Campus News

Department of mathematics is awarded $3.8 million NSF grant

The National Science Foundation has awarded UGA’s department of mathematics a five-year, $3.8 million grant to continue to develop its integrated research and training program.

The grant is part of NSF’s Vertical Integration of Research and Education program and is the second such grant awarded to the mathematics department, one of only a dozen departments nationwide to receive a follow-up VIGRE grant.

The first grant, awarded in 2001, was a five-year, $2.45 million grant.

“The first grant changed the culture of the graduate program in mathematics at UGA,” said Clint McCrory, mathematics professor. “A shift of emphasis from competition to cooperation and from traditional coursework to research has increased the success rate of students in our Ph.D. program. That original UGA grant was renewed in 2003.”

The main goal of the VIGRE program at UGA is to develop innovative research and mentoring programs in which undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty work together.

“The new grant signifies the inclusion of the University of Georgia in an elite class of institutions such as the University of Chicago, the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Washington at the cutting edge of integrating research and education,” said Daniel Nakano, mathematics professor and chair of the central VIGRE committee. “The new grant will provide ample resources for the mathematics department to continue to be a national leader in the training of high quality U.S. mathematicians.”

The second VIGRE grant is administered by a central VIGRE committee consisting of Nakano and McCrory, with co-principal investigator Jason Cantarella.

One of the initiatives developed under the department’s first grant (2001-06) was the creation of the Vertical Research Groups, which provide practical training by bringing together faculty, postdoctoral fellows and students to work on a common research project and are run much like laboratories in the physical and biological sciences. Several of VRGs developed at UGA have published research articles, and the VRGs have drawn praise as a ground-breaking model at the national forefront of graduate education reform.

“The major reason for the NSF funding of the VIGRE program has been to recruit and train mathematical scientists from the U.S. to meet the demands of the scientific workplace of the 21st century,” said Nakano.

Through the VIGRE grant the department will award 10 graduate fellowships at a level of $25,000 per year and employ four additional postdoctoral fellows.

“The VIGRE II grant will enable the department to build a new undergraduate study area, which will serve as a meeting place for groups of students working together,” said Cantarella.

In VIGRE II, the mathematics department plans to develop a variety of activities to increase recruitment and retention of students pursuing mathematics.

The department, part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, will create a 12-month graduate program through the installation of a Summer Training Program.

During the summer, students will have opportunity to take graduate classes and participate in a two-week summer school directed each year in a particular research area.

The department will promote interdisciplinary research at all levels through the Internship and Interdisciplinary Outreach Program. In this program, students will have opportunities to intern with academic, industrial and government agencies.

The department also will create an educational outreach component through the Mathematicians Education Future Teachers Program.

Margaret Cozzens, author of a recent book on VIGRE, writes, “MEFT is the brainchild of Dr. Sybilla Beckmann, who is a leader in the movement to involve mathematicians in teacher education.”

The MEFT program will enable UGA to have a positive impact at local area schools and on the national level by preparing graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to effectively teach prospective K-12 teachers.