Assistant Professor of Mathematics Courtney Gibbons is spending eight weeks in Salem, Ore., working with the Willamette University Mathematics Consortium, an intensive summer research experience for undergraduates (REU). The program, funded thorough the National Science Foundation, immerses undergraduate students in a challenging, transformative and authentic research experience. Primarily for students planning on pursuing a graduate degree, the program is designed to prepare them for graduate research.
Three research teams, each consisting of three students and one faculty mentor, work on three different but simultaneous research projects that share a common unifying theme. This year’s projects are focused on ring and matrix algebra.
Gibbons is serving as the mentor for a group working on “Algorithms over Polynomial Rings.” She said that with her help and on their own, the students are learning about free resolutions, tensor products of modules, and tensor products of complexes – topics that Gibbons said usually appear in a homological algebra or commutative algebra graduate class.
The students begin by reading research papers and student theses (including that of Robert Huben '15) to gain an understanding of the research landscape and to generate their research problem. As the weeks go on, they outline a plan and refine their research question, then work on techniques for solving their problem, and finally, produce a research paper. The program ends July 24.
Gibbons said that she is learning a lot about involving undergraduates in mathematics research and enjoys sharing her research area with the students. She has created a blog to share her experiences.