Resources for Undergraduate Research – Issue No. 2

Sarah Adams, Olin College of Engineering

Darren A. Narayan, Rochester Institute of Technology


Publication and Presentation Venues for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics


As your summer research projects are heating up, or as you look forward to research activities next fall, you may be considering venues to publish and present student research.  In fact, students and faculty involved in successful collaborations are in constant search of such venues! With the large number of journals and conferences available, it can be difficult to choose the best venue for a particular research project. In this issue, we highlight a special selection of such venues.



Venues for Publications


In addition to the traditional mathematical journals where the authors are usually research faculty, there are some journals that specialize in mathematical research done by undergraduates. These include the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal, The Pentagon: The Official Journal of Kappa Mu Epsilon, Rose-Hulman Undergraduate Mathematics Journal, Furman University Electronic Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics, and the Morehead Electronic Journal of Applicable Mathematics.


These journals are all excellent  venues for undergraduates to present their research, however it is generally accepted that they are not at the same level as  traditional faculty-oriented journals.     In this column, we highlight the new undergraduate research journal, Involve – A Journal of Mathematics, which is in a class by itself. The journal boasts an impressive editorial board of distinguished faculty and articles are to be reviewed by MathSciNet and Zentralblaat Math, a known distinction for quality journals  This distinction also allows student work to be more easily searchable and citable!



Involve – A Journal of Mathematics; An interview with the founding editor

By Kenneth S. Berenhaut, Wake Forest University

and Darren Narayan, Rochester Institute of Technology


Below is an interview by Column Editor Darren Narayan with the  Involve’s founding editor, Kenneth S. Berenhaut of Wake Forest University.


D. N.  What is the scope of Involve - A Journal of Mathematics? (mathematics, statistics, mathematical physics, mathematical biology, etc.)


K. S. B.  Submissions in all mathematical areas are encouraged.  Certainly, we gladly welcome manuscripts in the areas that you have mentioned.


D. N.  What type of work will the journal publish? (original research, expository papers, survey papers, etc.)


K. S. B.  Papers should include original results and be publishable in quality journals in their respective fields.


D. N.  Do authors have to be students, or can papers be joint between students and faculty?


K. S. B.  The main criterion is that each manuscript should include a minimum of one-third student authorship.  To provide quality for acceptance, we expect that many articles will be coauthored with faculty.


D. N.  Some respected mathematics journals have lengthy refereeing times and long publication backlogs.  By the time an article comes to press the student will sometimes no longer be an undergraduate and could be well into further studies.  What is the expected timeline from when the paper is received?


K. S. B.  All submissions can be expected to follow a standard quality refereeing process.

Involve’s editorial board consists of more than fifty noted mathematicians and respected mentors who are motivated to move the papers through the process.  Mathematical Sciences Publishers (MSP) of UC Berkeley which publishes Involve has a well-developed online submission and paper-tracking system, in addition to an efficient mathematically-oriented editorial team.  Online publication occurs immediately following approval of the final galley proofs.  The print issue should come out soon after that.


D. N.  Are there any page costs?


K. S. B.  No; as per MSP policy, there are no publication charges to the author.   


D. N.  How much does a subscription to Involve cost?


K. S. B.  Subscriptions to Involve are available to departments for $100 per year, which includes two copies of each issue.  The journal is also available as part of MSP’s fine affordable journal package that includes the established and well-respected journals Algebraic & Geometric Topology and Geometry & Topology as well as the more recently launched Algebra & Number Theory, Analysis & PDE, and Communications in Applied Mathematics and Computational Science.  The current cost of the package is set at $800 for print and electronic and $500 for electronic only.  Readers are encouraged to contact either myself or MSP for further information.


D. N.  Are you in search of potential referees?


K. S. B.  We can always use assistance in the refereeing process.  Interested parties are welcome to send me their contact information.


D. N.  Will articles be reviewed in Mathematical Reviews / MathSciNet?


K. S. B.  Indeed, Involve is already listed with Mathematical Reviews and Zentralblaat MATH.


D.N.  Is there anything you would like to add?


K. S. B.  I’d like to mention that Involve is very pleased to have MapleSoft and SAS as sponsors.  There’s plenty of information about Involve and its editorial board at  If anyone has any questions, they can feel free to contact me at the address below:  Kenneth S. Berenhaut, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC 27109 or by email at:


Thank you for your time!



Venues for Presentations


You can always feel the excitement in the air when undergraduates are presenting their research at professional meetings. There are many places where undergraduates can make such presentations,  including MAA section meetings, the Pi Mu Epsilon Session at MathFest, the Summer Meeting of the MAA, the Young Mathematician’s Conference held annually at the Ohio State University, and the very popular poster session at the annual Joint Mathematics Meetings. In this issue we highlight two other forums where students can get broad exposure for their research. (to be edited depending on response from YMC).


AMS-MAA-SIAM Special Session for Research in Mathematics by Undergraduates


For the past several years the annual Joint Mathematics Meetings has featured an AMS-MAA-SIAM Special Session for Research in Mathematics by Undergraduates. This session is for undergraduate students to give a 20 minute talk on research they have done at their home institution or as part of an NSF-REU or similar program. Of course students can submit an abstract to give a talk in a contributed paper session in their particular research area, however these talks are only 10 minutes in length. Furthermore contributed paper sessions usually only have overhead projector(s) available, whereas the special session is also equipped with computer projectors for a student wanting to present using Powerpoint, Beamer, or other software. In past years this session has been co-sponsored by MacKichan Software Inc., who has donated several full versions of the software Scientific Workplace which were given out as door prizes to students participating in the session.


There is a special session on the schedule for the 2009 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Washington, D. C. Abstracts can be submitted on the meeting website ( When submitting an abstract one should select “SS22A – AMS-MAA-SIAM Special Session on Research in Mathematics by Undergraduates.” The deadline is September 16, 2008.


The organizers for this year’s session include: Darren A. Narayan, Carl V. Lutzer, Tamas Wiandt, of the Rochester Institute of Technology, Jacqueline A. Jensen of Sam Houston State University, and Vadim Ponomarenko of San Diego State University.



Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Conference

By Patti Frazer Lock, St. Lawrence University


            Every April for the last fifteen years, the Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Conference has celebrated undergraduate research in the mathematical sciences.  The conference is a one day event and is usually held on the second or third Saturday in April at rotating institutions in the Northeast United States.  The conference consists of about 150 to 200 short talks in concurrent sessions and a longer invited address by a noted mathematician.  All talks are aimed at undergraduates and over 90% of the talks are given by students.  The conference is free to participants and includes lunch and refreshments. 


            To quote the conference webpage:  “The goal of the Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Conference is to provide undergraduates with the experience of attending and/or presenting at a professional mathematics meeting designed primarily with the student in mind.  We hope to establish at the conference an atmosphere that sends the message welcome to the mathematics community.”   


            Conference participation ranges from 300 to 600 people.  Some students attend as first-year students or sophomores and begin to think more seriously about mathematics and to look forward to presenting as juniors and seniors.  About 60-65% of the student speakers are seniors, while the rest are underclass students (including juniors, sophomores, and freshmen.)  The talks span a wide range, from talks for specialists to talks geared to first and second year students, and from talks on original research to purely expository talks. 


The students take the conference very seriously and take real ownership of the conference.  About half of the session chairs are students, for example, and the host institution committee has student representatives helping to plan the meeting and working at the conference.  The student talks are outstanding.  Indeed, with fourteen concurrent sessions, the hardest part is deciding which talks to attend. 


The keynote speakers have also been outstanding and have included some impressive and well-known mathematicians and speakers, including Jeff Weeks, Georgia Benkart, Ken Ono, Ken Ribet, Nancy Kopell, Louis Gross, Bob Devaney, Ingrid Daubechies, Peter Hilton, John Koch, Joe Gallian, Benoit Mandelbrot, Ron Graham, Jean Taylor, and John Conway.   


