120 E Cameron Avenue, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3250

Opportunities

This page contains opportunities for undergraduate students to become involved in the Department of Mathematics. Some popular methods of involvement include the Directed Reading Program, which pairs an undergraduate student with a graduate student mentor for a semester-long independent student project, Math Competitions, Independent Study, Undergraduate Math Club, Undergraduate Learning Assistants and routes to become involved in Research. The page also contains information regarding scholarships and awards, both inside and outside the department.

Directed Reading Program

General Information

The Directed Reading Program (DRP) pairs undergraduate students with graduate student mentors for a semester-long independent study project. It is an opportunity for motivated students to get one-on-one mentorship as they learn about a math topic of their interest but is out of the scope of the courses offered at UNC. Topics can include specific problems of interest, more in-depth learning about a course topic, or an introduction to higher level math. The program is coordinated by math Ph.D. students with supervision by Dr Yaiza Canzani. Participation is not for credit and does not appear on a student’s transcript.

You do not need to have a specific project in mind to apply! Just tell us what interests you and we will try our best to match you with a suitable mentor. Once paired, the mentee and mentor jointly decide on a specific topic of study. Most projects are based on a particular book or article that the mentee reads at their own pace, guided and supplemented by the mentor.

Here are some presentation guidelines for giving a talk in math.

List of Project Ideas – Fall 2018

ProjectMenteeMentor
Quantum CalculusCai DavisBradley Hicks
Dynamical Systems and ChaosMatthew GregoireColin Kofroth
Number TheoryMingming LangJay Havaldar
Differential Geometry and GeodesicsZoe LiColin Thomson
Differential TopologyXiangrui LuoYiyan Shou
Dynamical Systems in NeuroscienceAllison SwagertWesley Hamilton
Galois Theory and ConstructionsAbigail WatkinsHunter Dinkins

List of Project Ideas – Spring 2019

Ph.DMaster’s
Minimum 48 semester hours of course workMinimum 30 semester hours of course work
Complete degree within eight years of initial registrationComplete degree within five years of initial registration
Pass written comprehensive exams in Pure or Applied Math optionPass one of the written Ph.D comprehensive exams at the Master’s level
Pass oral examinationWrite a Master’s Thesis or complete a Master’s Project
Perform public dissertation defensePass oral examination after completion of thesis or project
Complete computer language requirement to demonstrate programming abilityComplete computer language requirement to demonstrate programming ability
Perform minimum of two semesters instructional service

Program Expectations: Each mentee meets weekly with their mentor for about an hour. The details of these meetings are left up to the mentee/mentor pairs; they might include presentations by the mentee, general discussion, questions about exercises, etc. In addition to the meetings, the mentee is expected to work independently for at least four hours each week. At the end of the semester, each student gives a presentation on a topic they have studied to others who are participating in the Directed Reading Program. Contact us at: math_drp@unc.edu

Students

BENEFITS
As a participant in this program, you will:

  • Learn to work independently through studying a topic of their choice, well-suited to their interests.
  • Establish relationships with graduate student mentors and receive a good deal of personal attention focused on their mathematical studies.
  • Gain valuable experience in mathematical communication by giving a presentation on their work to an audience of their peers.
  • Develop crucial skills and background useful for pursuing undergraduate research.
  • Prepares students for more advanced courses.
  • Gives students a chance to discover if graduate school is something they would like to pursue.

TO APPLY

Read the ‘Qualifications’ section below to determine whether you are eligible to participate. If you qualify, you can fill out the application when it opens. Applications for Fall 2021 are OPEN.

The application process requires the following:

  1. Fill out the application form by 5PM on August 12th, 2021.
  2. Two references – note that we do not require a letter, just a person to contact
    • Two previous instructors OR
    • One previous instructor and your major adviser

Qualifications: Applicants must be UNC undergraduates. They need not be math majors but must have a strong mathematical background and certain level of mathematical maturity. Applicants must have passed Math 233, Calculus 3, or Math 381, Discrete Mathematics, with a grade above a C. Applicants must be self-motivated and capable of sustaining an independent study project for the duration of the semester.

Considerations: We understand that many students might not know what interests them and recommend they look at our project ideas, above, for inspiration. However, applicants are not exclusively limited to the aforementioned list and are encouraged to suggest projects that sound interesting to them if there is something they would like to pursue.

Before applying, please consider the four hour per week time commitment and be sure that it will not negatively impact your other studies. Space in the program is limited, we want to see all of our students grow and make it to the final presentations but not at the expense of other classes or your sanity.

