Math Undergraduate Research Resources
This page was designed to assist mathematics majors to find research on-campus opportunities with UCI faculty or off-campus opportunities with industrial partners, national labs, and other universities.
1. On-Campus Opportunities
1.1 Faculty research interests
The faculty in the UCI mathematics department span a wide spectrum of interests and expertise. Active areas of research include: Applied and Computational Mathematics, Coding theory and Criptography, Ergodic Theory and Dynamical Systems, Geoemtry and Topology, Image Problems and Imaging, Logic and Foundations, Mathematical and Computational Biology, Mathematical Physics, Mathematical Visualization, Number Theory, Partial Differential Equations and Probability. For more information, consult the math department research page.
1.2 Samples of previous student research topics
1.3 iCAMP- Interdisciplinary Computational Applied Math Program
iCAMP is an NSF-funded Interdisciplinary Computational Applied Math Program for freshman and sophomores UCI undergraduate students. (All majors and undeclared students are welcome.) The program provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to learn about a topic in computational applied mathematics, get early research experience and explore what it is like to work as a professional in computational applied math.
To participate, students must enroll in (any) one of the 77ABCD courses. Topics include:
A. Signal Processing
B. Collaborative Filtering
C. Image Processing
D. Game Simulation and Analysis.
(Note that the Math77/ICS77 courses do not form a sequence.) Upon completion of one of these courses, interested students may apply for a paid summer research position, to continue investigating a particular problem in the area from the course they took. In addition to the mentored research opportunity, students will learn about career opportunities in the field, practice reading research articles and improve presentation skills. Math 2A, Math 2B and ICS/CSE 21 should be taken prior to participating.
1.4 MCBU - Mathematical and Computational Biology for Undergraduates
MCBU is an NSF-funded program for training and research for UCI undergraduate students in mathematics and biology. The program provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to be trained to work at the interface of mathematics, biology and computation. Students have the opportunity to perform undergraduate research in paired teams of mathematics and biology students. Students will create laboratory data and utilize mathematical and computational tools to analyze their data to address a real world research problem.
Students interested in the MCBU summer research program should first enroll in Math 113A, offered every Spring quarter.
The UCI Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program provides funding for undergraduate research and creative projects mentored by UCI faculty through two separate annual Calls for Proposals, one in the Fall Quarter and one in the Spring Quarter. Once the Calls have been announced, students have approximately one month to submit their proposals. Proposals are evaluated based on the intellectual merit of the student’s research, a complete application, the level of support from the faculty mentor, the student’s transcript, and available funding. Samples of UROP proposals are available on the UROP website.
Students who receive a UROP grant must present their findings at the annual UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium held in May, and are invited to submit their research findings to the UCI Undergraduate Research Journal.
To be eligible for a UROP grant, students must be undergraduates in good academic standing. Students who will graduate within a quarter of submitting their proposal are not eligible to apply. Proposals that do not require funding or are already receiving adequate funding from departmental or other sources may be submitted for an Honorary Fellowship.
The UCI Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) provides funding to support students’ research during the summer. Students are given the opportunity to become immersed in a research topic for a full-time ten-week period, or the equivalent of 400 hours, and receive a maximum stipend of $3,000.
To be eligible for a SURP grant, students must be undergraduates in good academic standing. Students must also have been involved in a faculty-mentored research project or creative activity for at least one quarter before the beginning of the Summer (Spring Quarter involvement is acceptable). Students who will graduate within a quarter of submitting their proposal are not eligible to apply. Evaluation criteria for SURP proposal are similar to the UROP’s ones. Moreover, just like for UROP, students who receive a SURP grant must present their findings at the annual UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium held in May are invited to submit their research findings to The UCI Undergraduate Research Journal.
The 2012 submission deadline is Monday, May 7. Application material and sample proposals are available on the UROP Web site.
1.6 Math 199
Math 199A-B-C (Special Studies in Mathematics) is a 4-units course designed for outstanding undergraduate mathematics majors who want to be engaged in supervised but independent reading of a mathematical topic or in research work. A student interested in Math 199 needs to register with one particular faculty member. Once the consent of the instructor is obtained, the student can enroll in the course without any additional authorization (following the standard procedures for signing up for a course).
1.7 Faculty grants
Some faculty occasionally have personal grants to support undergraduate student research.