The first Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Conference (HRUMC) was held in 1994 at Siena College, and was organized and continues to be supported by representatives from four founding institutions:  Skidmore College, Siena College, Union College, and Williams College.  The conference has been held multiple times at these colleges and has also been hosted by Hamilton College, Mt. Holyoke College, St. Lawrence University, Vassar College, and Westfield State College. 


The most recent Hudson River Undergraduate Mathematics Conference was held at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY on April 19, 2008.  Participants came from 36 different schools, and from nine different states or provinces.  The conference included sessions on algebra, analysis, differential equations, topology, linear algebra, geometry, number theory, applied mathematics, combinatorics, graph theory, voting theory, game theory, knot theory, fractals, history of mathematics, statistics, statistics in sports, computer science, and mathematics education.  Many of the topics stretched over two, three, or four sessions.  The keynote address, by Jeff Weeks, was a wonderfully interactive talk on The Shape of Space.  


The conference organizers gratefully acknowledge the generous support from the MAA in helping to fund this conference (most recently from MAA NSF-RUMC -- NSF Grant DMS-536991) and from numerous other granting organizations over the years.  Plans are already underway for HRUMC 2009, which will be held Saturday, April 18, 2009 at Union College in Schenectady, NY.  The abstract deadline will be in late February and students and faculty members are encouraged to consider attending and/or speaking.  More information is available off the HRUMC webpage ( 

HRUMC 2009 will continue the tradition of being another wonderful celebration of undergraduate mathematics research!


-- Patti Frazer Lock is Cummings Professor of Mathematics at St. Lawrence University and chaired the Steering Committee for HRUMC 2008.   


The Young Mathematicians Conference at Ohio State
By Thomas Kerler, Ohio State University

Every year the National Science Foundation sponsors about sixty REU programs in mathematics nationwide, in each of which a group of faculty conducts research with typically eight to twelve undergraduate students during the summer. Thus, together with an increasing number of institutionally supported projects, roughly six hundred undergraduate students are working on mathematical research projects mostly during the summer months. Many of them will have obtained results by the end of each summer, well worthy of wider dissemination and of interest often even to advanced mathematicians.

For many years the undergraduate paper sessions of the MAA MathFest have provided the most popular opportunity for students to present their research. Students blend into the exciting national event that attracts well over a thousand participants from all ranks of mathematics and all parts of the country. For students and mentors who prefer a smaller setting that is specifically centered around its undergraduate participants and their summer projects numerous undergraduate research conferences have sprung up more recently at various institutions. As opposed to the MathFest paper sessions, however, most of them tend to be regional conferences and often run only sporadically or as one-time events.

The Young Mathematicians Conference (YMC), which has been held each August at The Ohio State University since 2003, attempts to combine the best of these two worlds:

Student Talk on "Intrinsically linked S1-graphs" at YMC2005


Not unlike the MathFest, YMC is by now a truly national event. Indeed, the number of students applying to YMC in 2007 was close to the same as the number of students scheduled for talks at the 2007 MathFest - about 140 in either case. Every region of the country is well represented at the conference: In 2007 roughly 40% of participants came from the Northeastern region, and the Midwestern, Southern and Western regions were represented by 20% of the participants each. In total students from almost thirty US states attended YMC2007.

At the same time YMC manages to preserve the personal and engaging atmosphere of a smaller conference, with its focus entirely on its undergraduate participants and their research. The core ingredient of the three day conference schedule are the 42-44 student talks held in three parallel sessions, as well as the always lively poster sessions on Saturday morning. Breaks between talks blocks, numerous social occasions, and other supporting events provide plenty of opportunities for students to discuss mathematics with their peers as well as with participating senior mathematicians.

How, then, are the continuously increasing applicant numbers to YMC handled so that every invited student participant is indeed delivering one of the talks or is presenting one of the 10-15 posters?

Student discussions and Poster Session at YMC2006


Right from the beginning YMC tried to accommodate many undergraduates who collaborated on the same projects and preferred to present their work as a group. Since 2006 YMC formally allows pairs (but not triples) of students to jointly submit applications for a presentations. Typically, a little more than a third of all presentations at YMC are delivered, often quite creatively, by two students together.

