Planning Grant Proposal

The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science proposes to use the planning grant to investigate the viability of creating the Westmont Interdisciplinary Research Institute (draft description and mission given below) and to put into place some of the basic resources needed to launch the Institute.

Note that the description below is subject to modification as we explore the viability of the project.

Westmont Interdisciplinary Research Institute

  • Provides interdisciplinary instruction in mathematical research and computational methods to students in the humanities, mathematical, computer, natural, social, and behavioral sciences.
  • Funds collaborative research projects involving undergraduate students and a pair of faculty mentors--one from math/computer science, and one from another discipline.

The Westmont Interdisciplinary Research Institute (WIRI) provides opportunities for students to learn to use the tools of mathematics and computer science to investigate problems in the natural, social, and behavioral sciences, and in the humanities.  Student fellows of the Institute earn course credit by taking an intensive Mayterm interdisciplinary course in mathematical research methods or computer science taught by a team of faculty in the humanities, the mathematical, computer, natural, social, and behavioral sciences.  They also participate in a research project with a pair of faculty mentors--one from math/computer science and one from another discipline.

WIRI promotes the mission of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and the mission of the college.  Through their course work and their research, students learn to think analytically and creatively and they acquire mathematical and computational knowledge and skills. Working closely with faculty and fellow students on research projects, they are introduced to the life and work of a scholarly community and they begin to acquire knowledge and skills that will enable them to give leadership to future efforts to research and solve local and global problems.

The viability of WIRI will depend on:

  • Sufficient interest among faculty in other disciplines: will one or more faculty want to pursue research projects that make some use of the tools of mathematics or computer science?  Will a faculty member in those disciplines want to team-teach a research methods course with a colleague in math/cs?
  • Sufficient interest among qualified students: will a sufficient number of students having the necessary quantitative skills want this training and want to participate in the proposed research projects?
  • Funding to pay summer stipends to student fellows and faculty mentors.

Possible uses of the planning grant:

  • Provide stipends or release time for faculty to observe appropriate courses in one another's departments (e.g., research methods courses).
  • Fund a two-week summer workshop for faculty to explore curricular options for a Mayterm interdisciplinary computer science or mathematical research methods course.
  • Send one or more faculty members to explore and observe similar programs at other institutions (e.g., St. Olaf's Center for Interdisciplinary Research, Calvin's McGregor Undergraduate Research Program)