UD welcomes graduate students in mathematics nationwide
Photo by Evan Krape
July 07, 2021
A research study that examined the ways in which popular cultural images of mathematics and mathematicians influence the relationship that young people form with the subject found that students believe mathematicians lack social skills and do not have personal lives. outside of math. Although the report, “Mathematical Images and Identities: Education, Entertainment, Social Justice” was based on a survey of students in the UK, George Mason University graduate student Wyatt Rush admits that similar perceptions exist on this side of the Atlantic Ocean and he thought of him when he traveled to the University of Delaware to participate in the 16th edition of the Mathematical Modeling Camp for Graduate Students (GSMMC) follow-up to the 37th annual workshop on Mathematical Problems in Industry (MPI).
âWhen you witness something like this, don’t fall for the stereotype that all mathematicians are silent and don’t want to talk or socialize; it’s an old stereotype, âsaid Rush. âI’m a mathematician, and I was worried about it, but everyone was super nice. I made a lot of friends, had a lot of great conversations, and enjoyed spending time with everyone.
Competitive selection process
Rush had one of the shortest trips in the two-week experience which hosted 23 students from 16 states and 19 higher education institutions nationwide – including schools as far away as Oregon State University and the San Diego State University – chosen through a competitive selection process. on the basis of transcripts, mathematical experience and letters of recommendation. Locally, Delaware State University sent a student and UD was represented by two students, Andrea Weaver and Lindsey Jacobs, who Rush said were very welcoming and helpful hosts.
âThe overall experience has been great,â said Jacobs. “The other students were all very nice, so I felt very comfortable from the start.”
Innovative graduate experience
After learning mathematical modeling with hypothetical problems at the graduate students’ mathematical modeling camp in person (and while following University of Delaware social distancing protocols), the students stayed at UD to put the lessons on. in practice next week on the real world, research level problems in the much larger virtual workshop Mathematical problems in industry. Led by the University of Vermont, the MPI annually attracts leading mathematicians and applied scientists from universities, industry and national laboratories.
According to GSMMC co-organizer David A. Edwards, professor of mathematical sciences at UD and a regular MPI participant for over 25 years, the camp experience gives students the confidence to actively participate in MPI teams with professors and post-docs. In return, MPI benefits from a cadre of energetic and well-trained students to collaborate with other academic participants.
âWhile there are other summer student training camps like GSMMC and other industry study groups like MPI, GSMMC-MPI is the only program that links the two,â Edwards said. âMPI is the oldest industrial study group in the United States, having started in the mid-1980s. In the mid-2000s, organizers realized that graduate students would benefit from taking training in mathematical modeling before moving on. launch in the real world, research level problems at MPI, and so the camp was born.
Edwards co-organizer Lou Rossi, professor of mathematical sciences and dean of UD Graduate College, said UD has a pioneering history of innovative experiences for graduates like GSMMC-MPI. These initiatives include UD being one of the early adopters of 4 + 1 programs that enable advanced undergraduates to participate in articulated graduate experiences and having a nationally ranked online MBA program that adopted its web-based delivery method to make the program accessible to a much wider audience. Like Edwards, Rossi has a long history with GSMMC-MPI and he credited it with being well ahead of his time and preparing participants for job opportunities in demand.
“With the number of math doctorates finding jobs in academia declining monotonously for decades, we need to do more to prepare these highly skilled and highly skilled graduate students to thrive outside academia,” Rossi said. âPrivate industry and government agencies have real math needs that can be met by graduate students and faculty who can cross disciplinary lines and communicate effectively as a team. This program has long been an efficient and cost effective model for providing the necessary career preparation as well as a fertile recruiting ground for sponsors.
Communication is crucial for problem solving
GSMMC-MPI participants quickly discovered that mastering math was only part of the problem-solving equation that could not be completed without social skills.
âMy biggest takeaway is that communication is essential when working as a team,â said Jacobs. “It’s also important not to be shy and speak up if you don’t understand something and help others in difficulty if you can.”
In addition to connecting with mathematicians, students were reminded of the importance of interacting with subject matter experts in disciplines to which mathematical modeling is applied. Working virtually with group members in other locations and time zones during the MPI, they also had to write daily debriefs to keep everyone on the same page.
âThere was a lot of writing and communication outside of math,â said Rush, who described his overall experience as intense problem solving. âMost of the problems in industry are not strictly math for the sake of math. I had to learn tree biology the first week and COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] the second week, so there was a lot of interdisciplinary learning.
Multi-agency participation facilitates brainstorming
Having spent so much time at home since March 2020, like much of the rest of the world, attendees have enjoyed the opportunity to work in person with other students and to socialize. Rush said he made some great friends with whom he intended to stay in touch and benefited from working with students from other colleges who bring different perspectives as each department operates differently and has its own philosophy, processes and hierarchies.
âIt’s really nice to be able to meet someone who says’ in regards to this problem, I actually saw something similar and we did this, this and that,â Rush said. âThe simple one. getting a general idea of ââhow people take different approaches to the same topic is really helpful. “
Jacobs was happy to return to UD, interacting with visitors and helping them navigate the campus and surrounding areas.
âIt was so nice to work with people from schools across the country,â said Jacobs. âIt was interesting to learn about each other’s research interests and what their respective math departments look like. It was beneficial to work with students from other colleges because everyone had different math backgrounds and classes so it really helped brainstorm ideas and figure out how to solve problems.
Although he grew up in neighboring Northern Virginia, Rush had never been to First State and was impressed by the UD campus and its historic architecture. He encourages other students to jump at the opportunity to participate in the GSMMC-MPI or similar activity, wherever it is held.
âAnyone who has the chance should definitely try to do a camp or a conference like this,â Rush said. “Go meet people, find out about the industry, find out what is being talked about and what is being researched, and just go learn and have a good time.”