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In the past seven years, Clifford Reiter, professor of mathematics, has mentored over 30 students through various academic projects, providing both himself and his students with valuable experiences and opportunities.

Nature magazine recently featured Reiter’s work on the mathematical generation of snowflake patterns as the lead story on its web site. He collaborated with Prince Chidyagwai ’05 (Marondera, Zimbabwe), a double major in mathematics and computer science, to study quasicrystalline structures and analyze their cellular automa growth. Their work, which also will appear in Chaos, Solutions and Fractals, deals with a model similar to that of a snowflake. The configuration starts off as an initial cell of ice that expands when placed next to other cells.

“To be able to publish has been the biggest thing for me as an undergraduate, and a lot of it is due to the wonderful working relationship I’ve had with Cliff,” Chidyagwai says, adding that Reiter represents the ideal professor.

His work with students like Chidyagwai and Rob McEwen ’05 (Morgantown, Pa.), also a double major in mathematics and computer science, has produced successful projects in the fields of mathematical visualization, number theory, and numerical analysis and dynamics.

“Students can be very creative and work really hard when given the opportunity,” Reiter says.

McEwen, who worked with Reiter on the use of short periods of the Fibonacci sequence on elliptical curves, says that Reiter showed enthusiasm and excitement for his work. Their working relationship eventually paved the way for a friendship as well.

“Because of all that he has taught me, Cliff has definitely been a mentor,” he says. “In addition to teaching skills in the classroom, he has always been willing to sit down and talk about graduate school, my future, or some issue that I wanted advice on.”

“Being a professor has not stopped him from having fun with students,” adds Chidyagwai, who has accompanied Reiter on hiking trips to the Adirondacks. “It is always nice to be able to do fun stuff like this with your mentor because it builds a good relationship that is easily transferred into the lab when it’s time to work.”

Reiter is the adviser of the Ultimate Frisbee Club, a position he has held for the last five years.

“I get to know those students, and by practicing with them from time to time, I get to hear student views of campus, and offer advice and insights to many students whom I never even see in the classroom,” he says.

Reiter’s influence on students remains evident after they graduate. Sandy Balkin ’94, a senior manager with Pfizer’s Global Market Analytics Group in New York City, says Reiter’s research guidance helped him go on to complete a master’s degree in statistics and a Ph.D. in business administration, both from Penn State University.

“He helped me develop not only as a mathematician, but as a person,” Balkin says. “His confidence in me and trust in my abilities gave me confidence in myself.”

Angela Coxe ’03, a student at Widener University School of Law, benefited from his guidance during summer research and an independent study project that used mathematical concepts of Fuzzy Logic and Fuzzy Automata to create models of snowflake growth.

“He taught me a lot about mathematics while helping me grow as a person by encouraging me to present research,” she says. “Overall, he was someone I could talk to, and he also gave me encouragement to pursue my goal of going to law school.”

“In the classroom, Cliff is a dynamic and challenging professor who cares whether his students learn,” McEwen adds. “Outside the classroom, Cliff is an involved professor, consistently working with students on research projects. His presence at Lafayette contributes to the math department and the college as a whole.”

Categorized in: Academic News