Of greater impact, however, was the decision in the same year to make participation at YMC truly competitive. Even with the joint presentation policies, the number of applicants significantly exceeded the number of students that could be accommodated or funded, without sacrificing the personal character the conference or inflating the budget beyond reason. Consequently, YMC met the challenge to put into place a rigorous, fair, and expeditious selection process which decides on who is invited to the conference based on the submitted research abstracts.

In 2007, for example, YMC invited 73 students of the 138 applicants (52%) for a presentation with full travel support, based on a thorough review of abstracts by ten mathematics professors of various ranks, backgrounds, and institutions. A custom web based management tool allowed reviewers to view and sort all submitted abstracts online and submit or edit their own scores in the same web application. Using this an academic ranking of applicants by average scores could be generated remotely within 48 hours of the application deadline. Student applicants can find help on the YMC web site with writing style and LaTeX typesetting of their research abstracts, which also appear in print in the conference booklet if accepted.

Besides the ever more sophisticated student presentations (which routinely attract graduate students and regular faculty from OSU) YMC offers numerous other events designed to guide, entice, and inspire its undergraduate participants into academic careers in mathematics:

John H Conway: Lecturing on "Lexicodes" at YMC2004


Each conference is highlighted by three key note lectures by highly accomplished mathematicians, who introduce students to advanced, innovative, and exciting topics in mathematics. Speakers in the past included recipients of the prestigious MacArthur and Sloan Fellowships, the Pólya and Nevanlinna Prizes, as well as of the Haimo, Chauvenet, and Allendoerfer Awards for excellence in exposition and teaching. Since 2004 all plenary lectures are video taped and, combined with available slides, posted as real streams on the YMC main web site.

An instant success was the Graduate School Orientation, which was introduced last year (2007) upon frequent request. The event also recognizes the fact that around half of all YMC participants are about to start their senior year when they attend the conference, that is, at a time when most are thinking about applications to graduate schools. In order to expose students to a variety of programs and perspectives representatives of seven US graduate programs (UC Berkeley, Dartmouth, U.Georgia, Harvard, U.Iowa, U.Michigan, Syracuse) were invited to the conference.

Graduate School Orientation: Panel Discussion at YMC2007


In the Sunday morning panel discussion the invited faculty members and graduate students answered a wide array of questions about graduate studies in general and their own programs in particular. Most questions that arose during the discussion were previously submitted in a ballot box or touched upon in individual discussions between students and representatives during the previous days.

The emphasis of YMC on professional preparation of its young researchers is further underlined by plans for YMC 2009 to add a refereed and electronically published proceedings volume. In future years additional online publications for articles not presented at YMC as well as an as an unrefereed preprint repository for undergraduate research papers are scheduled to follow.

This year (2008) YMC is taking a break for much needed general maintenance work such as securing long term funding, integrating numerous innovations for the coming years, and institutionalizing various parts of the organizational mechanics.

YMC2006 Plenary Speakers discussing with students.
(left to right: Peter Shor, Joan Hutchinson, Arthur Benjamin)


From 2003 until 2006 YMC was funded under the NSF VIGRE grant of the Department of Mathematics at Ohio State (DMS-0135308). The initial organizing committee, which conceived the basic format of the conference, consisted of Phil Huneke, Radha Kessar, Peter March, and the author. YMC 2007 was funded by a separate conference grant (DMS-0732622) as well as private donations. Finally, since 2007 the conference operations and policies are overseen by an Advisory Board consisting currently of nine former plenary speakers, senior mentors, and co-PIs.

For more information and documentation about YMC visit the link found below.




To submit an article (roughly 2-4 pages in length) to be considered for a future issue of this MAA Online Column of Resources for Undergraduate Research, please email a pdf to both editors Sarah Adams (sarah.adams AT and Darren Narayan (dansma AT Thank you for reading and please email us with any comments or suggestions!


The Editors, Sarah Spence Adams and Darren Narayan


Sarah Spence Adams is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.

Darren Narayan is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Research in Mathematics at the Rochester Institute of Technology.