Re-applying?: Applicants who were not selected but are still interested should re-apply whenever applications are open.

If you have participated in our program before, then you are welcome to re-apply. The goal of the DRP is to provide mentorship and to foster the mathematical interests of our undergraduates, but we discourage re-applying with the intention to read with the same mentor on the same topic. Here are some things you can do:

  • Re-apply to the program to explore a new topic
  • Ask your previous mentor if they might continue reading with you in their spare time
  • If you’ve advanced sufficiently far in your past projects and in the math courses, seek out a faculty member to read with or do research. Your participation in the program is intended to be part of the preparation in reaching this academic goal.

Mentors

The Directed Reading Program looks for mentors among graduate students in the mathematics department. To be a mentor we require graduate students to have passed at least one comprehensive exam before applications are due. When applications for the semester are open, an email will sent out to math graduate students asking them to apply online.
Textbook Resources: In order to keep book costs low, graduate student mentors should try to find the cheapest alternative for the text they decide on with their student. Here are some low-cost or free resources you might consider:

We thank UNC Libraries for their help and support.

PEOPLE
Faculty Adviser:
Dr. Yaiza Canzani

Committee Members:
Gracie Conte
Collin Kofroth
Katie Slyman

Past Members:
Kate Daftari
Bradley Hicks
Sam Jeralds
Blake Keeler
Paul Kruse
Katri Morgan

Honors and Competitions

Honors Carolina is more than honorific. It is a rigorous, interdisciplinary academic program designed for students who are eager to explore beyond their immediate academic concentrations and anticipated career trajectories. We want and expect our students to be committed to living a life of the mind.

Graduation with Honors

COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES REQUIREMENTS
Students must have a 3.3 overall grade point average to begin an honors project and must maintain the 3.3 average through the completion of their senior year.

B.A./B.S. MATHEMATICS ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS
A student interested in pursuing a degree with Honors should meet before the senior year with the Departmental Honors Advisor, Richard Rimanyi to discuss a plan for fulfilling the requirements for a degree with Honors.

Course Requirements: The candidate must have completed nine courses from the following list: MATH 381, MATH 383, MATH 347 (or MATH 577, but not both), MATH 521, and five additional 500+ level MATH courses, not counting MATH691H. At least seven of these courses must be completed before registering for MATH 691H. All 9 courses must be completed before registering for MATH 692H unless prior approval has been granted from the Departmental Honors Advisor and Director of Undergraduate Studies. For classes taken during COVID, with special university rules regarding pass/fail, two classes with PS grade (but not LP grade) may count towards Honors.

GPA Requirements: The candidate must have a 3.5 GPA in the above listed course requirements (the best five, 500+ level grades will be used). The candidate also must maintain a 3.5 GPA while enrolled in MATH 691H and MATH 692H.

Thesis and Defense Requirements: A written thesis and defense must be completed during MATH 692H to receive departmental honors. The thesis committee (composed of three faculty members including the project advisor) must make a recommendation to the Departmental Honors Advisor and a semi-final draft of the thesis must be submitted to the Departmental Honors Advisor at least one week before departmental reporting is due (typically mid April). The final draft of the thesis must be submitted to the Carolina digital repository by the last day of classes.

Highest Honors: In the event a thesis committee recommends highest honors, the Departmental Honors Advisor will form an ad hoc committee to evaluate the file, with experts from all fields. In addition to the above requirements, a 3.75 GPA from the same courses must be maintained. The ad hoc committee will look for significant work beyond a major, and original, independent research in thesis to make a recommendation.

You can view recent Honors Projects here.

Competitions

The William Lowell Putnam Competition is held annually on the first Saturday of December with morning and afternoon sessions. The Department provides lunch between sessions. Our students usually score well above the national average, and have finished as high as tenth in the nation.

The Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest is offered on the last Saturday morning in October and makes cash awards for the highest scores in the mid-Atlantic region. UNC students have often won these awards.

The Mathematical Contest in Modeling, MCM, is a yearly team competition run by the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications, emphasizing creative solutions to real-world problems. Teams choose from a continuous and a discrete problem and are expected to formulate a solution and write a paper in a few days. Of the solutions judged “Outstanding” in the MCM, two are chosen to receive the SIAM Award from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, one for each problem.

Independent Study

Students can conduct original research or independent study under the guidance of a faculty member. Possibilities include study of an advanced or special topic, work as a research assistant, participation in a problem-solving seminar, and investigation of open problems as part of an honors project.

