Campus News

$2M NSF grant aims to help attract, train math students

UGA has received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to continue its efforts to educate math majors at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The grant will be administered over a five-year period.

Since 2008, the math department’s collaborative Algebra, Algebraic Geometry and Number Theory group, or AGANT, has been working to attract and train more mathematicians at all levels. The department is housed in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“Our objective is to provide an intellectually compelling, pedagogically well-planned and professionally nurturing environment in which undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs will thrive,” said Dino Lorenzini, a Distinguished Research Professor of Mathematics.

This initiative is meant to help students with an interest in math explore their options, learn more about the field and cultivate the skills needed for employment in the future.

Modern digital communication offers an array of job opportunities for students with mathematics training. Two practical applications are in cryptography and coding theory.

“Cryptography is about making communications secure, for instance when you send your credit card number to an Internet vendor. Coding theory is about correctly transmitting information and identifying errors in communications and, if possible, correcting the errors made,” Lorenzini said. “All modern digital communication uses some encryption and some error-correcting code technology.”

Several of the department’s graduates have gone on to work for the National Security Agency, which Lorenzini calls “probably the single largest employer of mathematicians in the country.”

Through a variety of initiatives, AGANT will use the grant to help pave the way for future mathematicians. The bulk of the funding will go toward graduate student fellowships. During the 2014-2015 academic year, the mathematics department will fund six graduate students with $25,000 fellowships each. Funds also will pay the salaries of postdoctoral fellows.

“The fellowships in the award will allow us to compete at the national and international levels to continue to attract to UGA outstanding graduate students and postdocs,” Lorenzini said. “We will ensure that they thrive in our intellectually challenging, but also nurturing, research environment.”

The grant also will fund an undergraduate summer program in 2015 and three research conferences in 2016, 2017 and 2018.