Student Research Projects

Students find research opportunities in a number of ways. Funding is available for undergraduate projects in mathematics. Some students start with an independent study and continue with a stipend for summer research. The first step is to contact a potential project supervisor.

2022 Summer Research Projects for Undergraduates and High School Students

The Department of Mathematics and Statistics is seeking applications from American University undergraduates or high school students wanting to participate in student research projects in the mathematical sciences during the summer of 2022. The summer research program will support at most ten students who will work on small projects guided by a mentor from the department. Students will conduct their research remotely but may meet with their mentor over Zoom or in person as determined by the mentor. In addition to participating in a research project, successful applicants will be eligible for a $2,000 support payment.

Applications and transcripts or grade reports must be submitted per the instructions below by May 8, 2022.

To qualify, applicants must be:

  • American University (AU) undergraduate with a declared major in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM), or,
  • a rising Senior or Junior in high school who has successfully completed Algebra and Geometry, with a grade of B or better, and who has an interest in the mathematical sciences associated with careers in STEM.

All AU students and local DC, Maryland, and Virginia area high school students with an interest in STEM are encouraged to apply. Preference will be given to applicants who identify with groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields, from high school students who have not participated in a prior research project, and/or, applicants who are Pell Grant Eligible or eligible for a Free or Reduced Lunch Program at their high school.

Administrative Requirements

  • Access to Computers and Internet: Applicant must have routine access to a tablet or laptop computer that allows them to execute mathematical analysis. They must also have sufficient access to the internet to support their research and potential Zoom teleconferences with their mentor.
  • Support Payments: All participants will receive a $2000 student support payment. Note the payment is taxable so participants must submit tax-related paperwork. All participants will receive payment upon completion of the required tax forms.
  • Release Forms: Participants must sign a release form so American University has nonexclusive unlimited rights to any materials produced during the experience to include any video recordings of participant presentations. Participants under the age of 18 must have a parent or legal guardian sign the release form.

Applicants will pursue a project from the list below. Participants will investigate real-world phenomena or theoretical challenges using methods and tools from the mathematical sciences and create a poster and/or presentation about their results and experience. Project posters and presentations may be shared with the public. Participants may have the opportunity to present their research experience at a departmental colloquium in October 2022.

Projects

  1. Using AI for Fair Assessment of Human Behavior in Peaceful and Violent Events. Projects will fall under a framework geared at understanding the evolution of modern political protest participation in its peaceful and violent manifestations through the creation of novel machine learning and natural language processing tools. Research focuses on detecting a change of sentiment from peaceful to violent during a march or a protest and informing governments/agencies on how to assess human behavior during such events. Students will work on data collection and pre-processing as well as the development of machine learning and natural language processing algorithms geared at detection.
    Mentor: Dr. Zois Boukouvalas.
  2. Topology and Category Theory in Data Modeling. This project explores how to best capture relationships between variables in datasets using their invariance structure, with applications in cybersecurity, signal processing, and large-scale semantic analysis.
    Mentor: Dr. Michael Robinson.
  3. Let's Go Tropical! Students will explore tropical geometry and its applications to phylogenetics. Tropical geometry is a young subject that has grown rapidly since the beginning of the twenty-first century, with deep connections to many branches of applied mathematics. Open to all students who had taken Linear Algebra with Abstract Algebra preferred.
    Mentor: Dr. Julia Chifman.
  4. Topics in Mathematical Analysis. Students will explore a question in modern mathematics. Topics may include number theory, harmonic analysis, and representation theory (which can be thought of as the study of symmetry from a formal point of view).
    Mentor: Dr. Jeff Adler.
  5. Understanding Your Community Through Open Data. Students will choose a topic about their communities for which there is a publicly available data set. They will conduct opensource research on the topic, develop hypotheses, and apply graphical and statistical methods to develop findings and recommendations.
    Mentor: Dr. Richard Ressler.
  6. Darwinian Evolution and Discrete Mathematics. Discrete mathematics, including directed cube graphs, will be used for analyzing Darwinian evolution. Mutations are random, but selection is not. By identifying patterns for how mutations accumulate it is possible to predict evolution to some extent. Potential health applications concern antibiotic resistance, as well as viral evolution, including the development of new COVID-19 variants.
    Mentor: Dr. Kristina Crona
  7. Open Topic. American University students may propose a topic and a mentor related to their research interests in mathematical sciences related to STEM.

