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Waterloo Pure Math Co-op vs Regular?

  1. Nov 4, 2011 #1

    I am a grade 12 student in Canada and goint to apply for University of Waterloo. I am not supposed to declare my major yet but I am quite certain that I will major pure math.
    Now waterloo asks us to choose between co-op and regular.

    I don't know what kind of jobs are available, but apparently, a pure math major qualify for some software engineering jobs of which I believe that it is a sustainable and lucrative career option. With two years of work experience, I can also apply for MBA.
    But I have to dedicate at least 4 and 2/3 years in undergraduate. By the time I finish my PhD, I will be around 30. (Hopefully without debt because co-op payments will cover my tuition)
    I can finish my BMath degree as early as 2 and 2/3 years if I take summer courses (I think it is way overkill though) so I can get my PhD earlier. Possible job options are software engineering jobs (including cryptography) and finance jobs. (I am not expecting to get an acadmiec job). But I am not sure what kind of software engineering jobs are available for math PhDs.

    So my questions are
    1) If you have attended at waterloo, majored pure math, and had co-op experiences, what sort of job have you done?
    2) What do software engineering jobs with math PhD look like (excluding cryptography)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 5, 2011 #2


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    Waterloo pure math co-op student in 4B here.

    Co-op is an unusual choice for pure math majors. I am only in it because I internally transferred from electrical engineering (co-op only). That being said, if you start out in it, then you have many great opportunities.

    If you plan on majoring in pure mathematics, it is essential that you are taking the advanced section math courses (math 147, 145, etc.) from the start. I began taking them at the 247 level, and it was quite difficult playing catch-up.

    If you do well, you have several options for employment. If you are explicitly looking to do software engineering, then I wouldn't recommend going through the Pure Math department. There are programs in Computer Science and Software Engineering in Waterloo for a reason. If not, and you do well in your courses, then you may go on be a summer research assistant. This is the best way to secure close relationships with professors, with the aim of attending graduate school. Otherwise, you are pretty much on your own to find jobs or to just keep taking courses during the summer terms (if you do regular stream). Looking at job-mine over the course of my university career, I can tell you there are very few job postings explicitly asking for pure math students. They are often pooled together with C&O / engineering students.

    I hope this post answered some of your questions. Best of luck to you!

  4. Nov 5, 2011 #3
    Hi MW,

    My primary plan is to pursue graduate studies in the U.S. and get a non-academic job (like quant jobs or google jobs because I've been told that academic positions are extremely competitive).
    But I don't know if I can survive the so-called geniuses. (well, the real geniuses go to MIT though). If I decide to withdraw, I am also considering MBA, PhD in (mathematical finance), or computer science, or masters in acturial science.
    But it seems like in order to get an MBA or PhD in Finance, certain amount of work experience is required. So I was wondering if 1 year of delay will get me into better position.

    I have absolutely no interest in CS or SE. If I take CS or SE related job, it is solely because of financial matters.

    How hard are 140s, 240s, and pmath courses? I am really afraid of these courses. Well, when I was in pre-IB, I was also afraid of IB HL, but it turned out to be I did not have to worry about that. But I wouldn't feel the same at Waterloo, would I?

    Finally, what kind of 'research' can an undergraduate student do, especially in math? I believe that math undergraduate students are hardly capable of researching and publishing good quality papers.
  5. Nov 5, 2011 #4


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    Waterloo pure math and mathematical finance (which falls under the pure math department) are strong programs. If you get a chance, check out the professors' CVs and current/past grad students. Many students come from or go to study at so-called 'ivy league' institutions. This is neither necessary nor sufficient to be good at mathematics, though.

    I don't really know anything about this, but http://www.math.uwaterloo.ca/navigation/Prospective/programs/mathfinance.shtml" seems like the program you're looking for.

    The 140/240 level courses in calculus are usually large. The classes in algebra and combinatorics are smaller. Difficulty is a relative term, and it depends on the professor. To get a sense of the calculus courses, check out Spivak's "Calculus", or Wade's "Introduction to Analysis", which has been used at Waterloo often.

    Yes, mileage may vary for these USRA's. I have never done one, but I wish I had now that I am looking to apply to graduate school in pure math.

    The purpose is not necessarily to publish original "high-quality" research, because professional mathematicians obviously have more experience, so an undergrad will do some kind of project that involves focusing on an accessible problem, and writing a kind of research summary report. It's not a thesis, it's just meant to get a taste of what real research is all about. Setting out to prove hard problems and crumbling under the weight doesn't help anyone, so professors judge what is an appropriate challenge given the courses you've taken.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  6. Nov 6, 2011 #5
    Few last questions, How doable are CS135 and CS136 if I have absolutely no exposure to computer science (well, LaTeX is a joke to these people eh?) I am planning to take 1 CS course per term. I don't know if I should take CS115 and CS116 first and then minor courses like CS230 and CS234. The only reason if I take these courses is to learn c++ and other programming skills to satiafy quant job requirement

    I thank you and wish you the best
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  7. Nov 6, 2011 #6


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    LaTeX is neither necessary nor sufficient for doing well, but it looks nice and can help you later if you plan on doing a USRA.

    In terms of CS courses, I would recommend knowing the bash shell and basic c/c++ before going in. That means the kind of stuff you can easily find online. You will find that TA's/profs can't really help with these, and the courses accelerate quickly under the assumption that you learn in in a short period of time.

    1 CS course per term sounds good. Pure math students only need cs 115/116 at a minimum, and this is quite doable in my opinion. Having these under your belt may not be sufficient to get into (and complete) hard-core programming projects though.

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