Undergraduate Research and Mathematics Graduate Programs

  • #1
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Dear Physics Forum advisers,

I am a rising college junior (five-years tract) with a major in mathematics and an aspiring mathematician in the fields of theoretical computing and cryptography. I apologize for this sudden interruption but I wrote this email to seek your advice on the impact of undergraduate research on the mathematics graduate programs. Starting of August, I will be conducting the separate undergraduate research on the theoretical computing (abstract, math-heavy) and computer security (programming-focused but utilizing algebra and number theory). I am very excited to start investigating those topics as they are super interesting to me and steered me to love the mathematics. However, I just received the advice from some of graduate students, and they said that the undergraduate research does not matter much in the admission process since many mathematics graduate programs (both MS and Ph.D) view undergraduate-level research as not matured enough to reflect the mathematical abilities of applicants than Putnam, MGRE, and GPA. They told me to focus on preparing for Putnam and spending all time on the math courses. I am quite surprised as I thought (at least in the biology program; I was a former microbiology major) that the research experience is strongly expected from the applicants. I would really like to focus on my research as I like my research topics and I learn the math best when I have specific problems (such as research topics) to focus on, but the advice I got is really discouraging...Could you share your thoughts and experience? If I should stick with my undergraduate research, should I focus only one of two (theoretical computing or computer security) rather than conducting two separate research? I initially decided to conduct two research as I thought having as many research experience of my interest is very important.

Sincerely,


PK
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Dr. Courtney
Education Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
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The importance of undergraduate research depends on where you are and what grad programs you anticipate applying to.

When I was on the math faculty of the Air Force Academy, the math faculty regarded research experiences as very important for their math majors.

Your school's faculty are probably better sources of advice than the local graduate students, especially once they know what your aspirations are.

The research experiences you have in mind will also serve you well in many job markets.
 

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