To apply

The application deadline is May 8, 2022. No late applications will be considered.

  • Answer each question on the form to the best of your ability.
  • Rank the projects from 1-6 based on your interests. AU students may rank and propose a topic appropriate to a mentor from the list.
  • Complete the acknowledgements section. If under 18, you must email a picture of the statement on the application that is signed and dated by a parent or legal guardian.

If you have any questions, please send an email to mathstatstudentrsrch@american.edu with the subject: Question on 2022 Student Summer Research Projects.

Selected Summer Project Examples

Eyerusalem Abebe

Eyerusalem Abebe

"Analysis of graphical models using sheaves"
Supervisor: Michael Robinson

Jacqueline Adams

Jacqueline Adams

"Macrophages and Iron Phenotypes in Cancer"
Supervisor: Julia Chifman

Casey Aguilar-Gervase

Casey Aguilar-Gervase

"Gene interactions, order perturbations and algorithms"
Supervisor: Kristina Crona
 

Tonia Bell

Tonia Bell

"Gene interactions, rank orders and hyperplane arrangements"
Supervisor: Kristina Crona

Payal Dudhedia

Payal Dudhedia

"Antibiotic resistance, order perturbations and cube graphs"
Supervisor: Kristina Crona

Mario Ego-Aguirre

Mario Ego-Aguirre

"Slices of Pi"
Supervior: Kenneth Ward

Robby Green

Robby Green

"Acoustic simulation and experiments of percussive musical instruments"
Supervisor: Michael Robinson

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

"Acoustic simulation and experiments of percussive musical instruments"
Supervisor: Michael Robinson

Fangfei Lan

Fangfei Lan

"Acoustic simulation and experiments of percussive instruments"
Supervisor: Michael Robinson

Moriah Mitchell

Moriah Mitchell

"Involvement of iron in cell cycle"
Supervisor: Julia Chifman

Metin Toksoz-Exley

Metin Toksoz-Exley

"Biological Networks and Generative Graphs"
Supervisor: Michael Robinsson

Greg Young

Greg Young

"Acoustic simulation and experiments of percussive musical instruments"
Supervisor: Michael Robinson

Meet a Researcher Tonia Bell

  • Why did you want to do a research project?
    I wanted to do a research project so that I could take what I learned in the classroom and see how it applies to real life situations. Seeing what you study theoretically apply in reality is a very rewarding experience that makes all the hours spent studying feel worthwhile.
  • What do you research?
    I researched additivity in biological systems. Since any organism will adapt to better fit its surroundings, one can look at the genome and observe where mutations occur. Additive systems are those in which mutations contribute to fitness independently. By using weight vectors and hyperplane arrangements, we were able to find all rank orders of genotypes that could be compatible with additive fitness in four locus systems. We used our results for analyzing malaria drug resistance.
  • What’s the most difficult aspect of your research?
    One of the most challenging aspects of this research is that it is a long term project, and you may not see how what you have done contributes to the whole. Since gratification was not immediate and some research questions took a long time to solve, it was important to keep myself motivated.
  • And the most fun?
    The best part of my research was how independent it often was. Being given a problem and choosing how to solve it felt like a puzzle, and helped me to be a more critical problem solver.
  • How is the experience preparing you for the future?
    This experience has helped me understand the many ways that mathematics can be applied in life, and got me to consider what I would like to do with my degree when I graduate. It also improved my ability to look at a problem and create a plan to solve it step by step, which applies not only to mathematics but all fields of research.