DUMU History


The Duke University Math Union was created by Paul Dreyer ’95 in 1992. Several previous attempts in previous decades to form a math club faltered.  Dreyer, who had been deeply involved with the math club at NCSSM, pushed for DUMUs incorporation as an official Duke social group and served as its first president for two years.

He explained the purpose of DUMU in the August 1994 Duke Math News as follows:

Hello everybody! I’m Paul Dreyer, and on behalf of the Duke University Mathematics Union, I would like to welcome all mathematics students old and new to Duke for what should be an exciting year. I have just returned from a year studying abroad in England and I am really psyched to get the Union running again.

Now in its third year, the Duke University Mathematics Union (or DUMU for short, pronounced “doo-moo”) provides students with an interest in mathematics the opportunity to learn more about the subject outside the classroom. Several undergraduate students and professors have discussed their research on topics spanning the mathematics spectrum. DUMU also provides information on careers and summer research internships in mathematics. This fall, we will hold the third annual Duke University Mathematics Contest, a one-day student-run contest for high schools from throughout the southeast.

Most importantly, DUMU is FUN. [We now have a lounge for our use and I plan to organize some social events and possibly some friendly competition against the other club in our building, the Society for Physics Students. In any case, ]we are going to have a great year ahead of us, and I hope you will become a part of it by joining DUMU.[ The first meeting will be during the first week of September, so be sure to keep your eyes open for announcements.]

Dreyer was also the motivating force behind the Duke Math Meet.   He coordinated with NCSSM to host an ARML style math meet at Duke in Spring 1993.  It began as rather small gathering of North Carolina high schools with 10 to 15 teams of 5 students in the early 1990’s to about 25 teams of 6 each a decade latter.

DUMU students create and grade the problems, serve breakfast and lunch to the participants and present awards to the winning individuals and teams.  They and other student volunteers lead teams to classrooms around Science Drive and proctor the competitions.

By the early 2000’s, the Duke Math Meet had expanded with representation from schools from Alabama to Virginia. It lifted its cap of two teams per school and attracted a bus load of 7 teams from New Jersey in 2009. Soon after, the ITCCC  recruited several teams from China for the meet. The Duke Math Meet reached a peak of 360 high school participants in 2011. Due to space  limitations and  other logistics concerns created significant problems. The meet currently limits the competition to about 45 teams and 270 high school students.

Former DUMU presidents

1993 – 1995 Paul Dreyer
1995 – 1996 Michael Rierson
1996 – 1997 Tung Tran & Robert Schneck
1997 – 1999 Garrett Mitchener
1999 – 2001 Carl Miller
2001 – 2002 Mike Miller
2002 – 2003 David Arthur
2003 – 2005 Oaz Nir
2005 – 2007 Brandon Levin
2007 – 2008 Kshipra Bhawalkar
2008 – 2009 Aaron Pollack
2009 – 2010 Matt Rognlie
2010 – 2011 Alan Guo
2011 – 2012 Vivek Bhatacharya
2012 – 2013 TongTong Zhan
2013 – 2014 David Hemminger
2014 – 2015 Brett Schnobrich
2015 – 2016 Andrew You
2016 – 2017 Feng Gui
2017 – 2019 David Geng
2019 – 2020 Jung Hwang

Undergraduate Lecture Series

DUMU sponsors lectures by distinguished mathematicians  Among the lecturers have been Thomas Banchoff, John Horton Conway, Peter Hilton, Carl Pomerance, Persi Diaconis, Joseph Gallian, Robert Devaney, Donald Knuth, Colin Adams, Underwood Dudley, Lisa Fauci, Frank Morgan, Martin Nowak, Sir Roger Penrose, Walter Mientka, Jordan Ellenberg, Dusa McDuff, George Hart, Ken Ono, Bruce Berndt, Francis Su, and many others

Alumni Lecture Series

2005 Alex Hartemink ’94
2006 Jeff Vanderkam ’94
2006 Jeanne Nielson Clelland ’91
2007 Paul Dreyer ’95
2010 Craig Gentry ’95
2011 Melanie Matchett Wood ’01
2017 Elliott Wolf ’08
2017 James Zou ’07
2018 Daniel Neill ’01

After the talks, DUMU members take the speaker out for a nice meal.