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PIC Math - Preparation for Industrial Careers in Mathematical Sciences

What is PIC Math?

PIC Math Logo PIC Math prepares mathematical sciences students for industrial careers by engaging them in research problems that come directly from industry.


The PIC Math program aims to:

  • Increase awareness among mathematical sciences faculty and undergraduates about non-academic career options.
  • Provide research experience working on real problems from business, industry and government.
  • Prepare students for industrial careers.

A strong component of PIC Math involves students working as a group on a semester-long undergraduate research problem from business, industry, or government. Undergraduate research is a high impact teaching and learning practice and has been shown to improve students abilities in:

  • Problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Independent thinking
  • Communicating

All these traits and skills are valued by employers of STEM professionals. PIC Math will supply faculty with tools to offer students experiences designed to better prepare them for the demands that accompany non-academic jobs.

What does PIC Math include?

Summer Faculty Training Workshop

PIC Math includes a three-day summer workshop in May 2016 for faculty at U.S. institutions that will provide participants with:

  • Information on non-academic careers and internships to share with students.
  • Guidance on developing business and industry connections and partnerships.
  • Exposure to mathematical and statistical problems that arise in industry.
  • Training on how to develop skills in students that are valued by employers.
  • Preparation for PIC Math’s research course and competition.
Spring Semester Research Course

PIC Math provides faculty with content for a semester-long, credit-bearing course focused on solving industrial problems. Each faculty participant will assemble a team of three to five students and work with them to develop their problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills. Each team will choose from one of five problems that are realistic yet suitable for undergraduate students. Resources for students and faculty participating in PIC Math include a series of training videos on techniques for generating solutions as well as decision aids useful for coping with “messy” real world problems. Course materials also include information and training for industrial careers in particular. Faculty mentoring the research group will receive $5000.

Student Competition

Teams may include students from different institutions as long as the entire group meets weekly by teleconference or electronic means and monthly in person. Each team may collaborate with a business, industry, or government partner and will submit regular progress reports. By the end of the spring semester, students will submit a video presentation and written report detailing their solution. A panel of judges will review and rate each team’s submission.

Student Recognition Conference

Students will present their results in person at a summer conference and be recognized for their competition accomplishments.

Click here to see sample course resources, including syllabi, promotional materials, industry research problems, and supplementary resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

Click here to see a list of frequently asked questions.

How do I apply?

Applications will be not be accepted for the 2017-2018 academic year and the PIC Math program is planned to reconvene for the 2018-2019 year.

  • An application form
  • A one-page statement of interest
  • A letter of support from chair or dean

Click here to see current and past faculty participating in PIC Math programs.

Commitment to Diversity

This program supports underrepresented groups in the mathematical sciences, as well as first-generation and low socio-economic status college students. We are committed to ensuring participant diversity of ethnicity, gender, geographical location, and institution type.

More than one team may apply from a given institution, but because the program seeks to involve as many different institutions as possible, a second team from the same institution will only be considered if space is available.

Schedule: 2016-2017 Academic Year

March 31, 2016 – faculty application deadline
April 2016 – initial acceptance offers sent by email
May 23-26, 2016 – faculty summer workshop
Spring Semester 2017 – PIC Math courses begin
May 15, 2017 – competition video and report due
June 2017 – results from competition announced
August 2017 – recognition ceremony during MAA MathFest



Doug Ensley, Mathematical Association of America
Michael Dorff, Brigham Young University
Reza Malek-Madani, United States Naval Academy
Suzanne Weekes, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Please send all questions to Michael Dorff at

Support for this Program

Support for this Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) program is provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF grant DMS-1345499).

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