An intensive mathematics program for undergraduate women

June 14 1997 - July 26 1997


The Summer Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (SIMS) at Berkeley is a six-week program for mathematically talented women. It is designed to motivate and prepare participants to enter and complete successfully a Ph.D. program in the mathematical sciences. The program takes place at the University of California, Berkeley.

Eligibility. All applicants

  • must be women who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents;
  • must be undergraduates, currently enrolled at an American college or university offering a bachelor's degree in mathematics;
  • must have completed with distinction, by June of 1997, the equivalent of at least two years of collegiate-level mathematics, including a course in Real Analysis or Modern Algebra; and
  • must expect to graduate with a bachelor's degree no earlier than December 1997.

    The award. Approximately twenty women will be selected. Each will receive a travel allowance, campus room and board, and a stipend.

    The program. SIMS offers four seminars, and each student participates in two. The seminar character is quite different from that encountered in most undergraduate mathematics courses. Students are asked to tackle challenging problems, individually and in small groups. Seminars are organized to enable students to obtain a deep understanding of basic concepts in an area of mathematics, to learn how to do independent work, and to gain experience in expressing mathematical ideas orally and in writing. No course credit or grades are given. Each seminar has 10 to 12 participants, and meets for two two-hour periods every week, with additional section meetings twice a week. Seminar topics in 1996 included Dynamical Systems, Elliptic Curves, Graph Problems: Algorithms and Counting, and Stochastic Processes. Topics for the 1997 seminars will be chosen by program faculty.

    Faculty. All SIMS faculty are women who are active research mathematicians and excellent teachers. They are selected from universities and research laboratories nationwide, and occasionally from abroad. Students and faculty spend a lot of time together, talking, sharing meals, and doing mathematics. In 1996 the faculty were Claire Kenyon (C.N.R.S., France), Ursula Porod (U.C. Berkeley), Ami Radunskaya (Pomona College), and Leila Schneps (C.N.R.S., France). Faculty for SIMS in 1997 have not yet been selected. Seminar assistance is provided by women who are graduate students in the mathematical sciences. Some are past participants of the program.

    Colloquium talks. Each week, participants attend two colloquium talks, given by research mathematicians. These talks provide a broad view of current work in mathematics. Speakers are drawn from Berkeley faculty and the large number of mathematicians who visit the Bay Area each summer. Several of the talks cover current research that is closely connected with the material in one of the seminars, or is a blend of material in two of the seminars. Participants get the chance to meet the speakers at receptions and meals following the talks. Talks in 1996 included "Diophantine Problems and Hellegouarch-Frey curves" by Ken Ribet of U.C. Berkeley, "Knots and 3-manifolds" by Abby Thompson of U.C. Davis, "Shuffling, Sorting, and Randomness" by David Aldous of U.C. Berkeley, and "Random Tilings and Lattices" by Dana Randall of Princeton University. A lighter note was provided by Larry Gonick, author of the Cartoon Guides to Genetics, Physics, and Statistics, who spoke on "Cartooning the Universe - Higher Mathematics and Science Journalism."

    Panels and information sessions. Evening discussions give students concrete ideas about career opportunities and graduate programs in mathematics. One session focuses on details of how to apply to graduate programs, and provides information about a variety of fellowships and financial support. Another is about the recent history of women in mathematics, and the experience of women at graduate schools in the mathematical sciences. A third gives participants a view of the variety of graduate programs, and a fourth is about non-academic careers in the mathematical sciences. Panelists are drawn from mathematicians at universities and research laboratories. The setting is informal, and panelists answer the barrage of questions with honesty and good humor.

    Student colloquium. Students organize and run their own colloquium series, where they speak on mathematical topics of their choice. We ask that students bring material from projects they have worked on at their home institutions, to get the series started.

    Research site visits and field trips. SIMS participants will visit organizations where mathematical research is carried out in a non-academic environment. Possibilities include national laboratories and organizations such as IBM and Genentech. At each site, students will hear talks by mathematicians and scientists on their work, tour the facility, and talk informally with the researchers. In addition, students will visit the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) at Berkeley, as well as the neighboring campuses of Stanford and U.C. Davis.

    Location. The San Francisco Bay Area is beautiful, and offers many delights. There are parks to hike in, trails to run on, and the Bay to swim in. Numerous restaurants offer cuisines from all over the world. Berkeley is a lively university town where there is never a dull moment. San Francisco is easily accessible by the underground train system. Monterey, Napa Valley, Muir Woods, Point Reyes and Stinson Beach are popular places to go for one-day excursions.

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