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Penn State Gets Grant for Math Research and Education
20 October 1998

The Penn State Department of Mathematics has received a grant for a new National Science Foundation program titled "Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences" (VIGRE).

"With this grant we aim to build on the department's rise to research prominence in recent years by broadening and unifying its existing educational initiatives to develop it into a premier center for training in the mathematical sciences at all levels," says Gary Mullen, head of the Department of Mathematics. According to Mullen, the five-year VIGRE budget, which totals over $3 million, is more than five times larger than the next largest grant the department has ever obtained.

Penn State is among just six institutions selected to inaugurate the VIGRE program beginning in July 1999. The others are the University of Colorado, Columbia University, Harvard University, Princeton University, and the University of Washington.

"Penn State's VIGRE project consists of a number of integrated initiatives involving mathematics research, education, and training from high school through the postdoctoral level," Mullen says. "It will engage a large proportion of the mathematics faculty and will encompass all the major research areas in the department." The project was developed by faculty throughout the Department of Mathematics and will be lead by Mullen, who served as principal investigator on the proposal, along with coinvestigators Douglas N. Arnold, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics; Nigel Higson, professor of mathematics; and Anatole Katok, Raymond N. Shibley Professor of Mathematics. More information about the Penn State VIGRE grant can be found on the World Wide Web at the URL http://www.math.psu.edu/vigre/.

"The VIGRE grant will allow us to perform extensive review and revision of our undergraduate curriculum; to establish a program of industrial summer internships for graduate students; to strengthen the educational and outreach missions of our unique Pritchard Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, and to solidify and expand our new MASS program," Arnold says. The MASS program (Mathematics Advanced Study Seminars) provides an intensive learning environment for talented undergraduates from throughout the United States.

"We also will add five new positions each year: two new S. Chowla Research Assistant Professorships and three VIGRE Graduate Traineeships. These very attractive positions will enable us to recruit top U. S. candidates to our faculty and graduate program," Arnold adds. "Plus, with VIGRE we will begin an organized program of summer research experiences for undergraduates."

Among the project's outreach activities is a program being developed by Dmitri Burago, associate professor of mathematics, and Ken Ono, assistant professor of mathematics, for interested students at the State College Area High School. Burago and Ono are developing an extensive set of thought-provoking and challenging problems whose solutions do not require advanced mathematical skills, which they plan to use during regular small-group discussion sessions with the students to emphasize problem solving and the development of logical and mathematical thinking.

Arnold adds, "Overall, our goals for Penn State's VIGRE program are to prepare undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows for a broad range of career opportunities based on training in the mathematical sciences, and to undertake a broad spectrum of educational activities at all levels that are integrated with each other and with research."