Do You Know an English Word with 9 “u”s? Columbia Professor Alfred Aho Presents to Chatham Students

Sophie Andrews with Mathletes from SMC. From left, Jason Li, Gyan Ghoda, Om Desai, Sophie, Stephen Andrews, Alec Thompson, Audrey Thompson and Spencer Thompson.
A packed room in New Providence Library for Professor Alfred Aho’s lecture on regular expressions.
Professor Alfred Aho, Columbia Univeristy

Do you know an English word with nine or more “u”s?  Can you think of a word that contains the five vowels in order?  How do computers search for such words from a dictionary?

On March 5, the Math Club of JerseySTEM hosted a lecture by Professor Alfred Aho (Department of Computer Science, Columbia University) in the New Providence Library.  More than 70 students and parents from Chatham, New Providence, Summit, Berkeley Heights, Millburn and Scotch Plains crowded the lecture room.

Through fun examples, Professor Aho explained the construction of regular expressions, the magic tool that we can use to specify patterns in text strings.  For example, with basic operations such as concatenation and arbitrary repetition of a wildcard symbol, a simple regular expression can capture the pattern of nine “u”s.  Regular expressions appear throughout computer science such as in the design of compilers.   Professor Aho also demonstrated that classic Unix commands such as egrep and modern programming languages such as Python use regular expressions to search for and match patterns in text strings.

Sign Up for E-News

In case you are wondering, humuhumunukunukuapuaa, a Hawaiian reef triggerfish, has nine “u”s!  (Look for a youtube video to teach you how to pronounce the word.)  For “abstemious”, the vowels a-e-i-o-u appear in order. Can you find more? As a homework exercise, Professor Aho challenged the students to find a long English word that is made up with distinct letters.  His teaser was the 14-letter word “ambidextrously”.   

Professor Aho’s lecture can be found on his webpage,

At the same event, the JerseySTEM Math Club also sponsored a book prize celebration for Sophie’s Math Corner (SMC),  Sophie Andrews, a sophomore from Chatham High School, runs SMC with the goal of providing math competition practice for middle school mathletes.  At the event, Sophie presented books on the golden ratio as prizes to the top performers: Alec, Audrey and Spencer Thompson, Jason and Julia Li, Om Desai, Gyan Ghoda and Stephen Andrews. Congratulations!

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Mike Czech – One of Chatham’s Hidden Gems….

On a warm sunny day, back in 2008, at Southern Boulevard Elementary School stood a very tall man (6.5” to be exact!), soft-spoken, warm and friendly as he was surrounded by a whole group of children running around him (at his knees).

His name was Mike Czech and he was teaching the kids how to play a game on the open court.   I introduced myself to help assist him as a fellow ...

SURVIVING A STROKE: Quick Medical Response Gives Mom Her Life Back

Carotid artery dissection. It’s one of the most common causes of stroke in younger adults.

And while you might not associate the word “stroke” with younger patients, the condition – if not treated immediately – could lead to paralysis and even death.

Lindsey Singh can attest to the importance of immediacy. The 31-year-old mother of two from Flanders experienced ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 15

On this week’s AtlantiCast, learn some important tips for controlling and avoiding diabetes from an Atlantic Health System expert, see how Atlantic Health is advancing cutting-edge research, hear what’s being done to keep health care environmentally friendly and much more!


Operation Sunscreen Returns to Chatham Fishawack Festival on June 9 to Benefit Troops Overseas

May 25, 2018

Once again local Mary Kay consultants are working with Operation Jersey Cares, a nonprofit organization, to donate sunscreen to our troops overseas.  

Efforts begin in May coordinating with Military Appreciation month. A booth will be set up at the Chatham Fishawack Festival on June 9 with information about the effort, Operation Jersey Cares and an opportunity to donate to this ...