Q: I want to take part in the DRP, but I don’t have an idea for a project. Am I still able to participate?
A: Don’t worry! You don’t need to know precisely what you want to do for a project in order to apply. However, the application will ask you for some general topic, direction, or goal for your project. This can be something as vague as “graph theory” or “I want to explore more algebra.” As long as you have some general direction like this, we will do our best to pair you with a graduate student who will help the you solidify your goals and develop a project idea.
To get a sense of what DRP topics and projects typically look like, you may want to check out the many resources we have here.
Q: What makes a good DRP project?
A: One of the main goals of the DRP is to allow students to explore an area of math that might usually be unavailable to them. The unavailability may either come from the topic being a more advanced/niche version of a topic usually taught (e.g. finite group theory), or may be something for which no existing course covers (e.g. extremal combinatorics). In this sense, any topic, if accompanied by the will to go beyond the usual, makes a good DRP project.
That said, the best DRP projects are those with a concrete goal in mind. This goal could be proving a specific theorem, understanding a particular concept, or making an important calculation. So, for example, instead of having “finite group theory” as a project, one would like something similar to “proving the Schur-Zassenhaus theorem”. Having this main goal in mind not only focuses your learning but also frames the entire project, giving meaning to each seemingly inconsequential lemma, as you work towards your ultimate target.
This all said, it is not necessarily important that the mentee know precisely what the specific topic of their project will be at the outset. If a student has a broad idea about the subject he or she wants to study, the specification to a particular DRP project (as discussed in the above question) can be made in the initial consultation with the mentor of the project.
Q: How will I be paired with my mentor?
A: Just as with mentees, graduates students interested in mentoring will fill out an application. On that application, they list the broad topics they’re interested in. Pairings will be made primarily based on these desired topics. Mentees and mentors can then decide after their initial meeting(s) whether their interests and working preferences mesh well.
Q: Do I need to have background in the subject I want to study?
A: Absolutely not. One of the main purposes of the DRP is to pursue math outside of your comfort zone. That said, one should not choose a topic so advanced as to preclude any real learning. One of the main functions of the mentor will be to help guide the mentee towards a project which is both of interest to the mentee and within reason based on the mentee’s current background knowledge.
Q: What are some examples of possible DRP projects?
A: Here are pages containing past DRP projects at the University of Chicago and the University of Maryland.
Q: Can I get credit for participating in the DRP?
A: As of Fall 2017, there will be no official credit offered for participation. In the future, however, we hope to be able to assign academic credit for DRP projects.
Q: Is the DRP only for math majors?
A: Absolutely not. While the DRP is focused on providing one-on-one math education, this does not mean that it is restricted to math majors. In fact, we greatly encourage applications from those who have a passion for learning mathematics but who have only taken intermediate-level courses.
Q: Are underclassmen allowed to participate in the DRP?
A: As long as someone meets the requirements for participation (as laid out on this page), they are welcome to participate in the program. In fact, the DRP aims to aid students in developing a sense of mathematical self-sufficiency and to facilitate relations between undergraduates with graduate students. Both of these goals are even more effective if they begin as early as possible in one’s mathematical career.
Q: Will my performance in the DRP be available to the public?
A: Not at all. There are no grades or evaluations for performance in the DRP. The only public aspect of the DRP is the presentation at the end of the term, which won’t be recorded or made public beyond the people who attend.
Q: Who decides who is admitted into the DRP?
A: There will be a DRP committee responsible for administrative decisions such as admissions and pairing of mentors and mentees. This DRP committee will consist entirely of volunteer graduate students. The specific members of the DRP committee at any given time can be found on the program organizers page.
Q: Do I need a letter of recommendation?
A Our application process allows for one letter of recommendation. A good letter of recommendation can be beneficial to an application, but having a letter is completely optional, and the majority of our applicants do not submit one. The main cases in which letters of recommendation are important are for students whose backgrounds in their field of study are very unconventional (e.g. lots of knowledge coming from experiences or coursework besides conventional classes taken at this or any other school). The application has plenty of room for you to explain your own background; however, if you feel that it would be helpful for us to hear about that background from someone else, you are welcome to submit a letter of recommendation from that person!