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Award Abstract #1263127

REU Site: Research Experience for Undergraduates in Industrial Mathematics and Statistics

NSF Org: DMS
Division Of Mathematical Sciences
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Initial Amendment Date: February 6, 2013
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Latest Amendment Date: April 30, 2015
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Award Number: 1263127
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Award Instrument: Continuing grant
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Program Manager: Jennifer Slimowitz Pearl
DMS Division Of Mathematical Sciences
MPS Direct For Mathematical & Physical Scien
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Start Date: May 1, 2013
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End Date: April 30, 2017 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $382,000.00
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Investigator(s): Suzanne Weekes sweekes@wpi.edu (Principal Investigator)
Burt Tilley (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
100 INSTITUTE RD
WORCESTER, MA 01609-2247 (508)831-5000
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NSF Program(s): WORKFORCE IN THE MATHEMAT SCI
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Program Reference Code(s): 9250
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Program Element Code(s): 7335

ABSTRACT

The WPI REU program in Industrial Mathematics and Statistics provides a unique educational experience for students of the mathematical sciences by introducing them to research in an industrial environment. It provides a glimpse of the many career possibilities which are open to students with a strong mathematical background. The students work in teams on problems that come directly from local business and industry. Students work closely with a company representative to define the problem and develop solutions of immediate value to the company. They work closely with a faculty advisor to formulate the problem mathematically and maintain a clear focus on the mathematics at the core of the project. Industrial problems rarely fit into one area of mathematics and this fact is an important part of the research experience. Many projects require some combination of classical analysis, modelling, statistics, optimization, and computer programming. The results from the projects completed in the REU program are of direct importance to the industrial partners and impact research and development at these companies. Further, projects developed for the REU program are modified for use in K-12 mathematics curricula in order to improve student motivation and generate interest in careers in the mathematical sciences.

Many mathematics graduates now follow nonacademic career paths. Of the roughly 1200 2010-2011 doctoral recipients in the Mathematical Sciences who have known employment in the U.S., 31.5% of them have taken up employment in business, government, industry, research institutes and other not-for-profits. When one takes out those writing statistics or biostatistics dissertations, one finds that 22% of the new mathematicians are working outside academia. The WPI REU Program in Industrial Mathematics and Statistics aims to expose students to mathematics research that occurs outside of the university setting. It aims to provide challenges to students not faced in standard undergraduate programs and to develop skills not always developed in traditional educational programs, such as (a) communication at several levels, including reading, writing, speaking, and listening; (b) problem formulation as an interactive, evolutionary process; and (c) the ability to work with a diverse team. The WPI REU Program in Industrial Mathematics and Statistics has existed since 1998 and, since that time, we have worked with 167 students who have come from 119 different U.S. colleges in 37 states and Puerto Rico; 45% of the students were female. Only 7 of these 167 students were WPI students. Of the 119 universities that have been represented at the REU program over the last 15 years, 50% of them do not offer graduate degrees in mathematics. We have worked on 47 different industrial projects sponsored by 23 different companies. Students from the REU program often go on to pursue graduate degrees in mathematics and in other fields, and they also pursue careers in finance and industry.

 

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