2. Off-Campus Research Opportunities
Several off-campus research opportunities are available. They mainly fall into three categories: internships, REUs (summer programs focused on a single research topic under faculty guidance with a small group of great students) and other mathematics enhancement programs (e.g., programs aimed at prepare students for graduate school).
Most of these programs pay travel, room and board plus a student stipend.
Detailed information about internships is available on the Math Career Resources page of our website.
Research Experiences for Undergraduates (or REUs) are among the most prestigious and most competitive summer research programs for undergraduates studying mathematics.
Individual REU sites typically consist of ten undergraduates working on a very specialized math program for 6 to 8 weeks, under direct supervision of some faculty members. Rom and board, along with a stipend for the student are generally provided.
As the program is funded by the NSF, undergraduates must be citizens or permanent residents of the US or its possessions. Applications are typically due between February and March. The length of the application ranges from a single letter of reference without supporting materials all the way up to something comparable to a college admissions application. The programs generally require between one and three letters of reference, a transcript, 0-2 essays, a letter of interest, a resume, a biographical form, or some combination thereof.
2.3 Other mathematics enhancement programs
The following list of programs was updated on February 1, 2012.
Semester Programs (Domestic And International)
- Budapest Semester in Math
- Math in Moscow
- Penn State’s MASS (Mathematics Advanced Study Semesters) Program
- Junior Year for Women at Smith College
Summer Programs (Domestic And International)
- Park City Math Institute Summer Program for Undergraduates
- University of Nebraska Summer IMMERSE program
- The Summer Math Institute at Cornell University
- The Summer Applied Mathematics Institute at Carnegie Mellon
- UCLA Undergraduate Research center
- The Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute Summer Program
- NIH sponsored Summer Institutes for Training in Biostatistics
- At Boston University http://sph.bu.edu/Biostatistics/summer-institute-for-training-in-biostatistics/menu-id-617790.html
- At North Carolina State University www.stat.ncsu.edu/sibs/
- At the University of Wisconsin http://www.biostat.wisc.edu/Educational_Resources/SIBS/index.htm
Specifically for women
- Carleton Summer Mathematics Program for Women:
- EDGE Summer Program for Women
- The George Washington Summer Program for Women in Mathematics
3. FAQ’S Questions About Undergraduate Mathematical Research
Below you will find answers to a number of frequently asked questions regarding undergraduate research in mathematics. For more information please attend the REU workshop which is organized every year by the department.
3.1 How to find faculty mentors at UCI
Here is some advice:
- Look at faculty research interests
- Take appropriate courses first
- Go to Undergrad Colloquium talks
- Read math outside of class
- Identify your area of research interests
Write letter/email to faculty
- Describe yourself- grades, coursework, goals, etc.
- Show you know something about their research area
- Explain what extent of research you desire
- Show your motivation, work ethic, independence, etc.
- For reading courses, explain why you are interested in that topic and how it will fit with your future goals
- Remember you are asking for a giant favor. Research and creative projects require dedication, planning, and a substantial time committment.
3.2 How to apply for external programs
- Carefully look at program descriptions
- Follow all application instructions
- Ask for letters of recommendation at least two weeks in advance
Write personal statement
- Tailor it to the particular program
- Explain your interest in topic and preparation for it
- Emphasize your unique math experiences
- Deadlines around mid-February.
For tips about requesting a recommendation letter or writing a personal statement please check the Math Grad School Resources page on our website
3.3 Who is eligible?
- Most research opportunities are highly competitive and intended for the advanced math students going to graduate school
- Appropriate preparation is essential for a successful research experience
- Summer REU’s are mostly for students finishing their junior year (maybe sophomore)
- Math 199 course is mainly for seniors in honor’s program or considering grad school
- Some faculty just don’t work with undergrads, because it involves a big time commitment. Don’t take it personally!
4. The UROP Office and their Services
The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) in the Division of Undergraduate Education encourages and facilitates research and creative activities by undergraduates from all schools and academic disciplines at UCI. On the UROP website you will find sample proposals and guidelines for the UROP/SURP grants, and a long list of on-campus and off-campusresearch opportunities, including internships, research experiences and fellowships.
The UROP office sponsors a yearly symposium for undergraduate research and organizes a series of research-relatedworkshops for undergraduates throughout the year. Last but not least, UROP offers assistance to students and faculty through all phases of the research process, whether it is with proposal writing, developing research plans through project management skills, awarding grants to fund research projects, scholarly journal writing through The UCI Undergraduate Research Journal, or presenting results of the research or creative project through the UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium.