Doing the Math
 

A math and computer science major combines academics, research and real-world experience to secure a bright future.

Read More

Stephanie Nagel comes from a long line of math whizzes and Yankee fans.

She’s always shared her family’s love of numbers, and now she knows her way around a box score, too – thanks to a research project with one of her professors that combines sabermetrics and sophisticated data analysis to compare the stats of Negro League and Major League Baseball players during the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s. They’re investigating whether the distribution of batting average and earned run average data was similar. Their end game? Prove that NL and MLB players performed at the same level.

“Before doing this research, I didn’t know anything about baseball, and I wasn’t interested in baseball to be honest,” Nagel said. “But I’ve learned a lot.”

Pride Productions Students at Debate 2016

So much that instead of walking through the room when her family crowds around the TV to watch the Yankees, Nagel takes a seat and shares her latest research.

“My family is very mathematical,” she said, “and they like to discuss the mathematics behind baseball.” 

Nagel is proud of her lineage – she is a third generation number-cruncher. Her dad is an accountant and her grandmother (whom Nagel is often told she takes after) was an actuary “at a time before women were able to go to college,” she said.

Ballpark Figures

Dr. Richard Puerzer is supervising the baseball research project. He said Nagel, a senior computer science and math major adept at complex analysis techniques, dived into the research even though she knew little about the topic before she began.

“One of the things that I’ve noticed is that Stephanie is really willing to take on not just tasks, but also take on learning things that she’s not familiar with,” said Puerzer, who is chairman of the engineering department at Hofstra. “She’s been a quick learner as far as the material goes, and she’s also been a very quick learner in terms of applying technical, analytical methods to these baseball statistics.”

Her investigation into America’s favorite pastime aside, Nagel has also been conducting research with Dr. Barbara Gonzalez, associate professor of mathematics. Their research involves generating random variables on a sphere. Stephanie will co-author a paper with Dr. Gonzalez, which will be published in the Journal of Simulation.

“One of the main reasons I love doing research is because I know that people are going to read about my research in the academic journal, and they’re going to use what I’m doing,” Stephanie said. “They’re going to use the code that I wrote and the method that Dr. Gonzalez and I created.”

Said Dr. Gonzalez: “I needed to do some testing on what I was working on, and it was a perfect project for her because she would have to do some mathematics and some programming…and then it evolved into more as we worked together, which is what always happens with research.”

Camera Person

Doing research has enhanced Nagel’s overall academic experience, helping her build confidence, learn how to solve problems and develop new skills, such as fluency in MatLab and Latek coding languages. “I learned so much about myself by doing this research,” Nagel said. “I learned that I enjoy sharing my ideas with others. Last semester I did a seminar talking about my research to other professors and students. I’m afraid of public speaking, and I was able to speak for a whole hour.”

“One of the main reasons I love doing research is because I know that people are going to read about my research in the academic journal, and they’re going to use what I’m doing”

–Stephanie Nagel

Real-World Experience

Camera Person

And her research has led to a four-credit internship at Frontline Education, an administrative educational software company in Rockville Centre where she has worked part time as a software engineer for more than two years. When Frontline’s development manager, Matthew Klenosky, learned of her statistical data analysis research with Dr. Puerzer, he carved out a role in which she will work with predictive data analysis. This will be her second internship that’s been integrated into her position at Frontline – she’s already earned three credits for a computer science internship at the company.  As with her campus research projects, Stephanie has learned a lot more than technical skills during her time at Frontline. As she mastered a programming language called Sequel, she also developed professional polish.  

“She’s been put in a position where she needed to work as part of a team and learned teamwork skills and how to collaborate with people to get the job done, and she’s done an exceptional job at that,” Klenosky said.

“She also has a good sense of when to reach out for assistance, so if she’s in a position where she’s not sure what to do, she won’t just spin her wheels and waste time. She’ll go find someone and get the answer so that she can move along.”

Said Ben Abraham, one of her mentors at Frontline: “Hofstra’s prepared her to think and problem solve, but from a technical aspect Frontline Education gives her real-life experience.”

Back on campus, Nagel passes along everything she’s learned by volunteering n the Math Tutoring Center, where she coaches her peers twice a week. “I had Stephanie Nagel as a student before we had her as a tutor,” said Dr. Behailu Mammo, an associate professor of mathematics who oversees the Math Tutoring Center. “She is one of the most disciplined students I have ever had. She is really hardworking and a very smart student.”

“She’s been put in a position where she needed to work as part of a team and learned teamwork skills and how to collaborate with people to get the job done, and she’s done an exceptional job at that.”

Matthew Klenosky, Development Manager, Frontline Education

On a Fast Track

Nagel will graduate a year early, due to AP and internship credits. She’s applied to Columbia University for operations research, Johns Hopkins for data science, Penn State for applied statistics, and Georgia Tech for computer science. She plans to work full time while she pursues a graduate degree.

Her experience with her professors, particularly her research mentors, helped confirm that her first love – numbers – was the right career path.

“All of the professors at Hofstra have been wonderful, and they have made themselves available to help me when I need help -- with anything, not just their classes,” she said. “Also, Hofstra encourages independent studies, and in an independent study, you grow a very strong bond with the professor that you're working with.”

“I’m confident,” she said. “I know I want to do data science in my future career.”