To get started, a student should find a willing faculty member to help design and oversee the effort; the departmental honors advisor can help with this step. Course credit can be obtained through the numbers MATH 296, 691H or 692H with the approval of the supervising faculty member, and the Independent Study Coordinator, Richard Rimanyi.

Once the student reaches an agreement with a faculty supervisor, the student must complete an Independent Study Learning Contract through the Online Learning Contract Manager (OLCM). The contract must be completed and approved by the Friday of the first week of classes.

If you are applying to MATH 691H or MATH 692H, please include a copy of your unofficial transcript with the application. You can access your unofficial transcript in ConnectCarolina click on the My Academics link in the Academics area of your Student Center. Then, select the View my Internal Transcript link.

Instructions for completing the learning contract in Online Learning Contract Manager can be found at:

Students
Faculty

Undergraduate Math Club

The Carolina Math Club is for all undergraduates with an interest in mathematics. The club organizes roughly two events each month, both academic and social gatherings. These events range from mathematical lectures by faculty/students/visitors to panel discussions on topics including applying to graduate school, research experiences for undergraduates, study abroad, internships, and other summer opportunities.

The club is run by students and for students. You can follow the Math Club on Facebook or Twitter.

Undergraduate Learning Assistants (ULA’s)

The Math Department uses undergraduates as classroom assistants (also called “Learning Assistants”) in some of the following classes:

  • MATH 110 (Algebra)
  • MATH 130 (Precalculus)
  • MATH 231 (Calculus 1)
  • MATH 232 ( Calculus 2)
  • MATH 233 (Multivariable Calculus)
  • MATH 347 (Linear Algebra)
  • MATH 383 (Differential Equations)
  • MATH 528 (Math Methods for the Physical Sciences)

If you have taken one or more of these classes at UNC (or the equivalent elsewhere) and received at least a B in the class, and if you like talking about math and helping other students, then we want you!

Please contact Miranda Thomas for more information or APPLY HERE.

FAQ

What do Learning Assistants do? The assistants attend every class. When the instructor gives students a problem to work on or a concept question to discuss, the assistants circulate around the room and answer questions from students. If there are no hands up, they engage the students by asking things like “What are you thinking?”, “Do you know what to do first?”, etc. and give hints or ask leading questions. Some assistants also hold review sessions before tests or on a weekly basis, or hold 1-on-1 tutoring sessions outside of class.

Do Learning Assistants get paid, or get course credit? This year there are three options:

  1. Assistants can get paid through work study, if they are eligible
  2. Assistants can get 1 unit of course credit by:
    1. registering for MATH 296 with Erin Willis
    2. completing training
    3. assisting every class period
    4. holding one hour review sessions, office hour, or 1-on-1 tutoring sessions every week,
    5. writing a final paper
  3. Assistants can volunteer without compensation. Many students volunteer because they enjoy explaining math to other students and find it a good way to get teaching experience and to keep up their skills.

What kind of training will I receive? Training will be held with staff from the Learning Center. For Spring 2022, training will be held at the following date and time and location:

TBD

We will ask all Learning Assistants to attend training, regardless of their compensation status. Students who have already attended training during a previous semester are expected to attend only parts of the training (to be specified).

Throughout the semester, the instructor of the class will let you know what they want you to do on a week to week basis.

How can I apply? Please fill out this online form.

Other Undergraduate Resources

This page includes resources outside of the Department of Mathematics that may be useful for undergraduate students.

Scholarships and Awards

Graduate School Opportunities

Math Societies and Associations

Women in Math

Get Involved in Research!

At UNC, we believe that students who experience inquiry and discovery during their college careers are better prepared to address future unsolved problems and to assume important roles as enlightened citizens and leaders. We thus encourage undergraduate students to get involved in original research with our faculty.

There are many pathways to find a research opportunity at UNC. We encourage you to start by exploring UNC’s Office for Undergraduate Research, paying special attention to the Database of Research Opportunities, which will allow you to identify research projects that match your interests.

We also encourage you to browse our Research page to learn more about the main research themes, opportunities, and facilities available in the Math department. Our faculty are always approachable and excited to work with undergrads. You can thus explore their Faculty profiles, where you will find more details on their specific research interests, and send them an email directly.

In some instances, students can conduct original research or independent study under the guidance of a faculty member for course credit. Please see the Independent Study section for additional information.

For Additional Information Contact

Erin Willis

Erin Willis

Undergraduate Student Services Manager

336 Phillips Hall
919-962-0198
ewillis3@email.unc.edu