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K-State Today

September 27, 2013

National Science Foundation grant supports undergraduate math research program

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Two Kansas State University mathematicians in the College of Arts and Sciences have received a National Science Foundation grant to support three more years of the Summer Undergraduate Mathematics Research, or SUMaR, program.

Marianne Korten, principal investigator, and David Yetter, co-principal investigator — both professors of mathematics — have received the grant for more than $340,000 to support 12 undergraduate researchers each summer starting in 2014. The funding will cover eight weeks of stipend, housing, dining and travel expenses for these students. The grant is hosted by the Center for the Integration of Undergraduate, Graduate and Postdoctoral Research, or the I-Center.

"This renewal and program is aligned with the university's goal to increase undergraduate research," said Korten, who is director of the I-Center and of the SUMaR program. "It enables us to continue to offer our more than eleven years of experience in supervising undergraduate research to students from other universities for another three years."

Research Experiences for Undergraduates, known as REUs, provide opportunities for undergraduate students from colleges and universities across the U.S. to spend a portion of their summer at another university focusing on research.

Throughout the summer, students work with a faculty mentor on an original research project while attending graduate school panels and participating in professional development activities, such as learning to give presentations using math-typesetting software. The summer programs also include faculty talks, a math subject Graduate Record Exam Prep workshop and a panel about the National Science Foundation graduate fellowship opportunity.

A special feature of the mathematics undergraduate program and other REUs is that they target largely untapped populations — such as women, minorities, first-generation college students and students transferring from community colleges, Korten said.

"The summer research experiences grab undergraduate students and let them get a taste of what it is like to be a professional mathematician," Korten said. "It encourages them to become independent researchers."

In the past, the math summer program has involved 12 students each summer. One of the students is co-supported by the Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, or SUROP, which is a recruiting and undergraduate research program of the university's graduate school. One student was involved in the summer of 2013. The university also offers REU programs in several other disciplines, such as chemistry, climate change and mitigation in the Great Plains, sustainable energy, biology, physics and bioenergy.

"We make a point to mix the math REU students with other REU students," Korten said. "We think that makes them more likely to do interdisciplinary work in the future because they have learned to communicate with researchers in other disciplines."

"Congratulations to Professors Korten and Yetter for obtaining continued funding for the math REU summer program," said Beth Montelone, associate dean for research of the College of Arts and Sciences. "Our college has a strong tradition of undergraduate research supported by extramural grants and philanthropic gifts, and we have just initiated a collegewide program open to students from all disciplines that will be paid for with funds from the new college fee."

For more information about the Summer Undergraduate Mathematics Research program, visit the math REU website. Read more information about College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate research opportunities.