Undergraduate Research

Students often think of their undergraduate education as a string of classes and exams, culminating in a degree. While there are many job opportunities for students with a mathematics degree, none of which consist of classes and exam. The skills most employers, as well as graduate schools, are looking for include independent thinking, problem solving abilities, perseverance. While some of these can be honed in the traditional classroom environment, others simply require a setting different from a large lecture, or even an upper division course with 30 students in it. Identifying the most important problems in your field to work on, picking the most appropriate approach and mathematical tools to attack the problem, working as part of a team, and communicating mathematics professionally are not typical classroom tasks. They are, however, essential components of Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs), and other programs involving programs in undergraduate research.

 

Most summer REUs are eight to ten weeks long, provide participants with accommodations for the duration of the program, travel support, as well as a competitive stipend (usually the equivalent of a full time job paying $10-$12 per hour). An REU is an immersion experience, students focus entirely on their research work, while getting a chance to complete professional development workshops and to attend talks given by professionals and professors on topics that are meant to broaden students' exposure to the subject. Participants get actively mentored, which means regular and frequent meetings with the professor/s guiding your research, and constant constructive feedback on students' progress in specific skill areas, such as oral and written presentations, research exposition and team work. While rigorous, REUs are also a lot of fun, where participants make friends, and take advantage of the individual locales, be that going to a beach, hiking in the mountains, or visiting a nearby national lab. If you have the interest, courage, and fortitude to work hard, learn new mathematics, and expand your options (while embellishing your resume), apply to a summer REU, or participate in a research opportunity offered at your own institution. You will grow as a person, and as a mathematician.

 

SUMMER PROGRAMS ON THE WEST COAST

 

California:

CSU Channel Islands

Fresno State MSRI-UP

UC Merced (ARCHIMEDES)

UC Santa Barbara

 

Oregon:

Oregon State University

Willamette University

 

Washington:

Seattle University (SUMmER)

University of Washington Bothell

 

Hawaii:

University of Hawaii at Hilo (PURE Math)

 

You can search for more programs by going to Math Alliance Affiliated REUs (link to the page). There are also programs that a faculty advisor applies for you. Faculty interested in supervising undergraduate research at their home institution can apply to one of the programs below:

 

CURM:  The Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics at Brigham Young University (http://curm.byu.edu)

 

NREUP: National Research Experience for Undergraduates Program (http://www.maa.org)

 

PUMP-URG: Undergraduate Research Groups. (http://www.pump-math.org/undergraduate-research-groups)