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Undergraduate math research advice

  1. May 23, 2013 #1
    I will be graduating in one year with a B.A in math. I do plan to transfer to graduate school in area of statistics. The problem is I have no analysis or abstract algebra background since I will be taking those this next semester and I would like to do a "research project (I am interested in nonlinear dynamics)" under the guidance of a professor. Right now I am trying to talk to professors that would give consent. I've been reading on a lot of other forums of how research is important to get into graduate school which is making me quite anxious at this point. Luckily I am on summer vacation so whatever I need to do I have plenty of time to acquire some background. And I am also particularly confused on what undergraduate research really is? I know it involves writing a journal and trying to get it published. I've taken a look at some and they require some high caliber math which I feel is a bit out of my reach at this point. Should I become familiar with nonlinear dynamics as much as I can or wait until a professor is willing to guide me?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 24, 2013 #2


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    No math-specifc advice here, but the point of doing research as an undergraduate isn't necessarily to get it published. What's most important is that you get involved to the point where you understand what life doing research is going to mean. As a graduate student you'll be spending years of your life doing research at tremendous opportunity cost, so if you have the opportunity to get your feet wet, it's a good idea to do it.

    Participating in research is also an opportunity to develop skills that you wouldn't normally acquire in the classroom.

    Also, it gives you the opportunity to form a working relationship with some professors who will be able to act as references for you when you apply to graduate school.

    Research as an undergraduate can take many different forms. More commonly it involves getting a job for the summer with a professor working on a project. Some students do this through an REU program. Others do it by just knocking on doors until they get lucky. Some will volunteer during the academic year. Some will have a senior project of some sort. Some will do it through a club of some sort (perhaps a little more common in the engineering disciplines).
  4. May 24, 2013 #3
    Pure Math Research in most subjects in math (there are some exceptions) tends to require a very large background. Most grad students are not in a position to try to get new results in pure math until a few years into the program. So most good undergrad research involves computers. Do you have any programming experience? Even Matlab/Maple/etc is fine for most math applications.
  5. May 24, 2013 #4
    Thanks. Yes I do have some programming experience with C which I know all the way up to arrays. But math wise I do not have a strong foundation yet, though I have taken some proof writing classes such as number theory and linear algebra.
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