Gaining Research Experience as a Mathematics Major

In summary, the conversation discusses the speaker's interest in switching to mathematics and their desire to gain research experience, particularly in the field of theoretical physics. They mention the ease of getting research experience in physics and inquire about the possibility of obtaining similar opportunities in mathematics. The conversation also highlights the importance of approaching faculty members directly to inquire about research opportunities and not being afraid of rejection. It is suggested that this approach can also be applied to gaining research experience in pure math or computer science.
  • #1
So I am about to switch to mathematics, as I absolutely adore pure mathematics as well as applied mathematics and I cannot stand learning mathematics without going deep into rigor of it for now(I am aware however that at times one just has to quickly learn sth to proceed with a project). But in the end I really wish to go into mathematical physics or theoretical physics.

As I have studied physics, I have realized that one can get research experience quite easilly. Mostly it takes one to just ask a professor to do some real research to learn scientific research, if not in the first year then in the second. Now most such research is experimental, but it is valuable experience with which one can get theoretical physics internships more easilly in the following years.

I was wondering if a mathematics major can also just ask a professor for any undergrad research project that would be more on the theoretical physics side. I have a lot of experience in programming as well, so I would be able to program a simulation for example. What would be an example for such undergrad research?

P.S. How do mathematics majors gain research experience in general? Another huge reason to switching to math is that I might even do pure math research or CS for example, to have more realistic opportunities for academia.
 
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  • #2
Andraz Cepic said:
So I am about to switch to mathematics, as I absolutely adore pure mathematics as well as applied mathematics and I cannot stand learning mathematics without going deep into rigor of it for now(I am aware however that at times one just has to quickly learn sth to proceed with a project). But in the end I really wish to go into mathematical physics or theoretical physics.

As I have studied physics, I have realized that one can get research experience quite easilly. Mostly it takes one to just ask a professor to do some real research to learn scientific research, if not in the first year then in the second. Now most such research is experimental, but it is valuable experience with which one can get theoretical physics internships more easilly in the following years.

I was wondering if a mathematics major can also just ask a professor for any undergrad research project that would be more on the theoretical physics side. I have a lot of experience in programming as well, so I would be able to program a simulation for example. What would be an example for such undergrad research?

P.S. How do mathematics majors gain research experience in general? Another huge reason to switching to math is that I might even do pure math research or CS for example, to have more realistic opportunities for academia.

A lot depends on the culture and willingness to provide research opportunities by the faculty at your school. At the Air Force Academy, all the math faculty knew my PhD was in Physics, so they gladly pointed math majors with an interest in Physics to me, knowing I'd work hard to provide a project for them. Other schools may not be so accomodating.

In most Physics departments, there are supply and demand issues regarding undergrad research opportunities. In some cases, there are more Physics majors desiring research than the departmental faculty can provide, and those that desire research in theory often lack the tools and training. As a result, they cannot all be provided opportunities. In other cases, there are so few Physics majors desiring research opportunities that all of them can be given a chance. You have to start knocking on doors and talking to faculty at your school to figure it out.
 
  • #3
Dr. Courtney said:
You have to start knocking on doors and talking to faculty at your school to figure it out.
This is maybe the best piece of advice on the matter. A lot of people go and search for forms and institutions to get them into research while forgetting the human nature of it. Just go to someone's office knock and tell them about your interests and ambitions. I did the same and I have been in a research team for about two years now.

Also, don't fear rejection. I got rejected a couple of times but most people are really nice about it, telling you that the work is way too difficult or that positions are full at the time. So if you ask, its a win-win situation :)
 
  • #4
Andraz Cepic said:
How do mathematics majors gain research experience in general? Another huge reason to switching to math is that I might even do pure math research or CS for example, to have more realistic opportunities for academia.
I have no experience in that matter (pure math research) but I would guess it is the same as the above, just ask. Even if it turns out math research is not done under professors, the professors themselves can guide you to places you can work in.
 

What is research experience in mathematics?

Research experience in mathematics refers to the opportunity for students to participate in hands-on, original research projects in the field of mathematics. This may involve conducting experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and communicating findings to others.

Why is research experience important for mathematics majors?

Research experience allows mathematics majors to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems, develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and gain a deeper understanding of the subject. It also prepares students for graduate studies or careers in research.

How can I gain research experience as a mathematics major?

There are several ways to gain research experience as a mathematics major. You can participate in undergraduate research programs at your university, work with a faculty member on a research project, or apply for internships or research opportunities at other institutions. You can also look for research opportunities through professional organizations or conferences.

What skills do I need to have for research in mathematics?

To be successful in mathematics research, you should have a strong foundation in mathematical concepts and techniques, as well as good problem-solving and analytical skills. You should also be able to work independently, communicate effectively, and be open to learning new methods and approaches.

Can I do research in mathematics if I am not a top student?

Yes, research experience in mathematics is not limited to top-performing students. While having a strong academic background may be beneficial, what matters most is your interest, enthusiasm, and dedication to the subject. Research experience can also help you improve your skills and knowledge in mathematics.

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