Dr. Ajanta Roy, Chairwoman of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and an Assistant Professor of Math, has won a Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics, or CURM, Mini-Grant for the 2018-2019 academic year. The CURM Mini-Grant represents a collaboration between Bennett College and UNC Greensboro.
In the award letter sent to Roy, officials said, “We are impressed with your accomplishments and your goals with regards to undergraduate research, and we are excited about having you participate in our CURM program.”
The CURM Mini-Grant will provide the following:
- A $5,000 faculty stipend for Roy
- A $3,000 stipend per student (four) to be used as described in Roy’s application
- Access to up to $250 for supplies for Roy’s research group
- Access to up to $850 in travel funds for Roy to attend the three-day Faculty Summer Workshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, the week of June 5
- Access to up to $200 per student to help defray costs of traveling to the Joint Math Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, January 16-19, 2019, where they will present their research findings
Roy will be joined at the Faculty Summer Workshop by Dr. Igor Erovenko, an associate professor of mathematics and statistics at UNC Greensboro. This collaboration enables talented Bennett College students to participate in undergraduate research will foster closer ties between these two institutions.
The workshop’s purpose is to discuss logistics of the program, to present ideas about effectively working with undergraduate research groups and to provide resources to help undergraduates prepare for graduate school. During the workshop, there will be some social activities and, if time permits, a hike and/or visit to nearby sites.
“CURM Mini-Grant will not only provider funding for the Bennett College students, but it will also significantly contribute to the positive change of overall environment at Bennett College,” Roy said. “I believe that every Bennett student should have an opportunity to work on research projects, so my primary role with the CURM Mini-Grant will be to provide opportunities for our students to do research and to infuse the culture of undergraduate research in the Math/Computer Science Department at Bennett College.”
Bennett College Provost Dr. Dorothy Browne said she is proud of Roy and is excited over the impact the grant will have on the College.
“I’m elated about Dr. Roy’s selection for the CURM grant,” Browne said. “Her research not only enhances her reputation as a teacher and a scholar, but it also contributes to Bennett’s goals of increasing retention and persistence. Literature shows that undergraduate students who participate in research with faculty remain in college, persist to graduation, are more likely to gain employment after graduation and are more likely to obtain acceptance into graduate school.”
According to CURM’s website, the organization was founded in 2007 by Dr. Michael Dorff at Brigham Young University and has had “tremendous success in promoting academic year undergraduate research in the mathematical sciences.”
Since its inception, the website says, CURM has provided financial support to 392 undergraduate students, of whom 50% were female, 29% were minorities, 4% had disabilities and 27% were first-generation college students. Those 392 students were mentored by 110 professors – of whom 49% were female and 20% were minorities – from more than 84 colleges and universities nationwide. Of those participating institutions, 21% were Hispanic Serving Institutions or Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Last year, Occidental College in Los Angeles received a $1.38-million grant from the National Science Foundation to stimulate undergraduate research in mathematics and statistics on campuses nationwide. Occidental College Computer Science Professor Dr. Kathryn Leonard will manage the funds, previously managed by Brigham Young University.
“Ajanta had a really interesting project about how … protective measures affect infectious disease spread,” Leonard said. “She has a very clear plan for keeping her students on track, and that’s why she received the grant.”
Roy said the research project Bennett will offer to students is formally titled “vaccination games.” A very important aspect of the project, Roy said, is that it will provide training and credentials for Bennett Belles to be competitive in their future research and graduate school applications.
“Research in math is just an incredibly transformative experience for students, especially those who might not feel like math is really for them, because it gives a lot of personal empowerment,” Leonard of Occidental College said. “Ajanta’s project connects to the real world and makes math seem alive to students who might be thinking of it as being really abstract and disconnected from reality.”