Mathematics celebrates 20 years of hosting REU students

August 30, 2022 (Volume 46, Number 1)
Article by Peg West

a mathematics equation on a chalkboard

Through 20 years of hosting REU, Grand Valley has worked with 170 students from around the country.

Photo Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

For the 20th time, Grand Valley welcomed students from around the nation to campus this summer for the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program through the Department of Mathematics.

With this year's milestone cohort, the eight-week program, which offers students a full research experience that includes presentations, meetings with faculty members and group sessions, has worked with 170 students, faculty members said. Students, who live in campus housing, also share their research at national conferences.

A grant from the National Security Agency funded much of the work. Grand Valley resources from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, the Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence and the Mathematics Department rounded out the rest of the funding, said Esther Billings, department chair.

A hallmark of the program is how competitive it is, said Michael Santana, associate professor of mathematics and one of the faculty mentors. Schools across the country host REUs, so not only do students compete to be chosen to the select groups, but the programs also compete for students.

"Not everybody has these programs," Santana said. "Being competitive draws more attention to Grand Valley in the mathematics community."

Four faculty members each work with two students. Santana said the mentoring aspect is a key part of this program, as faculty members range beyond the research project to talk about preparing for graduate school, writing tips and more.

Other faculty members who participated this year were William Dickinson, professor of mathematics, Lauren Keough, associate professor of mathematics, and Norma Ortiz-Robinson, associate professor of mathematics.

The research topics cover a wide range in mathematics. This year's topics were spherical and hyperbolic geometry, fault-free tilings, wolf and moose population modeling in Isle Royale and packing edge-colorings.

The academic rigor, collaboration and other features of the program prepare students for what's next, whether it's graduate studies or working for an organization such as NSA, which is one of the largest employers of mathematicians, Keough said.

"The experiences students get here are something they can take everywhere," Keough said. "Students have a high-impact learning experience, which is an important part of our culture of undergraduate research."


 

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This article was last edited on August 25, 2022 at 12:44 p.m.

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