Undergraduate Research Projects

Mathematics research by undergraduates in the United States has gone from rare in the mid-1980s to commonplace now.  Undergraduate contributions range from introductory to cutting edge, with occasional publications in some of the highest level professional journals.  Now there are several undergraduate journals, Involve, Rose-Hulman, Minnesota, SIAM, and Pi Mu Epsilon among them, containing significant results in all mathematical specialties.

These days undergraduate research experience is critical to being competitive for entrance into top graduate programs.  Numerous summer programs are funded by the National Science Foundation and the Mathematics Association of America, among others.  VCU also offers summer support through UROP and HSURP, the latter available to Honors students only.  These experiences are also highly valuable for employment at the plethora of National Labs and Federal Agencies (including the National Security Agency, the largest employer of mathematicians in the world), as well as the huge array of technical companies in STEM industries like communications, biotech, information, finance, internet, pharmaceuticals, entertainment, and more.

But there are other, more fundamental reasons to engage in mathematical research.  Students often gain a greater understanding of how mathematics works in the modern world, a heightened facility with generating and analyzing data in any realm of life, an exuberance for group and solo problem solving that welcomes hard challenges, a stronger ability to communicate technical information, and a deepened connection with fellow students and professors in the project.  Not bad.

The selection of projects with the professors listed below offer students opportunities to work closely with Math Department professors, as an independent study or summer activity, potentially receiving funding through one of the sources mentioned above.  It can provide an excellent springboard to some of the other opportunities discussed as well.  Please read the project descriptions and contact the professor with whom you would like to study.

Projects with Faculty

Graph Pebbling - Professor Hurlbert
Fluid Dynamics of Nematocysts - Professor Segal
Arterial Plaque Formation - Professor Segal
Biodiversity - Professor Chan
Pattern Formations in Agent-Based Aggregation Models - Professor Topaloglu
Efficient Algorithms for the Quantum Satisfiability Problem - Professor Aldi
Generalized Geometry of Lie Algebras - Professor Aldi

Funded Programs

Students have a number of opportunities to participate in cutting edge research.  Many of these opportunities, see below, are offered in the summer.  Though if you are interested please feel free to seek out a faculty member to ask if they have any opportunities beyond these listed or whether they might be interested in participating in these.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program:  This is a summer VCU program that involves an application process that you complete with a faculty mentor.  The application is typically due in early to mid-spring semester.  For more info please go to http://wp.vcu.edu/vcuurop/

– Honors Summer Undergraduate Research Program:  This is a summer VCU program for honors students.  The descriptions for the projects usually come up in early spring.  You must be an honors student.  For more info please go to:  https://honors.vcu.edu/academics/engaged-learning--research/hsurp/

Research Experience for Undergraduates:  This is a National Science Foundation program that has opportunities all over the nation.  For more information please go to:  http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/list_result.jsp?unitid=5044

VCU Office of Research and Innovation: https://research.vcu.edu/index.htm