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Research Interaction Teams

A new innovation in the MATH, STAT, and AMSC graduate programs, effective Fall 2002, is the introduction of "Research Interaction Teams" (RITs). Participation in these is optional, but the idea behind them is to find a way to ease the transition from basic course work (in the undergraduate years and the first two years of graduate study) to work on independent research (leading to the M.A. thesis or Ph.D. dissertation).

All students who are prepared and interested are welcome to join an RIT at any time. All students beyond their first year, especially those who have completed two qualifying exams, will be encouraged to join an RIT. Each RIT Plan will provide a prospectus of activities for beginning students that will facilitate their entry into the research environment. Students who have not reached candidacy can get credit for RIT participation by registering for MATH, STAT, or AMSC 689 for up to three credits with a faculty director in that RIT. (Every faculty member has an individual section number for these courses.) Every such student will be assigned a suitable project and a more senior mentor. It is hoped that every team member will get a chance to mentor a more junior member. Graduate students who have reached candidacy can carry out their dissertation work within the framework of an RIT, but register for MATH, STAT, or AMSC 899 (Dissertation Research), not 689.

As RIT plans by Faculty members become available, they will be posted on the list of current RITs.

The Why and How of RIT's

Early orientation toward and involvement in research greatly facilitates a student's rapid progress toward degree. The transition from coursework to research is currently seen as the most serious obstacle to reducing the average time-to-degree. We are placing team-based research activities at the core of the graduate program in the form of Research Interaction Teams (RIT's).

All math department faculty are encouraged to be involved in at least one RIT plan. Some of these may serve more than one program (e.g., MATH plus AMSC, or STAT plus AMSC). Each RIT is to be planned and directed by one or more faculty, and perhaps codirected by a postdoc. Interdisciplinary RIT's are encouraged. RIT's should be built around existing research groups and can include students and faculty outside the mathematics department. To be registered as a RIT, a research group submits a RIT Plan to the MATH or AMSC Graduate Office with:

  1. a research focus;
  2. a sketch of appropriate activities for undergraduates (if available) and for beginning and advanced graduate students;
  3. an appropriate meeting and work schedule that incorporates significant vertical integration;
  4. (optional) other opportunities for professional training.
The whole plan should be a page or two at most. See the current www listing for samples.

The RIT structure will aid the process of finding a dissertation advisor, a process that until now has been informal and often intimidating for students. This format provides ample opportunity for movement and change of direction as students are not expected to stay in the first RIT they join, or to join only one. We expect students to settle on an RIT home by their third year, the team in which they will work toward candidacy and a dissertation. Once a student settles on a RIT home, the evolution of this into the familiar student-advisor format will be natural.

Each RIT will have regular meetings at which its members will discuss their activities. It is expected that doing so will both facilitate each student's work and broaden each student's eduaction about related work. This format demands ongoing communication by each member of an RIT to all of its members. These meetings will also be a forum in which students can prepare for more formal presentations such as for a regular seminar, the AMSC/MATH/STAT ``Spotlight on Graduate Research'' and the University's ``Graduate Research Interaction Day''. When it is appropriate, graduate students will be strongly encouraged to participate in research conferences and workshops and to prepare and submit their results for publication.

In some cases, this structure will also provide a venue for students to find out about professional opportunities such as conferences, summer schools, internships, and summer jobs. A scientist or mathematician who is collaborating with a Maryland math faculty member might also be a regular visitor to an RIT, if not a full member of one.

Updated December 2002