Summer program putting UH Hilo on math map

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Date: Thursday, June 19, 2014
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

There is a buzz of excitement in the air at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo College Hall where an elite handful of students this week began to engage in challenging mathematical and computational activities.

The Pacific Undergraduate Research Experience in Mathematics (PURE Math) is a research experience for undergraduates (REU) program funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Mentoring Through Critical Transition Points (MCTP) grant and a National Security Agency (NSA) award. Each year, 24 undergraduates and two graduate students from across the country come to UH Hilo to conduct up to eight weeks of mathematics research. The session is comprised of two sections consisting of a five-week interns program and an eight-week residents program.

PURE Math, now in its fourth year, is Hawai’i’s only mathematics research experience serving undergraduates and the only one in the country focusing on Pacific Island students. The program is also one of the country’s most productive and competitive REU’s with an acceptance rate of just 5-7%.

PURE Math has received high marks from its external evaluator, which reported that the program has achieved rare results for REU’s by excelling in producing rigorous, high quality mathematics while serving under-represented populations. Principal investigator Dr. Roberto Pelayo says the program’s success speaks for itself where it counts.

“The benchmarks we measure the program’s success by include the numerous peer-reviewed publications we’ve produced that have appeared in research-level journals and the number of students who use this summer research program to gain entry into some very competitive Ph.D. programs in mathematics,” Pelayo said. “You can find PURE Math alumni in mathematics Ph.D. programs at several top-tier universities, including such storied institutions as Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley.”

Pelayo believes these success stories are earning UH Hilo a reputation as a “hot spot” for undergraduate mathematics research training. He says the students will showcase their research during a pair of symposia that will take place near the end of the program for interns on July 18 and residents on August 7.

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