Luther junior researches Parker’s Conjecture

September 26, 2018

Parker’s Conjecture is the mathematical theorem that the numbers one through n (for n>24) can be arranged so that each consecutive pair sums to a perfect square. Laura Olson, Luther College junior of Webster, Minnesota, worked to prove this conjecture for her summer research project.

Olson, the daughter of Lisa and Curtis Olson of Webster, is a 2016 graduate of Northfield High School. She is majoring in math at Luther.

She worked with Thomas Occhipinti, Luther assistant professor of mathematics, and Eric Westlund, Luther associate professor of mathematics on her project, “Parker’s Conjunction on Square Sums.” She also worked with fellow students Sam Moyer and John Kelly.

“The most interesting part of the research has been working with areas of math in which I have not taken a class, however the most challenging part has been dealing with dead ends of inquiry. The skills of inquiry that I’m practicing this summer will be directly applicable to classes both in and outside of my major,” said Olson.

Olson, Occhipinti and Westlund’s collaboration was one of 30 summer student-faculty research projects funded through Luther’s College Scholars Program and Dean’s Office. The Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities that are part of Luther’s academic core and intend to deepen the learning process.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college’s website: