|UW Mathematics||Autumn 2009|
Message from the Chair
NSF Research Training Grant
Gunther Uhlmann: Academy Fellow
Mathematics Honors Luncheon
Chad Klumb: Sophomore Medalist
Solutions to 1,000 Year Old Problem
NSF CAREER Grant
The Graduate Program
The graduate program forms a core part of the Mathematics Departmentís mission. Our graduate studentsí research supplements the research programs of our faculty and contributes to an atmosphere of discovery and exploration within our department. Their service as Teaching Assistants helps thousands of undergraduates in our entry-level classes each year, and they are very effective instructors of intermediate-level service courses. When they graduate and leave the University of Washington for either academic or industrial jobs, they become part of the mathematically sophisticated workforce in education, industry, and science on which our technologically oriented society depends.
This past year, despite a very grave economic climate across the country which had a devastating effect on the availability of academic jobs, we had thirteen students graduate with PhD degrees. This is in keeping with our recent trend of a substantially increased rate of PhD graduation from our historical average of just over six students per year. Some of our students found excellent post-doctoral positions at schools such as the University of British Columbia, University of Rochester, University of Calgary and Harvey Mudd College. Others found rewarding industrial employment in research groups at the Chevron Corporation or Lincoln Research Labs at MIT.
The success of our students is built on a multi-threaded tapestry of contributions from a number of sources. First and foremost is the talent and hard work of the students themselves. In order to attract excellent students to the University of Washington, the Mathematics Department has put together a support plan that allows students to select our program on the basis of its academic merits without concern that their financial prospects here will be significantly lower than they would be elsewhere. This support plan, developed over the last ten years, has been made possible by generous contributions from the Microsoft Corporation, the ARCS Foundation, departmental endowments directed towards supporting graduate studies, and the Graduate School. The majority of these sources are temporary and vulnerable, so an important long-term goal for the Department is to stabilize the plan with permanent endowment-based funding. This will allow us to strengthen and improve the core aspects of our program as we build for continued success in the years to come.
Once our students arrive on campus, they quickly become immersed in our extensive advising and mentoring program, which has been designed to help them to succeed both in teaching and in navigating through the graduate program. All new students and teaching assistants attend an orientation and TA training program, and each of them meets individually with the Graduate Program Coordinator and with a separate faculty advisor to map out a course of study. In addition, new students are closely mentored by experienced TAs during their first quarter of teaching. The advising and mentoring of students (by multiple faculty members in numerous roles) continues throughout our program. Students who do not yet have a PhD advisor meet repeatedly with the Graduate Program Coordinator, who helps them with the often difficult first steps in making the transition from classroom learning to more direct one-on-one investigations with a faculty member.
By the third year in the program most students are working closely with a faculty member at the forefront of research in one of the diverse fields represented within the Department. The success of these endeavors is a testament not only to our studentsí skills, hard work, and fortitude, but also to the many hours that our faculty devote to guiding students along in their research. In the best circumstances, this relationship evolves to one that is akin to a collaboration of equals, and our faculty advisors often learn a great deal of mathematics from their students.
A department of mathematics that values both research and teaching cannot flourish without a strong graduate program. If the health of the graduate program is any indication of the health of the Department as a whole (and I would suggest that it is), then we are indeed thriving!