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For Undergraduate Students

Undergraduates in 2nd, 3rd or 4th year can apply to work with me on projects that involve mathematical modelling of biological systems. Typically, I take on only about one in every ten students who approach me. If you are potentially interested in an undergraduate research position then you should begin by doing the following:

  • Read this page carefully and follow the links to the various funding sources in order to determine which awards you are eligible for.
  • Arrange for an official transcript to be sent to me.
  • Send me an email message at telling me what you are interested in, which awards you are eligible for, when you would like to start and finish working, what your future plans are, and any other information that you think might be relevant. Attach your resume to this e-mail message.

After I've received your transcript and e-mail message with resume, I will let you know by e-mail when I can meet with you to discuss the possibility of a research position.

The sorts of projects that I am normally interested in supervising are connected with epidemiology of infectious diseases, conservation of endangered species, or the evolution of animal behaviour. One of my primary research projects at the moment concerns disease dynamics in London, England, over the last four hundred years. However, if you are interested in another area of biology, and have an idea that you would like to investigate using mathematical models, then I would be very happy to discuss it. You might think that to work with me you need a formal background in biology, but that's not true. You just need to be interested in biology. You do need to have taken some mathematics courses and, most importantly, you need to be keen to use mathematical models to contribute to our understanding of biology. Some knowledge of computer programming is usually essential.

One of my long term goals is to digitize a wide variety of extremely valuable historical disease data sets and make them available online at the International Infectious Disease Data Archive. Undergraduates at any level can get involved in the collection and digitization of these data. Senior undergraduates can potentially get involved in mathematical modelling of disease dynamics if they have done well in an advanced course in ordinary differential equations, such as Math 3F03. It is also extremely advantageous to have taken courses in mathematical modelling, such as Math 3MB3, and mathematical biology , such Math 4MB3. Projects involving statistical analysis of disease data are also possible for individuals who have a solid background in statistics, for example an A grade in Stats 3D03.

Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRAs) are available through NSERC (the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada). These awards typically support students for four months of research during the summer, though they can be held at other times of the year. The deadline for the first step of the application process is normally in early February, regardless of the desired starting date. The regulations governing the USRA program are described in the Program Guide for Students and Fellows on NSERC's Web site. Click here for application forms and instructions. Please also check the internal McMaster deadlines. If you would like to apply for an NSERC award then don't leave it to the last minute. Look carefully at the sites mentioned above and get in touch with me as far before the deadline as possible.

McMaster's Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR) normally provides a few student fellowship awards to eligible undergraduates working with an IIDR member during the summer. The application deadline is normally in late February or early March and involves a one-page research proposal.

Depending on your qualifications, there are other ways to fund a period of research in my group. For example, if you have substantial computer programming experience and are interested in a strongly computer-oriented project then it may be possible to obtain funding through SHARC-Net, which is a network of supercomputers in Southern Ontario (with a major node at McMaster).

If you are majoring in Arts & Science, Integrated Science, Biology or PNB, and have a keen interest in mathematical modelling, then it may be possible for me to supervise your undergraduate honours thesis.

The federal government sponsors the Canada Summer Jobs program, which can potentially pay a portion of your summer salary. Something else you might want to consider is actually applying to work for a federal government department, such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (which has an office in Burlington); if that is of interest, you should apply to the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP).

Finally, McMaster sponsors several Work Programs providing part-time and full-time on-campus employment opportunities for currently registered students.

If you are interested in learning about potential careers in Applied Mathematics, you might find it useful to read SIAM's info on applied math careers.