The senior exercise in mathematics consists of a written paper and an oral presentation related to the paper and enrollment in Math 190 and Math 191. Click here for this year's exciting schedule and here for last year's talks.
The senior exercise in mathematics consists of a written paper and an oral presentation related to the paper and enrollment in Math 190 and Math 191. The subject is chosen by the faculty advisor in consultation with the student; it may be any advanced mathematical topic for which the student has adequate background. The topic will frequently be related to material covered in a course, but it can also be from an area that is completely new to the student. The topic may be expository, or it may be based on original research that the student has carried out at Pomona College or elsewhere. Work which was done for a course may not also be used for the senior exercise unless it is extensively augmented and revised. The most common form of project selection in mathematics is to go to a potential advisor and choose from among a few possibilities offered by the advisor. Advisors will suggest possible topics that are close to their areas of expertise and/or interest.
The work for the senior exercise must be of high quality and show the student's ability to learn independently. The paper and presentation must demonstrate the student's understanding and mastery of the topic at hand. It is better to thoroughly master a more modest project than to incompletely master an overly ambitious project.
Each student will choose a faculty member in the department to act as an advisor. With the permission of the department, the student may choose any faculty member at the Claremont Colleges as an advisor. Ideally, a student will contact an advisor and choose a topic in the second semester of the junior year. It's important to select an advisor early because no faculty member can supervise more than 3 senior theses. As the schedule shows, the topic and advisor must be chosen no later than the beginning of the first semester of the senior year.
All seniors must enroll in Mathematics 190, Seminar in Mathematical Exposition, in the first semester, as well as Mathematics 191, Senior Thesis, in the second semester. Both half-credit courses must be taken in the senior year. The Seminar in Mathematical Exposition, offered in the fall, will focus on the mechanics of researching and writing the senior thesis. The Senior Thesis, offered in the spring, will focus on the completion of the thesis and its oral presentation. At each of the spring thesis meetings, two or three students will give their presentations. Attendance is required for seniors; other mathematics majors are encouraged to attend. Any seminar which you miss must be made up by attending a mathematics colloquium and writing a brief summary of it.
The schedule applies to seniors in the academic year 2012-13. It can be used as a rough guide for other students, as we will follow a similar plan in subsequent years.
Senior Exercise Dates for 2012-13
By September 12 (Wednesday). Inform Ms. Sheldon as to the advisor of your Senior Paper. The department's policy is that each faculty member may advise at most three senior papers, so make your choice right away. You are required to take Seminar in Mathematical Exposition, Math 190, and Senior Thesis, Math 191, which are both half-credit courses. The department expects that you will invest at least a solid full course in your paper and its oral presentation.
September 28 (Friday). In Math 190, we will conduct a lottery to schedule the order of the talks for the Senior Thesis. There will be three-five talks each Friday afternoon starting February 1 (Friday) and continuing until everyone has talked. We will also have talks on January 21 if there are volunteers who want to present early. If you want to volunteer for January 25, you need to inform Ms. Sheldon by October 18.
A senior who declares a math major after the lottery will be assigned a place in the queue by a separate lottery. The only other way to change your place in the queue (except for real emergencies) is for two people to come to Ms. Sheldon and tell her that they want to exchange places.
October 18 (Thursday, just before Fall Recess). Advise Ms. Sheldon of the topic of your Senior Paper.
January 25 (First Friday of Spring semester). The first formal /organizational meeting of Math 191.
January 25 or February 1 (Friday). Presentations begin.
February 20 (Wednesday). First draft of your Senior Paper is due to Ms. Sheldon, by 4:30 p.m.
April 5 (Friday). Two copies of the final draft of the Senior Paper are due to Ms. Sheldon by 4:30 p.m.
- The Department of Mathematics has no problem with a senior working on a single project and based on that single project writing two senior theses, one for math and one for another discipline. The thesis for math must satisfy the student's thesis advisor in the Department of Mathematics as an adequate mathematics thesis. We have, of course, no control over whether such an arrangement is acceptable to the other discipline.
- If a student wants to write a single thesis to satisfy two majors (one of them math) then they have to submit a proposal to the mathematics department. The department will consider such proposals on a case by case basis. The following should be noted:
- In general such a (single) thesis will be more substantial than the average thesis in mathematics.
- It is expected that the mathematics content of the thesis will be comparable to an acceptable thesis in mathematics.
- The most likely scenario for a successful proposal is one that is based on the common research interests of a mathematics faculty member and a faculty member in another discipline. In particular, the project is more likely to be one suggested by the two faculty members and not be one conceived by the student.
- Such joint projects are possible but will be rare. Hence double majors should not have any expectations that such a joint project will necessarily be found for them. The most likely scenario for a double major continues to be the writing of separate theses albeit on topics that have some relevance to their other discipline.
- As a department we welcome double majors and we are excited about possibilities of collaboration with other departments and programs. We encourage such interactions. However, we do not want to create an expectation that if you are a double major then we will find a project for you that will relate directly to your other interests. In addition and more generally, projects conceived by students and without direct connection to the interests of faculty are often not a good idea. The students can certainly bring their ideas for projects---including ones from REUs---to faculty, but they should be prepared to work on other projects if a willing/suitable advisor is not available. The most common form of project selection in mathematics is to go to a potential advisor and choose from among a few possibilities offered by the advisor. Potential advisors will suggest possible topics that are close to their areas of expertise and/or interest.