Five UMN graduate students win 24-hour data analytics challenge

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (5/2/2024) – A team of five School of Mathematics graduate students recently earned first place in the graduate division of the Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition (MUDAC). The winning teammates were Daniela Beckelhymer, Frank Cole, Ty Frazier, Irene Noharinaivo, and Michael Thomas. They were advised by Professor Gilad Lerman.

MUDAC is an intense and engaging data science challenge that attracts hundreds of students from across the Midwest. Since 2012, the program has provided a rigorous 24-hour, non-stop competition to showcase academic talent, innovative thinking, and resilience. Despite its name, MUDAC hosts a graduate student division alongside its namesake undergraduate competition. This year’s competition was hosted at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“I had excellent teammates there who were fun to be around and work with. They did amazing work and I’m personally proud of them. The problem consisted of extensive data cleaning, data exploration, and a traditional linear programming problem. Each member of the team dug in for the 24 hour competition and did as professionals in the industry,” Ty Frazier says. “With everyone’s hard work, creativity, intelligence, and great teamwork, we were able to be very competitive in the competition and ultimately win."

The UMN graduate student team was made up of students in a variety of applied mathematics subfields. Daniela Beckelhymer is a fourth year PhD student studying mathematical models to predict climate phenomena; Ty Frazier is in his sixth year, pursuing data science and computational and applied mathematics; Irene Noharinaivo, a third-year student, studies partial differential equations; Michael Thomas and Frank Cole are both first-year students in the PhD program to pursue applied mathematics. "I thought we worked well together because we had quite different backgrounds and experience so we all brought various perspectives to the project,” Frank Cole says.

"The competition was a great opportunity to connect with companies who might be interested in applied mathematicians. I was really intrigued by AURI, our client, since their task was about creating eco-friendly fertilizer solutions, which has some connections to my current climate research. It was awesome to see how our skills could be used in real-world situations,” Daniela Beckelhymer says. “Working closely with my team was also a fantastic experience, especially with the pressure on. We still managed to keep things fun and support each other throughout the event. Winning was the cherry on top!"

The team’s win at the 2024 MUDAC competition is proof positive that a strong academic background in mathematics supports success in popular interdisciplinary technology fields like data analytics and computer science. The School of Mathematics aims to provide critical opportunities for students to interface with interdisciplinary research and mentorship through centers like the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, the Minnesota Center for Industrial Mathematics, and the Therapy Modeling & Design Center. 

Faculty advisor, Professor Gilad Lerman, writes “The graduate team collaborated exceptionally, generating numerous valuable and ingenious ideas. Additionally, I had the privilege of advising two undergraduate teams that showcased creative and impressive solutions to the challenge. The success achieved by the three math teams underscores the broad and adaptable problem-solving skills fostered by our math program. Moreover, the teaching responsibilities of our graduate students help them effectively communicate mathematical concepts to diverse audiences. It's no wonder that our students are highly sought after by many companies.”