Undergraduate Research

Many open problems in mathematics do not require an advanced degree to understand their statements and are accessible to an undergraduate with a solid background in a standard undergraduate mathematical curriculum. Some of these problems are very appropriate for an undergraduate research project, and a typical undergraduate research experience will include working on such problems.

Recently, participation in structured research programs for undergraduates has become a de facto prerequisite for admission to top graduate programs in mathematics. With this in mind, the Department of Mathematics is actively promoting undergraduate research opportunities for its majors both at Boston College and outside.

Research Undergraduate Experience (REU) Programs Outside BC

Summer REU programs have become a gold standard in providing research experience to undergraduates. A typical REU runs for 8-10 weeks in the summer. The participants are usually divided into small groups led by a faculty adviser (either a professor, or a postdoc, or sometimes even a graduate student). REUs are structured so that students not only spend time attacking open problems, but also learn new, and often quite advanced, mathematics.

How to apply

Admission to outside REUs is competitive, with the top REUs being as selective as the top graduate schools. A comprehensive list of REU programs, with the links to application instructions, can be found at the National Science Foundation REU list and MathPrograms.org. A list of programs that are accepting applications in the current year can be found at this Math REU Programs listing. The majority of REUs accept online applications. In particular, at Math Programs you can apply to many programs at once using essentially the same materials. Most of the application deadlines are in the second half of February or in early March.

Undergraduate Research Fellowships at BC

Our mathematics department offers a number of opportunities to engage in interesting undergraduate research while at Boston College. The most structured way to do so is to participate in the Undergraduate Research Fellowships program under the direction of our internationally-renowned faculty. This program awards grants to faculty that provide pay for undergraduate research assistants working under their guidance. The URF grants can be applied for only by faculty.

How to apply

A student wishing to participate in the URF program should first contact a professor who the student is interested in working with. The URF program awards grants three times per year (in fall, spring, and summer), with deadlines for the academic year semesters being early in each semester, and the summer URF deadline being in early March. Please refer to the URF program application instructions for more details.
The deadline for the Summer 2016 URF is March 11, 2016.

Events

The Department of Mathematics in conjunction with the Boston College Mathematical Society holds regular events that promote undergraduate research and assist our majors in finding appropriate research opportunities at BC and outside.

Spring 2016 REU applications workshop

On February 10, 2016, the BCMS held a workshop on Summer REU applications that provided advice to potential REU applicants.

Fall 2015 Undergraduate Research Mini-Symposium

On September 16, 2015, the Department of Mathematics and the BCMS held the inaugural BC undergraduate research mini-symposium. The following students gave 20 minute presentations on their research from Summer 2015:

Photo report: Professor Ben Howard reacts to a presentation by Champ Davis.

Past experiences

The following math majors were supported by the BC URF program and faculty grants while performing research under the guidance of the math department faculty: Lisa Piccirillo (URF, Grigsby), Carolina Cyburt (URF, Baglivo), Stephanie Ger (URF, Mirollo), Ga Yee Park (URF, Grigsby), Flip Piasevoli (Grant, Grigsby), Zachary Skarka (Grant, Grigsby), Arnav Roy (URF, Treumann), Sarah Collins (Grant, Grigsby), Christopher Coscia (Grant, Grigsby), Andrew Ferdowsian (URF, Fedorchuk, Baldwin), Christopher Ratigan (URF, Fedorchuk), Jian Zhou (URF, Fedorchuk) Champ Davis (URF, Baldwin), Cynthia Chen (URF, Baldwin).

The following BC math majors participated in outside REU programs in recent years:
Participant REU program Final report
Champ Davis,
BA '17
The UC Berkeley Geometry and Topology RTG Summer 2015 Research Program for Undergraduates Schubert varieties and their degenerations  
Christian Cofoid, BS '17 The Brown University Summer 2015 REU Large deviations results for non-gradient systems
Katherine Pilewski, BS '15 Carnegie Mellon Summer 2014 2014 Summer Undergraduate Applied Mathematics Institute Characterization of unconfinable hexagonal cell
Robert Laudone, BS '15 University of Texas Tyler Summer 2014 REU  
Christopher Coscia, BS '15 ETSU Summer 2014 REU  
Rachel Zahigian, BS '15 Boston University Summer 2013
Institute for Training in Biostatistics
 
Amy Nesky,
BS '13
Brown ICERM Summer 2012 REU  
Lisa Piccirillo,
BS '13
Cornell University Summer 2012 REU  

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