posted April 13, 2009

Grants Supports Women Students in Math Research

Hope College has received support for summer student research through a national program designed to increase the number of women who pursue careers in mathematics.

Dr. Stephanie Edwards, associate professor of mathematics, has received a grant through the "Women and Mathematics Grants" program sponsored by the Tensor Foundation of Oak, Park, Ill., through the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).  The $6,000 award will support two undergraduate students in conducting original research with Edwards for eight weeks this summer.  The one-year grant is renewable for up to two more years.

The Tensor-MAA Program grants are for projects designed to encourage college and university women or high school and middle school girls to study mathematics.  Edwards noted that women are underrepresented in the discipline nationally.  For example, according to the American Mathematical Association's "2008 Annual Survey of the Mathematical Sciences," women represented only 31 percent of the 540 U.S. citizens to receive doctoral degrees in the mathematical sciences during 2007-08, and 32 percent of the 695 non-U.S. citizen new doctoral recipients during the same time frame.

The students working with Edwards will be conducting research into the distribution of zeroes of real entire functions, work that will include writing computer programs to assist in the analysis process.  In addition to helping the students build research skills, Edwards will provide additional support through mentorship and networking opportunities as the students pursue their career preparation.

Each summer, more than 160 students conduct research full-time at Hope with faculty mentors.  During the summer of 2008, 17 students conducted research in mathematics.  Those participating in summer research at the college include not only Hope students but also students from other colleges and universities and area high school students.

The bulk of the resources that support the college's research program in the sciences come through competitive research grants from external sources such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Homeland Security, private foundations and corporations.  During the 2007-08 school year, Hope held approximately $3.5 million in support of faculty research projects, approximately 50 percent of which was from the NSF.

Founded in 1915, the MAA is the largest professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level.  The organization's more than 25,000 members include university, college and high school teachers; graduate and undergraduate students; pure and applied mathematicians; computer scientists; statisticians; and many others in academia, government, business and industry.