by themselves don't do much. Computer science gives us the tools to build solutions from the descriptions given by mathematics," Wheelock said.

"I love making simulations of complex systems and using them to solve problems and answer questions that couldn't be answered otherwise."

According to Mike Dalton, chair of the College's computer science department, Wheelock is an exceptional student who is an asset to the College.

"He challenges professors, and has taught them a thing or two. He has, on many occasions, helped his fellow students without compensation," Dalton said. "Mike is a brilliant student, and is always willing to share his knowledge in the spirit of making our world a better place."

Wheelock, who has "loved math since I was 3," attributes his strengths in his chosen majors to his love of problem solving and his "analytical mind." He started to learn computer programming when he was just 9 years old.

"I am mostly self-taught," he explained. "I helped fellow students and my teachers in high school with their programming courses, and was even able to teach Professor Dalton a couple of things in Java 4. I've always loved helping people and have tutored on and off throughout my college career."

After graduating with an Associate degree in computer science from Berkshire Community College (BCC), Wheelock headed to Troy, N.Y., where he attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). After discovering the school was not a good fit for him, he decided to take a few classes at MCLA.

"The professors' engagement with and interest in students at MCLA is far superior, compared to RPI. The students are also more approachable and friendly," Wheelock said. "Even though MCLA is a liberal arts college, its programs in computer science, mathematics and science are top notch."

According to Wheelock, "I've learned a great deal about database, systems, and Web development since being at MCLA. I've also gained some more mathematical tools. I'm especially interested in my math modeling course this semester with Dr. Freda Bennett."

Recently, he participated with two other MCLA students in the 96-hour, international "Mathematical Contest in Modeling," put on by the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP).

"We had to model the nation's water supply and come up with solutions for conservation, transport, etc., that could mitigate the effects of water shortage in the future. We solved the problem and wrote an 18-page paper on our solution," Wheelock explained. "It was intense, but really fun. This is the fourth time I have participated, and I have loved the experience every time. It's like a marathon of problem solving."

Wheelock, who will graduate in May, is developing software for nonprofits to manage their contacts and donations that will help identify their most valuable donors and increase the gifts they receive. The mathematical model program he uses to identify prospective donors is his senior project this semester.

His company, Artemis Analytics, which he started with his wife, Cathy, will produce and market this software once it is complete.

Wheelock recommends MCLA to prospective students.

"It combines all the benefits of a four-year university with the atmosphere and supportiveness of a community organization."