Sponsored by MENTOR Program
On September 2 and 3 [postponed, due to Harvey], the University of Houston’s Department of Mathematics will host the first annual TX-LA Undergraduate Mathematics Conference, bringing together students from UH, Texas A&M University and Louisiana State University.
“This will be a conference for students,” said Daniel Onofrei, associate professor of mathematics. “We will have one talk by an industry expert, so that students can see the value of a strong mathematical background for possible industry careers, and then the rest of the conference will be students giving talks and presenting posters.”
Conference Organized By MENTOR Program
This conference is put on by the UH Mathematics Enrichment for Networking, Training, and Opportunities in Research program, called MENTOR for short. This UH program, started by Onofrei together with associate professor of mathematics William Ott and professor of mathematics Andrew Török, offers support to undergraduates interested in pursuing research.
In support of their goals, MENTOR has organized the TX-LA Undergraduate Mathematics Conference, creating an agreement between mathematics departments at UH, Texas A&M and LSU.
For the inaugural conference, UH will act as host, providing lodging and meals for conference participants. Next year, LSU will act as host, and Texas A&M the year after.
“If we can get students to realize what the opportunities in mathematics are, I would consider this program a success,” Onofrei said.
MENTOR Supports Undergraduates Interested in Research
In addition to hosting this undergraduate conference, the MENTOR program offers a weekly research skills seminar, puts on a regular lecture series, and helps students find research opportunities.
“In the research skills class, we teach them how to read papers and do non-standard problems,” Onofrei said. “We have some of the best undergraduates, who end up in very good graduate schools, but they don’t always know what the possibilities in mathematics are beyond calculus.”
In addition, the MENTOR program has provided funding for students to attend other conferences, such as the Undergraduate Mathematics Conference, which was hosted by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT) in April 2017.
After attending the conference at RHIT, one of the UH attendees wrote that “As someone who wants to go to graduate school, it was amazing to get a glimpse of the current, ongoing research of my peers. Also, the conference gave me an idea of certain mathematical areas that I would like to specialize in the future.”
Expansion to Include Community
“In the future, we hope to expand MENTOR to make it more community-oriented, by creating middle school and high school programs for talented students with an interest in math,” Onofrei said.
The MENTOR program has received funding from the Department of Mathematics and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, as well as support from the Honors College.
- Rachel Fairbank, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics