ARTU Program Opening Speech: Oct. 25, 2013

Alvaro Pelayo

ARTU Executive Director

October 25, 2013, 1:10-1:15pm
Room 199, Cupples I, Washington U. in St Louis

I'm Alvaro Pelayo, I am executive director or ARTU and I'm delighted that you are joining us for this first meeting. I know that most of you have a busy schedule and it was probably not easy to reserve this slot. On behalf of the executive committee I want to tell you that I am very pleased that you are here.

I encourage you to provide us with feedback to improve ARTU after this meeting.

ARTU stands for Advanced Research Training for Undergraduates. You may have already read in the ARTU website what this program is about. We match the brightest mathematics undergraduate students in Washing ton University with top notch faculty, who supervise the students' research for a period of several semesters and several summers. The minimum participation time allowed is 1 semester and 1 summer.

If you are familiar with REU programs, you can think of ARTU as a long term REU program, where research is developed over a longer period of time, and where students receive exceptionally personal, individualized attention from a faculty Mentor who is a leading researcher in some area of mathematics or statistics.

Our faculty specialize on a wide range of topics, from machine learning and bioinformatics to graph theory, computational and applied mathematics, multimedia mathematics, statistical analysis, geometry, dynamical systems, probability, and the theory of wavelets.

If you have been on the faculty of any research institution you know that this program is not groundbreaking in the sense that it is inventing a new approach to undergraduate research. Undergraduate research of the highest quality has been done by undergraduates at Washington University for decades.

But we are adding a critically important ingredient: we are creating a support network and giving a thoroughly supervised structure to undergraduate research, with the goal of going from an average of very good performance to an average of great performance.

The idea of ARTU is rooted in a deeply felt belief shared by several of us that personalized long term research supervision can have a transformative impact on the professional careers of undergraduate students. We know that research of the highest quality seldom happens in 2 or 3 months. This is why our students must be part of ARTU for at least 6 months, that is, one summer and one semester. However, we expect students to be part of ARTU for significantly longer.

A simpler way to describe ARTU is that it is program which intends to build on the great benefits of summer research programs currently well established in several schools in the United States, and the less structured and challenging process which faculty and students go through in order to complete an outstanding senior thesis.

We intend to combine the effectiveness of these two established research settings into one program which in addition provides long term supervision, hence potentially leading to research of a greater depth, with a highly structured setting based on individual faculty supervision.

We provide financial support for students and faculty over the summers, as well as for several of the key mentors and administrators throughout the school year. This financial support is absolutely critical to ARTU, and is made possible thanks to a generous grant from the United States National Science Foundation till 2016.

We are in the process of looking for a permanent endowment for ARTU. My intention is that it continues indefinitely, after our current financial sup port has ended.

I want to emphasize that ARTU's greatest strength is that we have an absolutely first class pool of undergraduate candidates, which already includes some Compton scholars and students who have the mathematical maturity and skills of graduate students in the best programs in the country.

We support these spectacular students by giving them thorough supervision not only by their faculty mentors, but also by an executive committee whose goal is to help them flourish into research and professional leaders.

ARTU's co-directors, Ron Freiwald and Blake Thornton have extensive experience in undergraduate education and their input is critical to ARTU. In addition, ARTU receives advice from Dean Barbara Schaal, a world renowned scientist who was the first woman to be elected vice president of the United Stated National Academy of Sciences and has served on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Dean Schaal wanted to be present here with us today but she couldn't because of a previously scheduled meeting. She is planning on coming to our second ARTU meeting in March 2014, and sends us and our students her enthusiastic support.

I conclude by thanking you all again for your presence and I look forward to hearing any questions or concerns. You may write directly to me or to any member of the ARTU executive committee: Ron Freiwald, Roya Behesthi, Blake Thornton, and David Wright. David Wright is also the Chair of the Mathematics Department, and has been an enthusiastic supporter of ARTU since its inception. I want to thank him for it. In particular, under his leadership ARTU has secured additional funding to give monetary prizes to students at the end of their participation in the program. These prizes are given on the basis of absolutely outstanding scientific output resulting from participation in ARTU.

Last but not least I would like to thank ARTU Manager, Shar Weber, who has worked diligently to deal with the often complicated administrative aspects of handling our National Science Foundation grant of about half a million dollars.

I would like to express my gratitude to the United States National Science Foundation who has been supporting financially ARTU. ARTU is possible thanks to the Foundation's vision and generosity, and I am deeply grateful for this. In particular, I would like to thank our program officer, Joanna Kania-Bartoszynska, the Program Director for Topology and Geometric Analysis in the Foundation, for her support.

Next I have ARTU co-directors Blake Thornton and Ronald Freiwald speak. It's my pleasure to introduce Professor Thornton who will say a few words.