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Student researcher receives Kell Container Corp. Scholarship

RELEASED: May 11, 2010

Mark Bauer
Mark Bauer

EAU CLAIRE — The Kell Container Corp. Scholarship has been awarded to University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire junior Mark Bauer, a mathematics and business finance major from Spencer.

The scholarship supports a junior or senior who demonstrates outstanding ability in undergraduate research in collaboration with a faculty member.

Bauer has collaborated on research projects with faculty mentor Dr. Simei Tong, associate professor of mathematics.

"Mark has worked with me on research projects for two years. After watching his amazing freshman presentation at our annual Math Retreat Day in spring 2008, I invited him to join my research team in the fall of 2008 for the project 'Optimal Evacuation Plan for Hospitals,'" said Tong.

The goal was to create a math model for transporting bedridden hospital patients during an emergency evacuation and to produce the optimal solution by the Simplex method using a computer program. According to Tong, three students were on the team and Mark was a sophomore at the time. He was involved in the creation of the math model and designed the computer program to produce the optimal solution.

The results were presented at the annual national Joint Mathematical Meetings in January 2009 in Washington, D.C.

"Mark has very good communication skills," said Tong. "He presented the results in a way that people without a computer or mathematics background could easily understand."

Based on the presentation, the research was extended to a major U.S. hospital. (Due to a confidentiality agreement, the name cannot be disclosed).

Bauer then created a model for the emergency evacuation of elevators based on 13 departments with 12 elevators in one building. He also created two additional models for evacuations involving both elevators and stairwells, as well as a horizontal evacuation plan involving several connected buildings.

"I've learned that mathematics can substantially change the timing and procedure of an evacuation that, in the event of an emergency, would save valuable time," said Bauer. "Evacuation plans are really optimization problems, and as such, they fit mathematicians extremely well."

Those findings were presented at the annual national Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Francisco in January. Tong said the results are significant because they can easily be adapted to other hospitals.

Bauer also is on a research team for optimizing emergency evacuations in Eau Claire County. His next project with Tong, funded through the Kell Container Corp. Scholarship, will be related to the evacuation of a shopping mall.

Based on his performance and research achievements, Bauer was encouraged by UW-Eau Claire's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs to apply for an internship at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He received the internship and will spend 10 weeks in a national laboratory to work on system analysis. Bauer also received the Scholarship for Outstanding Achievement in Mathematics by a Junior Student award and the Travelers Actuarial Scholarship. Bauer was inducted into the national mathematical honor society Kappa Mu Epsilon in 2009 and was elected president of the math club for 2010-11.

"Overall Mark's achievement in learning, research and leadership character is remarkable," said Tong. "His talent and hardworking personality as well as his persistence in pursuing his big dream have led to all the results he has received this year."

Bauer also participated on teams that won competitions in the actuarial sciences and mathematics fields and participated in the international math modeling competition, which attracts students and faculty advisers from more than 500 institutions around the world.

"I've found my experience with undergraduate research to be extremely beneficial," said Bauer. "I have strengthened my teamwork skills as well as my communicational skills. I am extremely grateful for receiving this award. I look forward to continuing my research on evacuation plans and am excited to see the results we produce."

For more than a decade the Kell Container Corp. Scholarship has supported students studying physics, mathematics, geology, psychology, biochemistry and chemistry. The scholarship was endowed by brothers John, Mike and Tom Kell. John Kell, who died in 2005, was a UW-Eau Claire alumnus and served on the UW-Eau Claire Foundation board, as has his brother, Mike. The Kell family and the Kell Container Corp. have a long history of supporting UW-Eau Claire and have established other scholarships and awards in addition to the Kell Container Corp. Scholarship.

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RD/DW

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