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. 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.