If you’re interested in math research, there are a number of ways you can gain exposure. Here are some resources:
How to Find Faculty Members
You can learn about faculty members through classes, websites (personal, department, or lab/research center websites), their graduate students, classes they teach, their research publications, news stories (e.g. through the Harvard Gazette or newsletters of research centers), campus talks/lectures, student club activities, etc. Freshmen should especially consider taking a Freshmen Seminar, as those are a wonderful opportunity to engage deeply with senior faculty members.
How to Connect with Faculty
Once you have found a faculty member whose interests align with yours, reach out to them during office hours or schedule an appointment. (Note: to be effective, emails should have a short, descriptive subject, be professional (with proper capitalization, grammar, formal tone, addressed by proper salutation and last name, etc.), and briefly, in 1-2 short paragraphs, explain who you are and why you want to connect with them.) Once you have met with the faculty member, continue to establish regular contact, even if you are not taking their class, by visiting them during office hours or inviting them to student-faculty dinners in your house.
How to Find Someone to Do Research With
Absolutely, with no qualifications, approach the researcher and ask what it would take to do research in his/her lab. As a first-year undergraduate student, it’s very likely that you don’t have the knowledge to contribute to the projects. So approach humbly, asking what you can do to prepare yourself. Ask for suggestions for a review paper or a few research reports that would bring you up to speed. Ask if you can attend lab meetings as a fly-on-the-wall to absorb the controversies and decisions being made day-by-day. The very worst possible case is that you’re told, “no.” If so, you’re already there. Next worst is that you invest your time and get only an education out of it. That’s not so bad. You’ll be positioned very very well for next year.
- Internal Harvard Search for Research Programs.
Search tool for Harvard research opportunities.
- Harvard College Program for Research in Science and Engineering (PRISE).
Summer residential program at Harvard. The website gives a description of the PRISE program and previous projects.
- Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.
Advice and resources for getting started, finding faculty to work with, writing proposals, applying for funding, etc.
- SEAS Student Affairs Office.
Resources for finding research opportunities within SEAS.
The most common external research program students attend is an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates). Note that all REUs are fully funded and provide a stipend for living.
- American Mathematical Society List of REU Summer Programs.
AMS list of summer REU sites.
AMS application system for most REU programs. Deadlines are mostly in February.
- Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics (CURM).
CURM promotes academic year undergraduate research. Possible funding source.
- National Science Foundation REU Search Tool.
The National Science Foundation funds a large number of summer REU programs in various disicplines. This search tool shows all the NSF fields.
- “Is an REU for You?”, MAA Article.
MAA article describing what REU programs are like.
Further information about research opportunities in math is available here.