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Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics honored for achievements

American Mathematical Society

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IMAGE: In this photo, two CURM students present at a conference. view more

Credit: Courtesy of CURM, Brigham Young University

The Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics (CURM) at Brigham Young University has been chosen to receive the 2015 Mathematics Programs that Make a Difference Award from the American Mathematical Society (AMS). CURM is honored "for its significant efforts to encourage students from underrepresented groups to continue in the study of mathematics."

The annual award was created by the AMS Committee on the Profession to recognize outstanding programs that successfully address the issue of underrepresented groups in mathematics.

Allan Greenleaf of the University of Rochester, chair of the Committee on the Profession, said, "The Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics at Brigham Young University has been making a difference since it started in 2007. With a focus on minority-serving institutions, CURM helps faculty create and lead groups of undergraduates who work together on research projects. Students get a taste of the excitement and challenge of research, and faculty gain useful experience that advances their careers."

CURM provides support and training to faculty so that, at their home institutions, they can build small groups of two to five undergraduate students to work on research projects during the academic year. With a focus on minority-serving institutions, CURM has two main aims. The first is to get undergraduate students excited about research and to encourage them to finish their degrees and consider graduate school. The second is to help untenured faculty successfully negotiate the critical career transition point at which they become full-fledged mathematics professors.

Faculty apply to participate in CURM, and those who are accepted receive "mini-grants" that range from US$15,000 to US$25,000. The grants provide stipends for participating faculty and students, travel, and supplies. CURM is funded by the National Science Foundation, the VWR Foundation, and Brigham Young University.

Participating faculty come to Brigham Young for a three-day workshop designed to train them as mentors to undergraduate students doing research. After the faculty return to their home institutions, CURM provides them with support and advice throughout the academic year as they work on research projects with their students. Faculty return to Brigham Young, together with their student groups, for CURM's annual Student Research Conference, where students present their findings.

CURM has had a profound and widespread effect. Almost 100 faculty members from close to 90 institutions have completed the CURM mentoring year, and nearly all of them have continued to work with undergraduates in research. The center has provided financial support to over three hundred undergraduate students (48 percent female, 26 percent minority, and 21 percent first-generation college students). CURM students have written 130 joint research papers and have given over 250 single or joint conference presentations or poster presentations. Among all mathematics majors at CURM-participating institutions, only 18 percent go on to graduate school. By contrast, 63 percent of CURM students do so.

Also receiving this year's Mathematics Programs that Make a Difference Award is the Pacific Coast Undergraduate Mathematics Conference.

The official announcement of the award to CURM, including the selection committee's citation appears in the May 2015 issue of the Notices of the AMS at http://www.ams.org/notices/201505/rnoti-p560.pdf.

Find out more about this and other AMS awards on the web at

http://www.ams.org/profession/prizes-awards/prizes.

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Founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship, today the American Mathematical Society of international membership fulfills its mission through programs and services that promote mathematical research and its uses, strengthen mathematical education, and foster awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and to everyday life.

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