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Math Department Receives National Science Foundation Grant for Summer Undergraduate Research Program

RELEASED: Sept. 7, 2006

EAU CLAIRE — The department of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has received a $269,740 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund the "Summer Undergraduate Research Experience in Pure and Applied Mathematics," under the direction of Mohamed Elgindi, professor of mathematics, and Michael Howe, associate professor of mathematics.

The four-year grant will provide $2,000 summer stipends for undergraduate students from UW-Eau Claire and other campuses to live on campus and conduct research with UW-Eau Claire faculty during an eight-week summer program. The program, which will get under way in the summer of 2007, also pays travel, housing and meals.

Howe said the NSF-Research Experiences for Undergraduates program is extremely competitive, with only 3 percent of proposals funded on the first try.

"The reviewers cited the UW-Eau Claire mathematics department's strong record of successful student-faculty research collaboration when recommending this proposal for funding," Howe said. "We are thrilled to be funded the first time through."

This grant is yet another example of UW-Eau Claire faculty members' commitment to providing their students with research experiences that go beyond what's typically available to undergraduate students, said Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich.

"Since arriving on campus this summer, I've been continuously amazed by the quality and number of research opportunities available to our students from their freshman year on," Levin-Stankevich said. "These are the kinds of experiences that will help students get into top graduate schools and succeed in their professional lives."

The program will fund 10 students and five faculty advisers each of the four summers. Students will be primarily recruited from undergraduate institutions in the Midwest. They will live in Chancellors Hall and work on specific problems in small groups led by faculty advisers. Faculty from the students' home institutions will be involved, thus building ties among math students and faculty from different universities.

"Because we are targeting students with limited research opportunities, the program will broaden the base for developing future professional mathematicians," Howe said.

It is expected that most groups will present their work at regional and national conferences, and some will produce publishable results.

"The idea is to get more people involved in careers in math and science," Howe said. "Our goal is to give the students a real sense of what it means to participate in mathematical research in a meaningful way and an awareness of the professional possibilities this opens for them."

Howe said it's not common for undergraduates to do research in mathematics.

"We have worked very hard to develop problems that are suitable for undergraduates," Howe said. "Math research is not homework. There may not be an answer to a research problem or it may lead to another area of investigation."

UW-Eau Claire's mathematics department includes about 30 faculty members. About 250 students are pursuing math majors or minors at UW-Eau Claire.

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JW/JB

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