Collaborative Research: CSUMS: URGE to Compute
Ringland, John Principal Investigator
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Ringland DMS-0802994 Carbonara DMS-0802964 URGE to Compute provides a year-long computationally intensive Undergraduate Research Group Experience in the mathematical sciences to an annual cohort of 12 undergraduate mathematics majors. A collaboration of the University at Buffalo (UB), Buffalo State College (BSC), and the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, the project brings together an interdisciplinary group of 16 faculty researchers who have a shared sense of the importance of computation in the mathematical sciences, a record of successful supervision of undergraduate research, and a commitment to increasing the effectiveness of the preparation of students at UB and BSC for post-graduate education and careers in the many fields that now demand a combination of computational and mathematical skills. Prior to commencing the full-year research experience, students take calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, and a new sophomore course in scientific and mathematical computing which was developed with this project in mind and is offered to all math majors. Special efforts are made to recruit minorities and women, who are underrepresented in the mathematical sciences. The year of research begins in the Spring semester of the students' junior year with: a support course that provides background on the theme that unifies all the research projects for that year (e.g. stochastic processes in 2009); a team-taught course on the tools and methods of computational research; regular meetings with the research project mentor; and the first part of a seminar that runs throughout the year. Research continues through the summer, and students write an honors thesis or a paper for publication in the Fall. Computational resources available to the students include a 2000-node cluster and a visualization laboratory at UB's Center for Computational Research. Talks by eminent outside researchers are a feature of the seminar, and students attend a national conference in an area related to their research, disseminate their results at regional meetings and local exhibitions of undergraduate scholarship, and participate in outreach activities at local high schools. After the year is over, in their final undergraduate semester, the now highly trained students serve as teaching assistants in the introductory differential equations course that is taken by all mathematics, engineering, and science students. Over the multi-year course of the project, the research focuses on a wide variety of topics of societal importance. These include optical fiber communications, agricultural pest control, cryptography, medical imaging, and the behavior of materials (from semiconductor devices to mudflows). The project not only trains a select annual cohort in these vital areas, but also reaches a substantial fraction of all math majors at UB and BSC with a curriculum that is computationally enriched by the preparation and support courses for the project, and a departmental life that is enhanced by the seminars and the exposure to peers engaged in research. The project is supported by the MPS Division of Mathematical Sciences, the MPS Office of Multidisciplinary Activities, and the EHR Division of Undergraduate Education.