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Regular version of the site

Summer Mathematics Programme Tailored to Students’ Research Interests

The HSE Summer University is off to a strong start this year, and one of its programmes – the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Mathematics – has already been met with considerable enthusiasm by participating students. Designed for undergraduate students majoring in Mathematics or related areas, participants work on research projects under the supervision of distinguished mathematicians.

Participating for the second year in the row as a faculty major is Sergei Lando, Tenured Professor in the Faculty of Mathematics, whose work centres on invariants of graphs and knots. ‘I am working as part of the Summer University programme for the second year’, he says. ‘I must say that the format of the programme is unusual for me – it is about the interaction, limited in time for several weeks, during which a tangible result must be obtained. And this is one of the reasons why I wanted to take part in it’.

Sebastiaan van Gilst, a native of the Netherlands who is currently studying in a 4-year integrated Master’s programme at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, is looking to gain experience in research to determine whether the profession is something he wants to pursue as a career. ‘It is difficult, but I have all the resources to help me understand’, he says about his experience so far in the programme. ‘I overcome difficulties mainly through discussions with my research group’.

Mauro Mariani, Senior Research Fellow in the Laboratory of Stochastic Analysis and Its Applications who taught in the programme, acknowledges that mathematical research at a young age is not easy. ‘Math can be overwhelming’, he says. ‘A feeling of inadequacy toward the subject is common among mathematicians, so motivation is an essential requirement to approach open problems with a fresh and energetic attitude’.

Muqing Zheng, a 20 year-old math/computational science double-major student from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the United States, focuses on discrete mathematics and computational methods. He considers HSE’s math faculties to be top-notch, and believes that a good professor is everything in a research programme: ‘My professor, Dr. Brav, is very approachable and extremely knowledgeable. He knows how to think on his feet. I am learning how to tackle problems from different angles by building mathematical relations.’ Muqing Zheng plans to go to a graduate school to focus on applied mathematics and is sure that the research experience he obtained at HSE will be of great value.

Another participant, Nikolaos Adaloglou, is a 21-year-old student from Athens, Greece who just finished his year third undergraduate year. He wanted to join the programme as a way to produce some original work, since his home university doesn’t have undergraduate thesis projects.

‘So far the programme has been really enjoyable and interesting’, Nikolaos says. ‘In particular, Professor Lando, my advisor, has been more than helpful and all around a very nice and interesting person to work with. In only the first week I have learned much, and I am sure that over the next two weeks I will learn even more’.

Nikolaos is one of three students who Professor Lando is advising this summer, the other two coming from Turkey and China.

‘Nick has a summer semester experience in Princeton, so he will have the opportunity to compare different universities’, Professor Lando says. ‘I tried to find a topic for his studies related to his previous experience. Nick and Serkan, my student who came from Turkey, interact well with each other. Despite the fact that the themes of their work are different, they have common subjects for conversation and communication. This helps them advance’, he says, emphasizing how the programme can be tailored to each student’s interests and experience.

Mariani agrees that one of the advantages of the math programme is the opportunity to work intensely on a subject, just as in usual mathematical research.

‘The summer is a good moment to do so, as both teachers and students are less busy,’ he said. ‘I treated students as I would any collaborator, sharing any idea one could have about the subject, working long hours at the blackboard, then taking breaks to summarize what one had understood so far. This is totally different from what a lecture looks like, and hopefully useful both for me and the student. I am really glad HSE runs this programme, as several top universities do around the world.’

The REU in Mathematics generally takes three weeks during the period from June 20 until August 20, 2018, with the exact timespan worked out by the participant and confirmed by the advisor. Students are guaranteed at least 8 hours of consultations by assigned advisors and their assistants. Upon completing their project, students are expected to produce a written report that will be reviewed and evaluated by their advisors.

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