DiM Research Panel PART I – Students (Winter 2024)

1. Introductions
  • Tasmin Chu, Probability and Groups
    • 2 x SURA
    • Helped friend solve his problem, and now it is becoming a paper
  • April Niu, Algorithmic Game Theory
    • Computer science
    • Joined statistics and computer science here
    • Got a professor to be their supervisor after undergrad
    • Did SURA in algorithm design in game theory, which is becoming their research now
    • More applied math
  • Carl Kristof-Tessier, Geometric Group Theory
    • 2 x NSERC
    • Number theory
    • Geometric group theory
    • Starting their master’s degree with the professor that they were working with this summer
    • Interacts with both math and computer science
    • Strong algorithm related to group
  • Zhaoshen Zhai, Geometric Topology
    • SURA
    • Notes that it is normal to get rejected
2. How did you know which professor to reach out to?

General advice

  • Take courses that you are interested in, take many courses, don’t be afraid by some courses or about what people say about the course
  • Talk to the professor, and they can maybe direct you
  • Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to study, throw yourself out there

Personal experiences

  • Panelists say they had no idea what they were doing
  • In Algebra 3, reached out to their teacher, told them “I’m lost”
  • Emailed a lot of professors, and all said no except one. Didn’t know the professor but still shot his shot and got an interview
3. What is the hardest part of research?
  • Prerequisites
  • Lots of reading, but it makes you stronger. It becomes fun to read the textbooks because you understand them better.
  • When you can’t move on from that one line from the textbook.
4. NSERC and SURA – What are the differences? How do you apply?
  • Apply to NSERC (not for international students) first and you are immediately considered for SURA (Science Undergraduate Research Award)
  • For Arts, there is ARIA (Arts Undergraduate Research Internship Awards)
  • Other option: ISM Undergraduate Summer Scholarship. Less money but can still consider it.
5. What does the day-to-day look like?
  • Go into Burnside, meet with the professor once a week, gives guidelines on what you do for the week
  • Close contact with the professor, task-based
  • You are never completely alone, a lot of talking
  • Meet people, make friends
6. How many hours a week do you spend on your research?
  • 3-4 hours a day
  • Most of it is talking, hanging out
  • Every day there is a bit of research
  • It varies week to week
7. I am U1 and have not taken many courses. What are the chances that I do research?
  • Look for supervisors! A lot of professors don’t care about courses because their research is so specific
  • Your chances are lower than the second years that already applied
  • Worth applying still because it only makes your chances go up for next year
8. What are your best or most important memories related to research?
  • Highest: solving a problem
  • Lowest:
    • A lot of PhD students with them, so they felt behind.
    • Thought they did something right, but it was wrong. They then fixed it and it was right.
    • Imposter syndrome – god complex. It comes and goes.
9. Does research get boring?
  • The research is not your area if you get bored.
  • Need to care about your problem, or it will be hard to work on it.
10. How was the conclusion of your research?
  • Not writing a report
  • Write your paper as quickly as possible so you don’t get bored
  • If it is a great match, talk to your professor about doing a Master’s
  • You often continue your research
  • 2 final reports
  • You can always say no if the professor asks you to continue in that research – don’t stay stuck in the area if you don’t want to.
11. How much support did you have during challenging moments?
  • Reach out to your collaborators
  • Research something that is interesting to other people so you can talk to other people as well
  • By talking with your collaborators and making connections, you learn something about your own project even though other people don’t necessarily understand
  • Collaboration is good, but the goal is to become and independent researcher
12. When you contacted the supervisors, did you already have a project in mind?
  • You don’t need a specific project, but usually have a field in mind
  • The professor almost always chooses the project
  • If you are interested in a certain project, look into what you want
  • No one expects you to have a research problem in mind, but you should also dive into problems you find interesting
13. Do you need SURA or NSERC to do research?
  • Try to get money, as it is expensive to live
14. How does research affect your workload?
  • Research project class takes a lot of time
  • Takes a certain amount of space in your life, depending on how obsessive you are
15. Getting money for research: Can you only get funding from research grants or can you get paid privately?
  • Can come from the professor’s grant
  • Don’t count on getting paid privately, it is not an internship
  • Money is also important for incentives, on both sides
  • SURA – competitive application, can put in your CV
16. MATH470
  • You don’t get paid – not an option
  • You have to find a supervisor – talk to them in person, reach out, try your best
17. What general courses would make up a good basis for math research?
  • Take all algebras and analysis classes
  • Topology, geometry-topology (biased, their field), comes up a lot, very modern
  • Depends on your research, theirs was in 447
18. How long are summer research projects?
  • 15 weeks, possible to get 16 weeks
  • Most of the time you have to be in person
  • Usually the whole summer
  • Arts – only 10 weeks
  • Depends on the grant
  • Depends on the progress of your research, they can extend SURA (6 months)
  • Depends on the professor
19. For someone not in honours, is there a lower probability of getting SURA?
  • Don’t worry about it, take good courses
  • Take honours classes in the area that you are interested in, don’t be afraid of the honours classes
20. How do you deal with imposter syndrome?
  • Never feel too stupid to apply of talk to a professor, they are open-minded
  • Goal is to learn, not revolutionize the world
  • You are not uniquely stupid
21. Should you do research as early as possible?
  • The more classes you take, the more attractive you look for supervisors
  • The more time goes on, the more opportunities will come your way
  • Don’t stress too much, fine to be U3-U4, take your time, go at your own pace
22. How long do you talk to your supervisors for?
  • Usually about an hour
23. Final Advice
  • Research – most fulfilling experience, most social, unique experience
  • Present your research and talk about your research
  • the social aspect is a big part
  • You get paid for sitting down and doing nothing
  • If you are passionate, professors will take you
  • Don’t be afraid of the less flashy fields
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