Can you see yourself conducting research in mathematics?
What does that look like?
What kinds of problems could you be investigating?
What tools would you be using on a regular basis?
How would you navigate the academic path to get there?
Is this the right choice for you?

These are the kinds of questions explored by participants at the second annual Mathematics - Opportunities in Research and Education (MORE) event, which took place on Saturday, October 8-9, 2022 on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the outreach event was hosted by a multi-institutional team from Virginia Tech, Clemson University, and Emory University. 

"Undergraduate students from the region got to engage in current mathematics research and to interact with a diverse group of mathematicians from academia, industry and government labs," said Michael Robert, Virginia Tech assistant professor of mathematics, who helped organize the workshop.

Picture of students working with Dr, Michael Robert.
Michael Robert, one of the organizers from Virginia Tech, works with a group of students at the More Workshop held on October 8th - 9th.

The participants had a chance to hear from mathematicians who have built meaningful careers in the field, including Oyita Udiani, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Angela Robinson, a mathematician at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Udiani spoke about how his research in mathematical biology brings together application-driven mathematics, modeling, and simulation to answer fundamental questions in the life sciences. Robinson discussed her recent work developing new cryptography standards that quantum computers can’t crack.

Angela Robinson discusses her work in cryptography.

Picture of the talk given by Angela Robinson at the National Institute of Standards and Technology
Angela Robinson discusses her work in cryptography.

"The best part of MORE is that it is not merely a workshop where undergraduates learned about opportunities in mathematical research such as REUs but also the two plenary talks,” said Van Le, an undergraduate at Hollins University. “I was particularly interested to learn about the integration of mathematical and economic concepts in solving complex problems presented in Professor Udiani’s talk." 

The participants also attended panels on research, summer opportunities, and graduate school, all while interacting with faculty members as well as graduate and postdoctoral students. They followed up on conversations in less formal settings throughout the workshop. 

When asked about what was most helpful about MORE, Le replied, "The REU part, definitely. I think MORE would be more suitable for lower class undergraduates because as a senior with only one REU experience, I wish I had known MORE earlier so I could learn about REU and have time to apply for more research opportunities." 

Pictures of Participants at the More workshop in informal discussions
Participants in the MORE workshop held small informal discussions about research opportunities for undergraduates in mathematics.

Those attending had the opportunity to get a sense of the rich variety of mathematical careers available to them, as well as practical steps that would take them toward those careers, including internships, summer opportunities, and graduate programs.

"It was an exciting experience to be in a room with people who love math and want to explore it as much as you,”said Bhavya Rajasekaran, a freshman at the University of Maryland. “MORE gave me an insight into opportunities for graduate school, internships and research. As a freshman, it was really exciting to know how much there was to explore!"

 Gretchen Matthews, Virginia Tech math professor and workshop organizer, stressed the importance of experiential learning: "At MORE, students do mathematics together via hands-on materials motivated by and connected to cutting-edge research presented by expertsWe emphasize that a variety of perspectives are needed to address challenging problems and there are many ways to contribute to solving them.

And it wasn't only the undergraduates that found the experience at MORE helpful! Xin Tang, a Professor of Mathematics at Fayetteville State University, said   [Participating in MORE] "will shape my plan of mentoring and advising students. I have indeed shared the information learned from this workshop with one of my mentees who is in the process of applying for graduate schools. [At MORE] Everything is focused on the student participants."

STRIVE for MORE was only possible as a result of the volunteer efforts of the graduate students, postdocs, speakers and panelists and by the financial support of the NSF. Co-organizers from Virginia Tech Gretchen MatthewsMichael RobertLauren Childs; from Clemson University Nicole BannisterLea Jenkins, Lea Jenkins, Keri Sather-Wagstaff; and from Emory University Julianne Chung look forward to bringing you the next event in the MORE series.

Visit the MORE  website for additional information on the series.