By Darren Narayan, Rochester Institute of Technology
It is the dawn of the new academic year following a summer of successful research projects. Many students are eager to share their work with faculty and students at their home institutions but also are looking to present their work at mathematical conferences. Presenting at conferences usually involves finding travel funding for students, and possibly their mentors. A terrific low-cost option is for students to present at MAA Section Meetings. Another option is to present at national or international meetings. However these trips require significant travel support.
It is a formidable task to obtain funds for students to travel to a national or international conference. When I was an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Binghamton I was invited to give a presentation at the 1994 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Cincinnati. I asked my dean “If the basketball team made to the national championship game, the university would send them, right? So shouldn’t it make sense to support an undergraduate mathematics student that has reached the national level?” The dean agreed and I got funding to the conference.
With recent cutbacks at many colleges and universities professors are having difficulty securing funds for their own conference travel. Finding travel funds for students is even harder. In this column, we present some ideas for obtaining travel support for students.
PI Mu Epsilon – by David Sutherland, PI-Mu Epsilon President, Hendrix College
The National Mathematics Honor Society, Pi Mu Epsilon, is aimed at promoting scholarly activity among students.
Each spring PME awards transportation and sustenance grants to students attending the national PME meeting that is part of MathFest, the summer meeting of the MAA. Funding information is posted on our website sometime in the late spring with an early summer deadline. Generally, we try to match the MAA deadlines.
We can reimburse transportation expenses up to $600 each for one or two student speakers from each Pi Mu Epsilon Chapter. If more than two speakers come from the same chapter, the maximum reimbursement is $600 per speaker with a maximum total reimbursement of $1200 for the chapter. If no one from your chapter plans on giving a paper, we can fund up to half (with a maximum of $300) of the transportation expenses for one delegate. Additionally, in most years we are able to provide $100-$200 sustenance support to help defray food and lodging costs thanks to a grant from the National Security Agency.
All student speakers and delegates must be members of the chapter at their home institution, which is the one that must nominate them as a speaker or delegate. Since this is an undergraduate conference, all research presented by speakers must have been completed while they were undergraduates. To insure that all work completed as an undergraduate has the chance to be presented, we do permit recently graduated students to present. However, we expect that student speakers and delegates have not completed more than 30 semester hours (or the equivalent) in a graduate program in mathematics prior to MathFest.
To qualify for the reimbursement you must attend the full meeting of Pi Mu Epsilon from the PME-MAA Student Reception to the conclusion of the Frame Lecture, unless you have written consent for an exemption from the President of Pi Mu Epsilon.
Talks may be expository on material undergraduates probably have not seen in their classrooms or on new research accomplished while an undergraduate. Any area of mathematics or its applications is appropriate. Presentation time is fifteen minutes. The American Mathematical Society will give PME $1000 and the American Statistical Association will give PME $450 that PME will use to give ten $150 cash awards to students whose exposition and research are exemplary, and the Council for Undergraduate Research will give a $150 cash award for the best research paper.
In addition to these eleven awards for the best presentations, there may be more $150 cash awards, called ‘sponsored awards' if some of these best presentations represent research applicable to the special interests of these sponsoring organizations: MAA Special Interest Groups for Environmental Mathematics (SIGMAA-EM) and for Biology (BioSIGMAA), and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.
MAA Diversity Initiative (Announcement)
The Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters (CUSAC) of the MAA administers a program called the Diversity Initiative. This program provides support for students from under-represented groups to attend the January 2010 Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM) in San Francisco, CA. Due to limited funding, priority is given to institutions within approximately 200 miles of San Francisco, and each institution is limited to one mini-grant.
Faculty members planning on taking undergraduate students to the 2010 Joint Mathematics Meetings should consider applying for one of these mini-grants. Some or all of the students should be from groups that are under-represented in the mathematical sciences. CUSAC can award grants of up to $500 per institution for student travel, lodging, registration, and meals. Presentation of a paper or poster is not required. Grantees are to pay for travel expenses first and apply for reimbursement after the meetings.
Applications forms are accepted from faculty members (not students). Forms can be obtained by emailing Jean Bee Chan of Sonoma State University (firstname.lastname@example.org) for an application form as soon as possible. Applications may be filed by email and the deadline is 11/2/09.
Specific Conferences that Provide Support
Some conferences provide travel support for students and mentors. For example, The Young Mathematicians Conference held annually at The Ohio State University provides some support for accepted presentations. Details can be found on their website: http://www.math.ohio-state.edu/conferences/ymc/. It is a good idea to investigate if travel support is offered from the conference and better yet, have students seek out such conferences.
Reach out to YOUR development office
In addition to the above potential venues for funding, the student’s own institution can sometimes help out. Some departments or schools have funding to support such student activities, but if not, it can pay to get creative.
Eight years ago I approached the college’s development office here at the Rochester Institute of Technology that works with our Alumni Network. I had two very promising undergraduate students who had done research substantial enough to present at a national mathematics conference. I pitched to our development officer the idea of finding alumni that would be willing to “sponsor a student”, by covering the travel expenses for the student. Our development office loved the idea. It turns out that many development offices do not have a large supply of short-term, definite return, funding initiatives in the $500-1000 range. A key strength of this approach is that alumni could see the benefits of their donation within months rather than years. After a short meeting with our director development and an alumnus, the alumnus offered a check to cover the conference travel for the two students.
The students presented their work at 33rd Southeastern International Conference on Combinatorics, Graph Theory, and Computing in Boca Raton, FL and later published their findings in a mathematical journal. After the students returned we held a luncheon on campus where the alumnus and his wife (another alumnus) could meet the two students. This was a wonderful event where not only did the students thank the alumni for their generosity, but also the alumni could see what a difference their gift made to our students. They immediately sponsored four students the following year. Donations from alumni and other sources have helped support 44 national conference presentations by RIT students in the past seven years.
Our Alumni have praised the program’s long-lasting merits. The conference presentation stays on the students’ resumes forever. It even helps students after they graduate by strengthening their chances for getting into graduate school or obtaining their dream job. Our alumni see that they are providing the experience of a lifetime for our students.
We invite you to submit articles that address issues related to undergraduate research in mathematics. Our aim is for upcoming issues to have a special focus on: interdisciplinary research, research involving students from underrepresented groups, and effectively communicating mathematics.
To submit an article (roughly 2-4 pages in length), please email a pdf to both editors Sarah Adams (sarah.adams AT olin.edu) and Darren Narayan (dansma AT rit.edu).
Sarah Spence Adams is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.
Darren Narayan is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Research in Mathematics at the Rochester Institute of Technology.