Undergraduate students conduct math research at Fairfield University with support from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense



Nine students from eight universities and six states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia, Minnesota and Texas, will spend their summer working on original mathematics and computing research, thanks to Fairfield University's first Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program in Mathematics and Computational Science. The three-year program is made possible through a $296,569 grant from the prestigious National Science Foundation.

Image: Shawn Rafalski"These are gifted students who will be challenged to work on new math problems that have yet to be solved," said Dr. Shawn Rafalski, assistant professor of mathematics, who directs the grant.

The would-be novelist, who was turned on to math in college, quotes Russian poet Alexander Pushkin: "Inspiration is needed in geometry, just as much as in poetry," on unlocking the mysteries of math. Rafalski says, "The mathematician has all of the necessary 'language,' that is, the numbers and the mathematical concepts, at hand - just as the poet has all the necessary words. It just takes the right creative insight to put everything in place."

Rafalski guided undergraduate research in the Williams College Summer REU Program before coming to Fairfield and said it was "the most rewarding professional, personal, and pedagogical experience" of his career.

Other professors who are collaborating with students on research during the June 13-August 15 program are Chris Bernhardt, professor of mathematics, and P. Christopher Staecker, assistant professor of mathematics.

The REU Program runs from June 13 through August 15. After the end of the program, the groups will spend time giving talks on their research topics in various venues, including at the annual national meetings of the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America.

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Posted on June 30, 2011

Vol. 43, No. 332