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In a recent post, @jericson was interested in finding out about REU programs available. It springs to mind the possibility of creating REU directly on this website drawing on the fantastic pool of mathematicians in our community.

A rough sketch of the program we could offer would be along the following lines:

  • create a core group of REU coordinators, maybe restrict those positions to those who hold a MSc or higher,
  • develop a list of REU topics to promote the projects,
  • the undergrads taking the project would get a team of mentors and post their work and questions on the website where the entire community could provide them with insights and appropriate help.

Notes:

  • the mentors could agree to submit a detailed reference letter at the end of the project to describe the outcome and give some credit to the participants,
  • this is also a great opportunity to offer collaborative and/or multi-disciplinary projects, that would be a nice change from the boring tradition of the lonesome mathematician still cultivated in so many universities.

Next step actions:

  • if the community agrees with this idea, we'll need to add some explanations in the faq to direct potentially interested participants,
  • agree on the characteristics a REU should have (amount of work, level of difficulty, etc.)
  • if you are interested in becoming a mentor and/or have some topic suggestions that could fit a REU write them down somewhere, I'll create a dedicated question in the meta if the project catches on,
  • it seems we wouldn't need to create anything specific for this project, just add a system of explicit tags (each project could get such a tag for example).

The goal is of course to create something as a community, I'm more than willing to give some time to this project, but I won't do it alone. Waiting for your comments/answers/suggestions and participation!

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    $\begingroup$ Are you referring to something like the "Polymath" projects? Here is the webpage: polymathprojects.org and I learned about it on Terence Tao's blog: terrytao.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/polymath3-now-active $\endgroup$ – Eric Naslund Apr 16 '11 at 22:06
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    $\begingroup$ I'm somewhat lukewarm of the idea of an "online REU". While you get the R and the U, the E is certainly much different than if you can talk to the mentor face-to-face. Furthermore, if you are doing this online, there is no reason to restrict it to summer times, like traditional REUs. In short, I think what you are proposing is interesting, but the comparison with REUs is not apt. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Apr 17 '11 at 12:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Eric, I guess it could be a baby version of the Polymath idea, I think things would have to be broken down much more though as we would be dealing with undergrads and not mathematicians. @Willie, I see your point about the Experience part, no one says we couldn't add some skype time though. I like the idea of keeping it in the summer as it's a different time for all of us, during the rest of the year, students are busy with their courses, faculty teach and grads do both. Also, the point of a REU is to keep people busy when there is no courses around, but I'm open to enlarging the format! $\endgroup$ – David Kohler Apr 17 '11 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ It sounds like a very interesting experiment. I was heavily involved with the Polymath Projects, particularly Polymath4. But I feel that there were two parts that led to it being a successful experience - there was an extraordinary online collaborative community whose records were well-kept and visible, and I had 2 local peers who worked on it with me. I cannot stress how important I think having those peers was to the program. But I think the REU idea is interesting and certainly warrants attention! $\endgroup$ – davidlowryduda Apr 22 '11 at 8:50

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