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UW Provides Mathematical Research Experiences for Undergraduates

July 9, 2009
Man teaching a class
Summer Math Class --Michael Pernice, assistant director for the Center for Advanced Modeling and Simulation at Idaho National Laboratory, talks to students taking part in Mathematical Research Experience for Undergraduates, funded by the National Science Foundation and UW.

Undergraduate students from around the country are learning about a relatively new area of mathematics during a summer program at the University of Wyoming.

The students are part of a math REU, or Research Experience for Undergraduates, funded by the National Science Foundation and UW.

Colin Garnet, UW graduate student and one of the REU program coordinators, says the goal is to create an exciting environment where undergraduates can research mathematical problems in depth. Students spend at least 40 hours a week on research. He says the focus is dynamic equations on time scales.

"This is a relatively new area of mathematics that involves mathematical analysis and the interface between differential and difference equations," says Bryan Shader, UW Department of Mathematics head. "To tackle problems of this complexity, the students have been divided into three teams that work closely with graduate students and math professors to explore a different aspect of a central problem."

Team members are:

Alabama -- Daniel McElhaney, Alabama A&M University.
Colorado -- Dennis Gucker and Sarah Nowak, University of Northern Colorado.
Georgia -- Josh Keller, Emory University.
Maryland -- Kristen Campilonga, University of Maryland.
Massachusetts -- Michelle Zagardo, Mount Holyoke.
New Mexico -- Eric Smith, New Mexico Tech.
New York -- Peter Muller, Fordham University.
Tennessee -- Casey McKnight, Austin Pey University.
Wyoming -- Hakima Bessaih, Mike Bostick, Patricia Jibben, Eric Quade, Jeff Selden and Dan Stanescu, all UW.

"We hope the experience will inspire students to pursue graduate studies and careers in mathematics," Shader says. "The students gain valuable experience working with their groups, presenting ideas formally in seminars, and producing scientific reports that might be suitable for publication in refereed journals."

The program also strengthens ties between educational and research institutions. This is accomplished through participation in various activities, such as the Rocky Mountain Mathematics Consortium Summer School, a field trip to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and a lecture series featuring leading mathematicians and scientists from the National Security Agency and other organizations.

"We get to experience the thrills and frustrations of research each day, says Keller. "We also hear programs on themes relevant to future graduate students."

Zargado adds, "If I decide to go on in math research, I feel that I will have a really good handle on the resources available in the math community as well as a great network of friends to talk to about research."

Muller feels the same way. "The REU will help prepare me for applying to graduate school, as well as being a graduate student," he says. "Also, I plan to remain in academia, so this REU also helps prepare me for my future career."

"The best part of the program, outside of the mathematics, has been the opportunity to explore the outdoors of Wyoming!" Keller adds. "I've had friends from school who live in the West try to explain the beauty and vastness of this part of the country, but it's so much more incredible than anything I expected."

McElhaney notes, "What I've enjoyed the most is making friends with the other participants in the program."

Gucker has also noticed the benefits of working with so many different people. "As students, this summer has yielded many incredible experiences and fun times, but the thing that set it apart has been the people. Everyone involved has truly made this experience one of a kind," he says.

For more information on the Mathematics REU program, visit or e-mail Shader at A daily blog can be found at


Posted on Thursday, July 09, 2009

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