Luther junior researches the Parker’s Square-sum conjecture

October 4, 2018

Luther College junior Sam Moyer collaborated with fellow researchers John Kelly and Laura Olson as well as advisers Tommy Occhipinti and Eric Westlund, professors in mathematics, to tackle the Parker’s Square-sum conjecture for his summer research project. They were given a list of the numbers from 1-15 where each two adjacent numbers sum up to a perfect square: 8, 1, 15, 10, 6, 3 etc., and then given the objective of showing if this sort of list was possible with numbers greater than 15.

Moyer, son of Jeff and Rita Moyer of Albert Lea, Minnesota, is a 2016 graduate of Albert Lea High School. He is majoring in mathematics/statistics, philosophy and data science at Luther.

Moyer believes that the theory he worked on could impact math advances in the future. “While there may not be one exact application at the moment for our mathematical research other than to better understand number and graph theory, research in math has been done forever without direct applications. The applications for math tend to be found after the math has been discovered. For instance, the focus of math in the 17th and 18th centuries was done without a reason, but would eventually prove to be essential in the development of computers,” he said.

He enjoyed having to experiment to find answers that Google couldn’t give him. Moyer said this valuable experience is one he would recommend to every college student.

Moyer, Kelly, Olson, Westlund and Occhipinti’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: