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Mathematics and Statistics Colloquium: Friday, November 15, 2019

Sam Ferguson



November 15, 2019 (Fri.)
12:30 – 1:20 pm
SCP 229


Finding Obamacare Benefits in the Limit



I met an Uber driver whose income was low enough for Obamacare benefits. Yet tax software and government calculators could not compute his benefits. The story was reported in Money magazine. Why is it so hard to find his benefits? There is a circular relationship in the tax code that affects Uber drivers, online tutors, and other self-employed people. An infamous IRS document (on its website) asks taxpayers to use limits of sequences to solve this issue. We research these sequences and critique the IRS strategy. Using ideas from calculus, we prove a theorem that gives these people the benefits they are eligible for by law.


Speaker Bio:

Sam Ferguson was born in South Carolina, and dropped out of high school at age fifteen. After spending a year “abroad” in UNC Chapel Hill’s creative writing program, and earning AA and BA degrees from Bard College at Simon’s Rock, he participated in the playwright’s workshop at the University of Iowa. At Iowa, he earned two master’s degrees, including an MS in physics.

After matriculating to NYU’s Courant Institute, he earned an MPhil in math and a teaching certificate in college instruction. In May of 2019, he was awarded a math PhD from NYU for his thesis, supervised by Scott Armstrong, that solved a stochastic version of Hilbert’s 19 th problem.

Sam is the recipient of the inaugural Metro NExT grant from the Mathematical Association of America’s Metro New York section, and currently works as a research mathematician in industry at the headquarters of Metron, Inc., in Washington, DC area. Metron is best known for finding the missing Air France flight 447 and the missing SS Central America, which sunk off the South Carolina coast in 1857 with a metric ton of gold aboard, using Bayesian search theory. Metron is currently searching for the lost cities of gold in Ecuador and developing software for self-driving underwater vehicles.

In his free time, Sam volunteers with the Washington area Bicyclist Association, leads a northern Virginia financial book club as founder and chair, collaborates on undergraduate research at City Tech in Brooklyn, helps coach George Mason University’s Putnam math team, tutors European royalty in math, and writes scenes for underground theatre companies in New York City.