SIAM News Blog

SIAM Education Committee Releases Timely Report on Undergraduate Programs

By Rachel Levy and Peter Turner

The SIAM Education Committee has released a new report, Undergraduate Degree Programs in Applied Mathematics. Designed to serve as a resource for people interested in starting new programs or developing existing ones, the report was initiated by Education Committee chair Peter Turner and developed by Rachel Levy, Byong Kwon, Edmond Chow, Maeve McCarthy, and Katherine Socha.

The report describes components of existing programs in applied mathematics, based on surveys of representative programs. It includes discussions of course requirements, capstone requirements, industrial opportunities, student research opportunities, student recruitment, attrition, resources, K–12 outreach, postgraduation opportunities, and the challenges of initiating a new program.

The new report builds on The Mathematical Sciences in 2025 (Board on Mathematical Sciences and Their Applications, 2013), which places significant emphasis on applied mathematics and mathematical modeling. Modeling and applications can motivate undergraduates to study mathematics, especially those whose primary interest is in using their mathematical skills in such applied settings as the physical sciences and engineering, geoscience, and life and social sciences that will vary according to institutional interests. The emphasis on modeling and applications is seen as important not only for the students’ undergraduate studies per se, but also as part of their preparation for careers outside academia.

Modeling in the undergraduate curriculum was also a major theme of two recent SIAM–NSF workshops in the Modeling across the Curriculum project. Recommendations from reports on those workshops are also relevant to the discussion of undergraduate applied math programs. The first report can be found here; the second will be available this summer.

The ideas in the new report also resonate with the NSF–funded INGenIOuS program (Investing in the Next Generation through Innovative and Outstanding Strategies), a collaborative effort of the AMS, ASA, MAA, and SIAM. This program explores preparation for careers outside academia, including ways to bridge gaps between business/industry/government and academia, and to improve students’ preparation for non-academic careers, build public awareness of the role of mathematics and statistics in both STEM and non-STEM careers, diversify incentives, rewards, and mechanisms for conferring recognition in academia, develop new curricular pathways, and build and sustain professional communities.

Synergies with several other activities enhance the new report. PIC Math (Preparation for Careers in Industry), a joint MAA/SIAM program, helps make faculty and their students more aware of non-academic careers in applied mathematics. TPSE Math (Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics), founded by some of the contributors to Math 2025, emphasizes the importance of modeling and applications to a relevant undergraduate experience. MAA (with input from ASA and SIAM) is leading the development of a new project: Vision for Undergraduate Math in 2025. Representatives of the SIAM Education Committee are participants in the planning for all these activities, and the new report should be a valuable resource for all.

Rachel Levy is an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Associate Dean for Faculty Development at Harvey Mudd College. Peter Turner is a professor of mathematics and the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Clarkson University.

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