MATH 499

Research Project in Mathematics
Winter 2013
Thursdays, 3:30-4:50 PM, CAB 281

Dr. Thomas Hillen
Professor, Graduate Chair

Office hours: by appointment
CAB 575

Important dates:

Assignment due dates: [1] on Jan 24, [2] on Jan 31, [3] on Feb 28, [4] on Mar 7, [5] on Mar 21 in class
Draft report due on Apr 04,
Final report due on April 11,
Poster presentations and Oral presentations: on or after April 15 (time TBA).

Course description from the calendar

This course provides students in Specialization and Honors programs an opportunity to pursue research in mathematics under the direction of a member of the Department.  Course requirements include at least one oral presentation and a written final report. Students interested in taking this course should contact the course coordinator two months in advance. Credit for this course may be obtained more than once. Prerequisites: a 300-level MATH course and consent of the course coordinator.

Structure of the course

  • Students are expected to spend, on average, 6 hours per week on their research project, in consultation with their project supervisor.
  • In addition, there will be a weekly seminar (Thursday afternoons, 3:30 - 4:50 PM in CAB 281) during which students will learn about  good communication skills in mathematics and practice those.

Course objectives

  • The course will provide students with a research experience in mathematics.
  • Students will learn deeply about a topic in mathematics that is not available through regular course offerings.
  • Students will sharpen their scientific writing skills, with particular attention to writing in the field of mathematics.
  • Student will learn about and practice effective oral presentation skills.

Grade Evaluation

  • Assignments and in Class work: 25 %
  • Public Oral Presentation: 20%
  • Final Written Report: 35%

Final grades will be decided based on University of Alberta Policy.  As indication of the grading levels: a performance of 90% or better results in an A or better, a performance of 80% or better results in B+ or better. The minimum passing grade is 65 % (C+). I reserve the right to adjust the scale as to give better grades, if appropriate.

(tentative) Course Schedule



Jan 10

Jan 17
Reading assignment: The Science of Scientific Writing
In-class: Group discussion and editing/revision exercise

Jan 24
Assignment 1 due: Short proposal of your project

Jan 31
Assignment 2 due: Blitz presentations

Feb 7
Guest Lecturer: Dr. Mark Lewis:
The structure of a paper;
Reading assignment: Chapter 12 from Scientists Must Write
In-class: Group discussion and exercise

Feb 14
Guest Lecturer: Dr. Gerda de Vries:
Mathematicians Must Speak (the DOs and DON'Ts of Giving Effective Mathematical Presentations)

Feb 21
No Class

Feb 28

Assignment 3 due: Project Introduction
In-class: Introduction to academic posters
(Presentation developed by Marilee P. Ogren, MIT)

Mar 7
Assignment 4 due: Critique of a research poster
In-class: Poster field trip to floors 4-6 of CAB

Mar 14
Reading assignment: D.R. Hess, How to Write an Effective Discussion, Respiratory Care 49:1238-1241, 2004 (link)
In-class: Group discussion

Mar 21
In-class: Activity on writing an effective abstract

Mar 28
moved: Due: Draft of Project Report
Ethics Class, room CAB 281

Apr 4
Assignment 5 due: peer review of draft project
In-class: Consultation for poster, presentation and report

Apr 12
Final Report due
Final touches on the oral presentation

Apr 16
Public poster presentations and oral presentations:
CAB 572: 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM (with breaks)
Presentation signup sheet (active on google drive on Friday, March 29, 12 noon.).

Learning Resources:

Students with Disabilities: Students who require accommodation in this course due to a disability are advised to discuss their needs with Specialized Support & Disability Services (2-800 Students’ Union Building).

Academic Support Centre: Students who require additional help in developing strategies for better time management, study skills or examination skills should contact the Academic Support Centre (2-703 Students’ Union Building).

Students are expected to attend all scheduled seminars and participate actively in discussions and activities.

Missed Term Work: A student who cannot complete a term assignment due to incapacitating illness, severe domestic affliction or other compelling reasons can apply for extension of time to  complete the assignment.  Applications for a deferral must be made to the course instructor within 48 hours of the missed assignment due date.  Deferral of term work is a priviledge and not a right; there is no guarantee that a deferral will be granted.  Misrepresentation of Facts to gain a deferral is a serious break of the Code of Student Behaviour.

Academic Integrity and Honesty: The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty.  Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect.  Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour (online at and avoid any behaviour which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offense.  Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University.

Cell Phones and Laptops: Cell phones and laptops are to be turned off during seminars.

Recording: Recording is permitted only with the prior written consent of the professor or if recording is part of an approved accommodation plan.

Dr. Thomas Hillen, Department of Mathematical & Statistical Sciences, University of Alberta.

Disclaimer: Any typographical errors in this Course Outline are subject to change and will be announced in class.

Policy about course outlines can be found in section 23.4(2) of the University Calendar.