Mathematics Doctoral Student Dave Jensen
Through the IE Pre-Grad Internship program, I acted as a mentor for a student, Yousif Seedham, who I met when I was his TA for differential equations. Together, we spent a semester learning about quantum cryptography. Ostensibly, our weekly meetings were a time for us to talk about this subject, but in reality we discussed pretty much everything under the sun. Our conversations covered many different areas of mathematics, as well as Yousif's plans for his future, the pros and cons of graduate study, and general thoughts about life. Yousif's work culminated in giving a talk in one of our department's seminars, plus a short essay describing his experience.
Conducting research in mathematics requires a large amount of background knowledge. The typical mathematical experience for undergraduates consists of multiple semesters of calculus, and perhaps a semester of differential equations or linear algebra, with nothing even remotely resembling what mathematicians actually care about. As a result undergraduates are rarely able to understand what research in mathematics means. This program, by presenting students with the opportunity to work on an independent project, allows them to gain a bit of insight into the meaning of mathematical research so that they have an idea of what graduate school might be like.
The IE pre-grad program is an excellent workshop for students considering graduate school. Through this program, students are encouraged not only to engage in projects related to their chosen field, but also to learn more about degree programs, and to reflect upon the possibility of going to graduate school before they decide to apply. It is terrific to see a person discover something, to see students from a variety of different academic fields come together, and to see them examine what it means to be a graduate student through honest eyes. The IE pre-grad program provided me with all of these experiences.
Would I consider participating in this program again? Absolutely. I probably gained as much from the experience as Yousif did. Acting as a mentor has given me a new perspective on my academic discipline and my role within it. I have learned a whole lot, and I am always happy to learn more.