Magazine article Science News

Pity the Math Grad Student

Magazine article Science News

Pity the Math Grad Student

Article excerpt

Whatever the discipline, graduate students generally face lengthy, challenging regimens of research, coursework, teaching and exams. Often feeling overworked and underappreciated, they tend to grumble a lot, but those complaints are rarely taken seriously. It's all part of the grad-school experience they are told, a legacy handed down from one generation of scholars to the next.

In the case of mathematics, however, someone is starting to pay attention to students' concerns. In a study sponsored by the Board on Mathematical Sciences for the National Research Council, a panel of mathematicians investigated doctoral and postdoctoral programs at 10 universities to get a sense of how successfully such programs prepare students for research mathematics and other pursuits beyond graduate school. Panel members found considerable discontent and uncovered evidence that too many talented students were failing to complete their degrees. They also identified program characteristics that appeared to increase the likelihood of success.

"This experience [of conducting the study] completely changed my perspective on graduate education," says panel member Karen Uhlenbeck of the University of Texas at Austin. She discovered that her own success many years earlier in a typical graduate program was the exception rather than the rule. "In most places, students are unhappy," she notes. "The actual percentage that succeed is quite small. It's a tremendous waste of a lot of talent."

Although the panel report comes at a time when mathematicians educated in the United States have an enviable international reputation, it reflects renewed concerns about the relatively small number of U. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.