Students clutch first prize in mainland math modelling contest

Karen Cheng

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Three students from the College of Science and Engineering at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) clutched first prize in the 2009 China Undergraduate Mathematical Contest in Modelling (CUMCM), outperforming more than 12,000 teams from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland universities.

The winning students were Jiao Shuming, Year 2 student from the Department of Electronic Engineering, and Yang Tianyang and Liu Yifang, Year 2 students from the Department of Mathematics. Their mathematical models effectively enhanced the resource utilisation rate of a mainland eye hospital by 30%, significantly reducing patient waiting time for treatment. With their insightful analysis of problems and outstanding mathematical modelling skills, they became one of just 216 teams to claim a first prize, and the only entrants to do so from Hong Kong. Other winning teams included students from Peking University, Tsinghua University and Fudan University.

Organised by the Higher Education Division of the Ministry of Education and China Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the CUMCM is the largest competition in a fundamental subject and has significant importance in and outside of China. The 2009 competition attracted 12,272 undergraduate teams from 1,137 universities in Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland.

Shuming, Tianyang and Yifang were given three days to solve the problem of an increasing number of patients waiting for treatment at the eye hospital. They tackled the problem by reallocating the use of hospital resources to improve the utilisation rate of hospital wards and operation theatres.

They analysed the data provided by the organisers, which included the number of patients with eye complaints such as cataracts, retinal diseases, glaucoma and eye injuries, and assigned priority to the patients based on their needs. The information was then fed into different mathematical models to optimise the allocation of hospital wards and operation theatres. This has resulted in a 30% efficiency increase in the utilisation of available resources, allowing more patients to receive treatment within a shorter time period.

“Winning was an unforgettable experience as it allowed us to apply our knowledge to help solve problems in the community and instils confidence that we can perform in a professional environment,” said Tianyang.

They attributed their success to CityU’s effective teaching and its state-of-the-art facilities. “CityU’s courses not only developed our analytical skills, but also gave us practical knowledge we could apply in the competition,” said Yifang. Shuming indicated that they needed to process a large volume of data in the competition and CityU provided them with excellent support.

The students’ advisor, Professor Benny Hon Yiu-chung from the Department of Mathematics, commended their performance. “The competition experience will help them understand how to apply mathematical skills to solving social problems in the future, making them professionals useful to society.”


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