New undergraduate lounge opens

A hand-painted mural fills the entire east wall of the new math lounge in Avery Hall. —DEB KLIMES/UNL CSMCE

Aiming to create a space in Avery Hall designed for undergraduate mathematics students, the Department of Mathematics has opened a new undergrad lounge this fall.

Formerly a computer lab, 18 Avery has been updated and converted to convenient study space and even features a hand-painted mathematics mural along one wall.

“We wanted to give students with similar interests a way to grow their network of peers and friends among the math majors,” said Daniel Toundykov, associate professor and faculty adviser for Math Club. “Already at the first formal opening event, I saw many familiar faces but this was the first time for many of these students to introduce themselves to one another.”

Former department chair and now associate vice chancellor Judy Walker initiated the project in 2014, and staff member Lori Mueller oversaw the renovations. Early on, the department gathered feedback from the students about how they would like to see the room redesigned.

During her senior year, mathematics and art major Jenny May created the mural before she graduated in May 2015, along with the help of faculty members Michelle Homp, Alexandra Seceleanu and Toundykov.

“The entire mural elegantly ties together many different areas of mathematics that our students encounter in the courses they take, including, for example, Calculus, Math 221, 310, 325, 452 and 380,” Toundykov said. “I think the mural carries a nice educational component, since merely viewing it prompts one to learn or revisit the beautifully depicted concepts.”

Mueller added coating to the mural when it was finished and created “Pi” graphics for the multi-touch light control screen on the wall. Mueller also redesigned the entire room, from paint colors to the type and placement of the whiteboards – including adding whiteboards to the columns. Graduate student Nick Owad, who earned his Ph.D. in August, contributed several 3D-printed mathematical shapes to decorate the lounge.

"It is such a cool place,” said senior math major Cash Bortner. “I wish I had had this space as a freshman. We have couches upstairs, but people are always walking through, and there isn’t any board space. This is fantastic.”

The undergrad lounge uses N-card access currently enabled for undergraduate mathematics majors. The lounge will be open for students when the building is open, and it will not be reserved for any special events. For example, Math Club activities will be held in other auditoria.

New furniture also has been selected for the room, but funding from donors is being sought to enable that purchase.

"This lounge is a place that will further knit together the community of math students and help them to realize how large their group truly is,” Toundykov said. “Ultimately we hope to see more new lounge visitors as they formally declare mathematics among their major choices.”

-Lindsay Augustyn